Interview With Covid-19 Survivor Marko Franovic


Marko Franovic, July 2020
Photo: BokaCroPress

Interview conducted by Ina Vukic

Croatian born Marko Franovic, a most successful businessman and a generous benefactor and philanthropist particularly for causes directly relating to the achievement of Croatia’s independence and promotion of its truths. Living in Australia (Sydney) for decades he has never abandoned the good fight for Croatia and indeed, with his intense passion served as one of its freedom wheels.  Fleeing communist Yugoslavia in 1960, after some months in refugee camps in Northern Italy he ended up in Australia’s Bonegilla Migrant Centre and then in Sydney and was later joined by his two brothers (Bozo and Ivo), who also fled communist Yugoslavia. Approaching his 80th birthday (which will be celebrated in 2021) he contracted COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and survived. The path to his full recovery was harsh, demanding and still continues but, seeing him four months after the infection one is in awe and filled with tender hope amidst the darkness seen around COVID-19 on a daily basis. Today we read of more than 17.4 million cases and more than 670,000 deaths attributed to the virus.

COVID-19 cases July 2020
Photo: Screenshot John Hopkins University, Coronavirus Resource Center

So what is it really like to have been infected with COVID-19 Coronavirus and come out the other side recovered and pursuing life to as fullest as possible? Here is what Mr Franovic had to say in my interview with him.

In March of this year you were infected with COVID-19 Coronavirus. Can you tell us what happened?

I was invited to a dinner in Sydney with about 100 people from all over Australia and the possibility exists that I was infected with the virus there; the place was crowded. Before that day I hadn’t been anywhere where there were large crowds or lots of people in one place for an assembly of sorts.

When did you first feel that you may be ill from COVID-19? That is, what did you feel, what symptoms?

A couple of days after that dinner I began to feel some kind of weakness, I simply did not have control over myself, I wasn’t capable of driving a car. I went to the hospital for COVID-19 testing.

Did you feel like fighting the virus before you ended up in hospital? Did you try and resist the symptoms of the illness?

To tell you the truth, I did not believe at the time in such symptoms of the virus. I was sceptical about a virus causing so many consequences. I did not want to believe that I was infected. Given that the medical findings upon X-ray screenings of my heart were all good I went home from the hospital, thinking everything was fine with me.

After how long and with what symptoms did you end up in hospital, again?

After I arrived home my condition began deteriorating. General weakness, I could not getu up from the bed, my breathing was laboured and difficult and I felt a constant pressure against my lungs and, hence, ended up in hospital again.

What happened in hospital, how did it all go and what was undertaken to get you back to health?

On the fifth day my health condition began deteriorating rapidly. When I was started on 9l of Oxygen they transferred me into the intensive care unit. After that they put me onto a respirator and I was in an induced coma for 25 days and on dialysis for 30 days. My kidneys were failing, pneumonia developed, my liver was infected, my gall bladder presented with problems (I will need surgery), I suffer from diabetes, and with all that I contracted blood infection – sepsis.

It must have been very difficult to discover how much your illness was life-threatening. How did you carry yourself with such a realisation? What was the most difficult part of your healing?

As I was in an induced coma, I was not aware of anything, which perhaps is a good thing. When I woke up from the coma I initially did not know where I was, I don’t remember anything. The first thing I asked was whether one of my company’s jobs had been completed. Lying in bed on my back for two months I could not turn to the side (I usually sleep on the side), it was very difficult for me. I lost 11 kilograms of my body weight while I was in hospital.

What was the most important thing for you during your treatment?

Given that I was not conscious during the time of my „sleep“ whatever they did was fruitful, brought about good results.

How would you comment on the health services that were provided to you?

I was treated in Sutherland Hospital. I have no words that would adequately describe the care that I experienced there. Words fail me when I try to describe the care I recevided from medical staff there. In caring for the sick these people risk their own lives and the lives of their families every day. I think the public doesn’t respect them enough. I can say that I am alive now because of their efforts.

I was treated with the experimental drug Hydroxychloroquine and an another medication in the combination. Did this help me? I do not know. When I woke up I was told that I must have a strong wish for life because, they said, I fought and that it was much due to that will for life that I survived. The doctors consider my recovery a miracle.

I believe you had heard while in hospital, while you were so weak due to COVID-19 infection that thousands of people across the world were praying for your recovery. How did those prayers affect you, how much did they mean to you?

Being in a coma I was not aware that people were praying for me. There are no words with which I can express my gratitude for the prayers for my recovery. I was amazed, words failed me when I was told of this. Sometimes I feel as if I’m still confused because I feel as if I need to make up for the lost time through the long „sleep“. So much has changed from March of this year, the whole world is different. I don’t know whether you can place yourself in a situation where you wake up and you realise that a whole month has passed by through which unbelievable events had occurred throughout the world.  It’s like falling from planet Mars, and now I constantly look at what had occurred and try to stay up to date with things.

What did you feel when the hospital doctors told you you could go home?

What do you think I felt? I could not walk properly, I was emotionally shaken by everything that had happened. I have a family, I worried about them, I worried about work, I did not not know how long my full recovery will last after the hospitalisation.

How is you full recovery coming along?

It’s unbelievable that my lungs have recovered so well and that my kidneys no longer pose a problem. I still have problems with walking but with ongoing exercising it’s getting better by the day. A week after I came out of hospital I went to work. I now work full time, my brain functions well and full recovery will take a bit longer. As I’m in advanced years of my life some things will take a bit longer to recover, but it’s getting better. I see progress every day.

When you now look at the dangerous state your health was in due to Coronavirus and when you look at the path of your recovery do you think that you have been given a second chance at life?

I am grateful for having been given a second chance. Many younger people have not been as fortunate. Many families are wrapped up in mourning black. I respect life more now.

Marko Franovic in his office July 2020
Photo: BokaCroPress

Are you planning on staying active with work? Has anything changed with that due to Coronavirus infection and its consequences for you?

Well, as I said above I am back at work full swing. Walking gets slower and more tiresome but I’m building up my energy; I tend to my other medical issues with the intent of staying as strong as possible. I was never the one to give up on working, or contributing with work in my companies’ success.  As long as my health and my fighting spirit allow me – I will work.

Do you have any message to pass on regarding COVID-19 Coronavirus?

Yes I have. As it has been told us, we should adhere to the instructions given to us about COVID-19. Hand washing, social distancing, wearing a mask; all that has its own reasons and it is up to us to comply with what is asked of us. Hundreds of thousands of people have died, millions have been infected. I don’t even want to talk about the economic crisis that has emerged but I do want to say that we are all in it and that we need to help each other to stay healthy, to look after our elderly, not to be arrogant and think that the virus will not touch us. You never know when and how it can strike at us. From my personal experience I can say to your readers: look after yourselves and, once again, thank you for all the prayers for my recovery, which evidently have been answered and granted.

Appeal: Stop the new attempt to occupy Croatia!

Dr Srecko Sladoljev

MEDIA MOBBING: Croatia’s self-proclaimed, leftist (if not communist nostalgic), fact-checker Faktograf accuses others of posting inaccuracies when they themselves spread falsehoods and inaccuracies. The following text was received with a plea for help from Croatians living abroad in order to lobby for eradication of such biased approach to confusing and twisting the truth which, it is said, has the ability to influence public opinion. Hence, anyone wishing to join the lobby please note the contact details at the end of this text.  Ina Vukic

“Due to the media lynching and illegal censuring and suppression of free speech the portal (abbreviation of PROMICANJE ISTINE or Promoting the Truth) has been subjected to by the portal (published by the NGO called GONG, which is financed by George Soros), we are forced to seek protection from all Croats and Croatian patriots who live outside of Croatia and who  care about Croatian sovereignty and freedom and the continued existence of the independent state of Croatia.

The competent Croatian regulatory body (The Agency for Electronic Media – which by law is bound to protect freedom of the press and media pluralism) has not helped us even though we turned to them for help many times!

We are therefore turning to Croats outside of Croatia for help.

Overview of the situation:

For the past two months we have been subjected to continuous untruths and banning of our texts by the so called journalists at the Faktograf portal who present themselves as ‘independent controller of the veracity of information’, and who themselves write falsehoods about on and falsehoods about our interviewees, primarily Dr. Srecko Sladoljev, an eminent scientist, and Veteran of the Homeland War, Croatian patriot and prominent fighter for justice.

On 26th March 2020, published a text entitled ‘Dr. Sladoljev, Professor at Oxford University also claims: The majority of people recover from Covid-19 without any symptoms!’

Our text contained claims by the British FINANCIAL TIMES and described the results of scientific studies lead by Dr. Sunetra Gupta, a professor of theoretical epidemiology at Oxford University.

The Study claims that less than one person in a thousand infected with Covid-19 requires hospital treatment and a large majority has very mild or no symptoms! The same or similar data was presented by Dr. Srecko Sladoljev for but censured it on several occasions, accusing him and of spreading lies. stigmatised on its front page and in numerous texts labelled us liars who publish falsehoods and spread lies but we only published the same thing that the reputable Financial Times published and the claims of scientists and epidemiologists from the prestige Oxford University!

They banned our articles, blocked our posts on Facebook, accused us of lying and in the same way they punished individuals who tried to share our articles on social media!

In the abovementioned article, we wrote: ‘It’s time to show who was right and the Croatian public has the right to be aware of various studies by prominent experts or shall the self-proclaimed censors in Zagreb also censor the British Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph and even a scientist from Oxford?!’

After this article was published, people from again, for who knows how many times, further reduced the reach of our posts on social media (Facebook), even though we simply carried an article from the FINANCIAL TIMES!

They previously did the same thing (blocked us on Facebook) and in addition they published articles in which they declared Dr. Sladoljev’s claims and the articles on as untruths and smeared and defamed the portal.

Dr Srecko Sladoljev

Faktograf is literally jeopardising our existence and livelihoods as well as those of many other independent Croatian portals. They censor all of them and ban articles which is why we ask you to please help us so that we can together stop this attempt to OCCUPY Croatia by foreign mercenaries who are prepared to destroy all human rights and freedoms in Croatia for Soros’ money and to take away media and every other sovereignty from the young Croatian state!

We note that is published by the NGO called GONG which is by no means objective and for which Prime Minister Plenkovic recently said is in reality an ‘extended arm’ of SDP’ (for which claim there exists firm evidence).

The following was leaked about GONG from Soros’ archives:

It is well known that among the documents that were hacked from the George Soros’ archives was a leaked report by GONG which they sent to the umbrella organisation ‘Open Society’ after the elections for European Parliament in which they write that they are satisfied with the results and they openly say which candidates they support and which they do not. They also provide a brief overview of the resumes of all of the Croatian Parliamentarians that entered into the European Parliament and give their assessment of them, praising some and criticising others.

In August 2016, our colleague Marcel Holjevac wrote an article about GONG, the publisher Faktograf, Platform 112 and the Centre for Peace Studies in which he mentions the documents that were hacked from Soros’ archives which make reference to the Soros Foundation, ‘left representatives’ Biljana Borzan, Tonino Picula, Jozo Radoš, Ivan Jakovcic and Davor Skrlec as ‘proven allies’.

However, they particularly negatively assessed the patriotic representatives Ruza Tomasic and Marijana Petir (verified by the documents).

‘The problem is that GONG presents itself as objective and the abovementioned documents evidence that it is in fact very biased. Moreover, the documents show that GONG is an organisation that works for foreign centres of power who realise their interests in Croatia through GONG.

Under normal circumstances which would not allow foreign factors with ulterior motives, to influence the results of elections and to tailor them at will, this should result in either banning GONG’s activities and especially banning them from monitoring elections because they are blatantly in a conflict of interest, or to cease financing non-government organisations with funds from foreign embassies and international organisations when the Republic of Croatia has not authorised such practices or financing, each one separately.

Namely, an organisation whose activities are ‘monitoring elections’ cannot at the same time support ‘centre left parties’ which is apparently one of the essential tasks of organisations that work under the Soros hat’, wrote Holjevac in 2016.’

For the same reason, GONG should not be given a permit to publish a portal which granted itself authority to undertake censorship and suppress freedom of speech in Croatia!

I therefore ask that together we try to protect freedom of speech in Croatia from the self-appointed censors and spreaders of fake news who are financed by foreign centres of power.

How Dragan Zelic, for GONG Director was exposed:

The following is part of a text that appeared in an article on in which we exposed Dragan Zelic, the former long-time Director of GONG who pretended to be objective but in fact worked for the leftist (former communist party), and it was subsequently revealed that:

This is what Dragan Zelic, the then Executive Director of GONG, stated in 2011 when HDZ was in power:

‘Inflated electoral rolls serve as election fraud. Once again, it will be possible at certain polling stations when they are not busy, for somebody to just slip ballot papers from fictious voters into the ballot box and rig the elections in that way.’

Four years later, when Zoran Milanovic was in power, the author of this text, again approached Zelic on the same topic, asking him about inflated electoral rolls because the situation had not significantly changed in the meantime.

The same Zelic from GONG, who four years earlier fiercely went on about fake electoral rolls that serve electoral fraud, suddenly started singing a different tune. He no longer mentioned inflated electoral rolls nor election fraud but rather explained that suddenly, everything was purportedly better and more transparent even though almost nothing had been significantly changed!

‘There is a great deal of misunderstanding in the public in relation to the electoral roll as they are often compared to the population figures which is comparing apples and oranges because, eg. a person who does not have residence in Croatia and lives in Mostar or Belgrade and is a Croatian citizen will be registered on the electoral roll but will not show up in the census that was done in Croatia….’, Zelic responded at that time, attempting to justify Milanovic’s government and the former SDP Minister of Public Administration, Bauk, for doing nothing or the fact that the electoral rolls remained inflated with several hundred thousand excess voters remaining on the roll during their term in office.

It was not clear to the author of this text why Zelic completely changed his position even though nothing significantly changed in relation to the excess voters. However, after hackers got into George Soros’ database and published the information that they found there, it became much clearer as to why Zelic from GONG was not an objective interviewee and why he could not and cannot be equally critically towards the liberal Milanovic government as he is towards the HDZ government (it is interesting to note that Zelic of GONG later joined the SDP!).

It would be interesting for the Croatian public to know that, by all accounts, Soros financed GONG’s videos, as revealed by the hackers.

‘They co-financed a campaign to raise the public’s awareness of the importance of voting in the EU Parliamentary Elections and supported the activities around Partnership for Open Government which governments in Croatia and other countries promoted for better regulating the transparency of non-profit organisations’, said Jelena Berkovic of GONG.

However, a political scientist at the Institute for European and Globalization Studies warns that all those who finance someone expect something in return.

‘The operations of GONG and other civil society organisations serve the development of civil society but on the other hand, they serve to maintain the liberal left orientated order’, said Dr. Andelko Milardovic of the Institute for European and Globalization Studies in Split.

It should be noted that during the nineties, Soros financed many more projects and media in Croatia, especially those that opposed Franjo Tudman and HDZ’, which I published on in August 2016.

Falsehoods that Faktograf Stated about Articles on

I have set out hereunder short texts that were published on in which we have detailed the falsehoods that is spreading about us:

‘In the last few weeks, Faktograf journalists have three times put a notice on our texts on social media saying ‘Inaccurate information, verified by Faktograf’ all of which concern the viewpoints and claims by Croatian immunologist, Dr. Srecko Sladoljev.’

‘After an article entitled ‘They are misleading you, Corona is just a harmless flu-like illness…’ was published on 26th February 2020 in which we quoted immunologist Dr. Srecko Sladoljev, a notice appeared on social media a few weeks ago saying: ‘The partially inaccurate information was checked by Faktograf’.

They also claimed as inaccurate that ‘a vaccine against the Corona Virus existed before the illness itself’, even though this is not what it says in the text and Sladoljev does not claim this at all. Dr. Sladoljev latter commented as follows: ‘Whoever read the article and the retraction will have seen that the ‘faktografs’ retracted their own retraction’.

On Thursday, 12th March 2020 they again proclaimed that Dr. Sladoljev’s claims in his interview for were lies.

The whole text in which Faktograf explains why they declared Dr. Sladoljev’s claims and the article in as untrue is itself full of untruths and twisted facts.

Faktograf writes that ‘Sladoljev without any evidence whatsoever and in complete contradiction to the views of national and international health organisations claims that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the ‘common cold’.

The truth is completely different. Nowhere in his interview for does Sladoljev say that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the common cold but that COVID-19 merely compares it with the flu and says that it is no more dangerous than the flu but not that it is no more dangerous than the ‘common cold’, which is an important difference.

They further falsely claim that in recent years Dr. Srecko Sladoljev has become one of the most notable opponents of vaccines. In the documentary film ‘Ask freely’, which was supposed to have been shown these days at Zagreb DOX (cancelled due to the Corona Virus) and which trailer can be found on the internet, Sladoljev says: ‘I cannot say anything against vaccinations or vaccines. Vaccinations yes, but if this is done in a functionally and physiologically acceptable manner.’

It has been repeatedly mentioned in the documentary, ‘Ask freely’ that it tracks the Croatian immunologist who ‘advocates a different from of administering vaccines!’ Therefore, a different form of vaccination and not a ban on vaccinations, which is an important difference. also twists the facts in the article claiming that Dr. Sladoljev and ‘support their inaccurate claims with a false video’.

They themselves write that the video is not false. However, they add the following ‘Even though many condemned the police brutality in this case, there is no evidence whatsoever that the woman was killed or died. Moreover, all of the information shows that after she regained consciousness, she was moved to safety’.

By all accounts, they insinuate that Sladoljev and the portal falsely stated that the woman in the video was killed, even though it does not say this anywhere in our text.

Nowhere did we claim that the woman was killed as they allege.

We quote the part of the interview that is apparently at issue:

We asked Dr. Sladoljev the following question ‘Is it accurate that the police killed a girl at the police blockade that was set up because of the Corona Virus’. We asked Dr. Sladoljev whether she was killed but we did not claim that she was killed.

“I am sending you a video and you can draw your own conclusions. In my view, she came to grief because of the ‘experts’ and bureaucrats at the Head of WHO and who are responsible for this madness”, replied Sladoljev, and we added in brackets: ‘the video shows the police forcefully pulling a petite young woman from her car, she is crying and squealing but they are all the more rougher. The women eventually remains helplessly lying on the road, surrounded by 6-7 police who have yellow jackets with the word ‘police’ inscribe on them as well as writing in Chinese (or Korean)’.

Therefore, nowhere do either the journalist or Sladoljev say that the woman was killed but they merely describe the contents of the video and the fact that she remained lying down (it does not say that she died, this is insinuated by

The link to the abovementioned defamatory article published on portal:

Conclusion: We are seeking cancellation of Faktograf’s concession for publication

We propose that we lobby together in order to put maximum pressure and to ask the Croatian institutions to terminate GONG’s concessions or licence for publishing a news portal and to ban

In the hope that you shall take consider our arguments we remain,

Yours sincerely,

Damir Kramaric, Chief Editor of the portal”




Croatia: Corruption and COVID-19 Coronavirus Crisis

Hrvoje Zekanovic, MP (L) Zeljko Glasnovic, MP (R)
Croatian Parliament 3 April 2020
Photo: Screenshots

While issues and matters relating to COVID-19 (coronavirus) is and has for some weeks now been overshadowing everything else there’s no doubt that times of upheaval (and COVID-19 coronavirus has created one) are always times of radical change, times of control; in this case control of people behaviour and choices in living. There are those who believe the pandemic is a once-in-a-generation chance to remake society, restructure processes that have not worked and build a better future. Others fear it may only make existing injustices worse. If there is one injustice defining life of ordinary citizens in the Croatian society it is corruption. Corruption at all levels of power or at all processes people’s lives depend upon – whether it is nepotism, whether it is bribery, whether it is embezzlement and theft – the pandemic and focus on measures to stop or slow-down the spread of COVID-19 currently seems a fertile ground for “business as usual” when it comes to dealing with corruption. This is regretful, for this crisis could also be a time when restructures are made in order to eradicate the crippling corruption in Croatia.

Rewind your mind back a few weeks and imagine someone telling you that within a month, schools will be closed. Almost all public gatherings will be cancelled. Hundreds of millions of people around the world will be out of work due to compulsory closures of shops and non-essential services. Governments will be throwing together some of the largest economic stimulus packages in history. In certain places, landlords will not be collecting rent, or banks collecting mortgage payments, and the homeless will be allowed to stay in hotels or empty apartments free of charge. Governments will delve into direct provision of basic wage or income. Large number of countries in the world will be collaborating – with various degrees of coercion and nudging – on a shared project of keeping at least two metres between each other whenever possible. European Union free travel and movement between member states will cease to exist and police and armies of each member state will make sure its borders are impregnable. More than likely than not, you would have labelled the person who told you all that, and more, as a lunatic, at least.

The size and speed of what is happening is dizzying, but also is the fact that we appear to be getting accustomed to hearing that democracies are incapable of making big moves like this quickly; that firm government control is what’s essential in order to save our lives and livelihoods! In many cases, and so too in Croatia, minority governments are on the road of using control of coronavirus threat to citizens in order prove that they are legitimate, and powerful. Any glance at history reveals that crises and disasters have continually set the stage for change, often for the better = but not always! The global flu epidemic of 1918 helped create national health services in many European countries. The twinned crises of the Great Depression and the second world war set the stage for the modern welfare state. Will the coronavirus crisis in Croatia set the stage for eradication of corruption, I wonder and wish it would.

Unless focused upon, corruption is likely to increase during these pandemic times in Croatia and measures, such as introduction of Code of Conduct or standards or strict checks and balances, independent audits of practices, standing down of the incompetent politically suitable employees from public administration, etc. must be introduced, otherwise, the fear for a decent livelihood will not only be fuelled by COVID-19.

On Friday 3 April 2020 in the Croatian Parliament, Members of Parliament Hrvoje Zekanovic (President of Croatian Sovereignists) and retired General Zeljko Glasnovic (Independent Member for Croats living outside of Croatia) addressed the Parliament with speeches that reflected on the possible dangers of government appointed body that has absolute powers at this time of crisis, political machinations and manipulations benefitting only the political party in power, the corruption embedded in the government system riddled with former communists and how the crisis may and should be used for major restructures which no government of Croatia has achieved so far.

Hrvoje Zekanovic, MP, among other things said: “… we have a strange scenario, surreal, unrealistic, and I wonder if maybe this crisis has been welcomed by some structures… banks for example… banks have struggled to place their money for years. Lots of money, cheap money, they even gave it out without charging interest. Suddenly all the countries of the world and our Croatia are rushing to the banks, to international markets, anywhere, seeking money to save their national economies. It is an interesting coincidence, that is, to know that someone is benefiting from this crisis because all countries in the world are very economically indebted at the moment, to whom, to banks. And the other fact is that the banks had a major problem with the placement of their funds, that they had piles of money, billions and billions of dollars or euros that they could not place. And now, Croatia has suddenly sobered up, the HDZ elections are over, the old HDZ president is the new HDZ president, Andrej Plenkovic, has swept up the competition and is free to deal with the corona crisis. All of a sudden, as politically imagined as it is, a new body, some new faces … and then suddenly it rushes to grips with the corona crisis. And suddenly we have a new body that has absolute powers. This body, the Croatian Parliament, gave it the ability to do whatever it wants. And in all the media, we have one real agitprop – yesterday, in the Open program, we have three ruling party politicians, zero from the opposition. Check out any news on Croatian television … or any other national television … and you will not be able to see, except in some sideline frames, the opposition or some other people who are critical of the government’s response to this crisis, and the mouths of national television will be full of praise for the measures of the Croatian government …”

Zeljko Glasnovic, MP, among other things said: “…we need to respect neutral sources, no one knows how long this will last… of course we cannot separate politics from the economy and today the economy from the coronavirus … I think the first step of any economic measure is that if we talk about solidarity, that we take care of the most vulnerable group of people. They are the disabled, the old people, etc. This is the real right-wing, not the red-right that first secured money for its  three generations in advance… we do not yet have the origin of property or the names of people who have bank accounts abroad, and we know that maybe everyone of them was in the Party (Communist) … Now is the time not only for economic security, but the time is now, because crisis is the best stimulus, crisis and fear, for best structural reforms that no government has ever made. We have tightened the belts, the grey economy is double what it was in the European Union, and we know how many, well, how some Croats are creative accountants, they are masters of it… how is it possible for one person, as one small example, to be spending public money and spending 170,000 kunas on representation (entertainment) without having to answer to anyone! That’s right, the grey economy and now the professionalisation of the administration and now it’s time for all these institutions to work in sync to see that the money is going where it should go … you enjoyed the Party, you are doing well today, you have created a second generation of emigrants, and I would send all of you an auditor-general, this inspector … I don’t know what his financial status is … you are all linked together, I don’t trust you, I believe in God and mathematics, I would solve everything in three months and would first come to your door …”

The Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) has published on 24 March 2020 its fifth round evaluation report (for full pdf report click here) on Croatia dealing with preventing corruption in government (top executive functions) and the police and it will be most interesting following up on what is being done to curtail corruption; to bring it down to insignificant levels.

The Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) is a Council of Europe body that aims to improve the capacity of its members to fight corruption by monitoring their compliance with anti-corruption standards. It helps states to identify deficiencies in national anti-corruption policies, prompting the necessary legislative, institutional and practical reforms. Currently it comprises the 47 Council of Europe member states, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the United States of America

Croatia joined GRECO group in 2000 and this year’s report was focused on evaluating the effectiveness of the measures adopted by the authorities of Croatia to prevent corruption and promote integrity in central governments (top executive functions) and law enforcement agencies. The report contains a critical analysis of the situation, reflecting on the efforts made by the actors concerned and the results achieved. It identifies shortcomings and makes recommendations for improvement. GRECO’s plan is for Croatia to report back on the action and measures taken, on compliance, in response to GRECO’s recommendations within 18 months of the adoption of this report; that would be around mid-2021.

In this report GRECO considers that developments in recent years have shown a need to ensure that integrity standards also apply to people working in an advisory capacity for the government. More specifically regarding members of the government, state secretaries and assistant ministers, the report calls for the adoption of a code of conduct, to be supplemented with practical guidance, briefings on the integrity rules in place and confidential counselling.

When it comes to the police, the report notes a relatively low level of trust in the police and considers that more needs to be done to prevent corruption risks within the police itself.

GRECO further recommends that the current rules on the taking up of employment – when a person entrusted with top executive functions leaves an official position – need to be broadened and considers that the lack of rules on reporting and disclosing contacts with lobbyists/third parties that seek to influence the public decision-making process constitutes a gap. This gap must be filled in order to further improve transparency.

Efforts to prevent corruption risks within the police itself, GRECO report says, should start with comprehensive risk assessment of corruption-prone activities within the police, as a basis to adopt an integrity and anti-corruption strategy for the entire police force. The report furthermore acknowledges the existing code of ethics for police officers but considers that it would need to better cover all integrity matters and be supplemented with an explanatory manual to become a truly practical tool and a reference point for the to-be-revised police trainings. Furthermore, more attention needs to be paid to the current appointment and promotion processes of police officers and their employment after they leave the police. Finally, GRECO recommends that a requirement be established for police staff to report integrity-related misconduct they come across in the police service.

The institutions or bodies in Croatia that deal with fighting against corruption are several. They include the Commission for Monitoring the Implementation of Anti-Corruption Measures, the Ministry of Justice’s Anti-Corruption Sector, the Police National Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime (PNUSKOK), the USKOK – Office for the Suppression of Corruption and Organised Crime and the National Council for Monitoring the Implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy. Indeed, the Croatian people have been listening to its governments saying that corruption must be eradicated for decades and yet nothing much changes. Corruption and clientelism thrive unabated, bar for a handful of legally pursued cases of high-profile personalities. The fact that corruption keeps on thriving in Croatia comes as no surprise – those in power and high positions would have to remove themselves from those positions in order for eradication to work. Many, many are those who held powerful positions during communist Yugoslavia, or they are the descendants of them.  Hence, nothing short of thorough weeding and lustration will eradicate corruption. The judiciary if filled with former communists or descendants of communists who had amassed personal wealth through corruption; the same goes for many members of parliament, for members of major political parties, for officers in government and public administration, for heads of government owned companies, for heads of many politically active NGO’s…The abuse of public institutions for personal gain is blinding in Croatia and the current government control of almost everything citizens do in this COVID-19 pandemic could easily lead to pushing Croatia even further down the world corruption-free index ladder. Clientelism is rife and the pandemic will surely feed it more in the environment of having a government-created body with absolute powers in what a citizen may or may not do; who gets the lucrative contracts and who does not! Ina Vukic

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