European Commission publishes annual Rule of Law Report

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On 13 July, the European Commission published its third annual report on the rule of law situation in the European Union.

It is an instrument that has proven useful for strengthening the understanding of the rule of law in the EU and a successful framework for an informal, open and constructive dialogue on the rule of law.

In its new report on Croatia, the Commission recognises the adoption of a number of very important legislative and strategic documents in the area of planning and implementation of judicial reforms, including the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, in particular in the area of improving the efficiency and quality of the justice system and the anti-corruption framework.

When analysing all aspects in the area of justice, this year’s Rule of Law Report confirms significant progress made by Croatia compared to the previous two reports.

The report particularly welcomed the adoption of a new Anti-Corruption Strategy and a new Act on the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest, which strengthens the legal and institutional framework related to the submission of asset declarations, as well as the adoption of legislative amendments for the purpose of better protection of whistle-blowers.

The Commission has positively assessed the strengthening of financial and human resources of the State Judicial Council and the State Attorneys Council, including the conclusion of the process of election of the Supreme Court President, as well as an increased scope of electronic communication in all courts and other judicial authorities.
In addition, the report highlighted in particular the reduced number of cases at second instance and the reduction of the length of proceedings.

Apart from the positive indicators, the report also made recommendations to Croatia regarding the strengthening of the efficiency of the judiciary and of anti-corruption instruments, in particular as regards the perception of corruption.

The Ministry of Justice and Public Administration will continue to implement legislative and organisational changes to increase the efficiency of the judiciary. New amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act and the Civil Procedure Act have introduced provisions aimed at speeding up the proceedings, made audio recording of the proceedings mandatory, and expanded the possibilities of using e-Communication. Precise time limits for all stages of the proceedings and the Case Management Plan have been introduced in civil proceedings, and the so-called ban on repeated annulments of first-instance judgments in criminal proceedings.

Also, the Action Plans for improving the efficiency of the judiciary are being implemented in 2022, and the new Framework Criteria for the Performance of Judges entered into force at the beginning of the year.

In the field of anti-corruption, in addition to the adoption of the first Action Plan accompanying the Anti-Corruption Strategy 2021-2030, a Lobbying Act will be drafted in accordance with the plan of legislative activities.

The Rule of Law Report with country-specific recommendations is available here.