European Commission Hot On The Heels Of Croatia’s Rushed Law Preventing Extradition For Communist Crimes

Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for justice, fundamental rights  and citizenship   Photo: Reuters

Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for justice, fundamental rights
and citizenship Photo: Reuters

It was on June 28 this year when The Croatian Parliament led by Social Democrats rushed to pass the law dubbed as “Lex Perkovic” in accordance with which an EU arrest/extradition warrant will not be applicable to crimes committed before 7 August 2002.

The rush to pass such a law was evidently exacerbated in Croatia by the fact that Germany could at 1 July, when Croatia became an EU member state, without delay serve its warrant for extradition of Josip Perkovic wanted for participation in Communist Crimes (political murder of Croatian nationals/ 1980’s) committed on German soil.

European Commission has acted swiftly in this matter and it’s safe to conclude that its swiftness has surprised Croatian government. Croatia must by 23 August submit to the European Union the exact deadline by which it will adjust its national legislature on the European Arrest Warrant to that of the European Union, Mina Andreeva – the spokeswoman for the European commissioner responsible for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship Viviane Reding – told Croatian news agency Hina on Tuesday August 6.

Sources report that a member of German Bundestag sent Viviane Reding a memo alerting her to the fact that Croatia was avoiding to act in accordance with the European arrest warrant and subsequently Reding’s cabinet forward a warning letter to Croatia’s justice minister Orsat Miljenic.

Croatian government has kept silent on the matter, apart from confirming that Reding’s letter has arrived, reports Croatian TV news HRT.

Commissioner Reding sent a letter to Croatian Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic in late July saying that what Croatia had done on 28 June by adopting amendments to the law on the European Arrest Warrant was not in line with the European legislation and that it must be corrected, Andreeva told Hina Tuesday August 6.
Commissioner Reding told Miljenic in the letter that Croatia must determine the exact deadlines by which it would implement changes to the law so as to adjust to the European Union acquis communautaire, Andreeva said. We expect an answer by 23 August, she added.

Sadly, twenty years after the fall of Yugoslav communist regime Croatia, to my knowledge, remains the only post-communist country that has not processed or convicted a single communist criminal; and there are plenty of such suspects walking the streets. While it can be understood that while the first steps in the transition from communism into democracy, while the war of aggression raged against Croatia, even a handful of suspected communist criminals and agents of former Yugoslav secret police slipped into high positions in both government and government advisory bodies, it is unacceptable that there have been no serious prosecutions of communist crimes suspects during the past ten years. The obvious explanation for this evasion in processing suspected communist criminals in Croatia lies in the fact that pro-Communists and the so-called antifascists have managed to obstruct justice. Multitudes of Croats are well aware of this, frustrated and appalled – also seeking lustration.

In post-communist countries of Eastern Europe lustration became the term used to signify governments’ policies and practices in checking and scrutinising (vetting) individuals who had served as agents of Communist secret police and services and excluding them from important positions in newly democratically developed governments and public services.  While several former communist countries of Europe have adopted the practices of lustration, lustration as government policy/law still evades Croatia. During the years of Franjo Tudjman’s era (1990’s) lustration stood on the back burner as the war raged in the country and as Tudjman pursued his goal of pan-Croatian reconciliation. Tudjman stood his ground: he wanted the WWII enemies Ustashe and Partisans and their descendants to reconcile, to bury their differences and create a unified Croatia, without the divisive burdens of past political differences and intolerance. The way things were going up till about 1993 Tudjman’s plan of reconciliation worked wonders – it was a brilliant success story in action; almost a miracle given the historical political divide. Then, the die-hard communists headed by Stjepan Mesic started a new trail of destruction and division, labelling Tudjman as Croatian nationalist, sowing seeds of vilification wherever they could it seems – including labelling the whole of Croatian diaspora as nationalistic and fascist despite the fact that the majority of Croatian diaspora had never belonged to nor subscribed to any fascist ideology past or present – they simply did not want to live under communist totalitarian regime and sought a free life abroad.

Some in Croatia have associated lustration with the case of Josip Perkovic and argue that lustration should not start with him, that he also served as one of Franjo Tudjman’s advisors in early 1990’s.  They’re merely trying to confuse the issue, to divert public attention and opinion away from the fact that Josip Perkovic is a criminal suspect under German criminal law. It’s not far fetched to say that the die-hard communists of Croatia do not want Josip Perkovic to face a German court for communist crimes perpetrated under the banner of Yugoslav secret police because if he does this also means that the door to processing communist crimes will finally be opened as far as Croatia is concerned. They do not want that. They still pretend that communists were righteous in everything they did including murder of innocent people.

Croatian government has 16 days to respond to the European Commission demand for action in the case of Josip Perkovic arrest warrant sought by Germany. I, for one, will be watching the developments very closely – I, for one, want justice for the innocent victims of communist crimes because they, more than any other victims of Croatian history, have been almost forgotten, trodden upon and almost dehumanised through the vitriol of antifascist/communist propaganda. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Small business red tape cut in efforts to stimulate self-employment

Although received with a fair amount of skepticism and confusion by many in Croatia the government’s seemingly swift move to cut red tape, simplify small business registration and make it affordable to any entrepreneur or person with a view to entering into a business enterprise is praiseworthy.

As of 18 October people in Croatia are able to form or register a small business (so called simple company with limited liability) with only 10 Kunas (1.33 EURO) of founding capital/ share value. This falls within the new amendments of trading company laws and is aligned with EU standards and tasks imposed upon Croatia for its accession to EU in July 2013.

Under Article 390.a of Croatia’s Trading Companies Act (Zakon o trgovačkim društvima), a simple company with limited liability is a company with a lowest base capital of 10 Kunas, and the lowest nominal share value is 1 Kuna. Such a company cannot have more than three members/shareholders and can only have one member on its management. If the members of management do not have “health and pension insurance” through some other means (e.g. another job elsewhere) then such insurance will need to be paid by the business entity itself.

Dubbed a “simple company”, this limited liability company is required, under the law, to pay into its reserve capital one quarter of its annual profits. Hence, providing the company an avenue (given a thriving business through time) to reach the status of a “normal” or ordinary company where reserve capital is set at 20,000 Kunas (2,659 Euro), equivalent to about 3.7 average monthly wages. Up until now the cost around forming/registering a company had been around 5,000 Kunas and the new 10 Kuna deal makes the mere registration accessible for all.

The simple company registration process is user-friendlyvia a prescribed Form that needs to be filled in by a Public Notary, stating the intention to form a company, the list of members, the list of persons authorised to manage the company’s business and acceptance of a member of the nomination to manage the company. The Form is signed by all members and lodged electronically with the business court registry.

The use of company reserve capital is very strict,” says the Croatian justice minister Orsat Miljenic, adding: “These reserves can only be used to cover losses in previous financial year, but also to increase the company’s capital. This is a simple way of entering into business, designed to prevent the gray and black markets and the legalisation of business trading”.

He further added that this opportunity of starting and working within the frame of a simple company has been inserted into legislation as yet another measure in Croatia’s approach to EU membership. Just like in Germany, Italy and numerous other countries such opportunity is there for those who wish to “test their business entrepreneurship”.

The pleasing outcome of this new “push” to attract self-employment and/or pull in the reins of gray or black economy (that without exception avoids tax paying) is also in the reported fact that the company registration certificates take only 24 hours now, as opposed to the formerly unnerving practice/ red tape that took months and months.

Economist Ljubo Jurcic has been quoted as saying that “this new measure by the government is a damaging measure as it could reflect badly against individuals”. Jurcic added that “stimulating people to become business entrepreneurs is very bad because people who start a business out of desperation find themselves in an even worse situation a year later. The measure of simple companies sounds nice, but it’s more important to come up with a good idea and needed information, and then start a business.”

While Jurcic’s statement reflects those of many others in Croatia it is patronising, nevertheless.

The new measure by the Croatian government must be seen in a positive light.

It is there to offer opportunities that have never existed before in Croatia or in former Yugoslavia. It’s there as a vessel to bring about personal business responsibility and open up a new hopefully busy world of “cottage industries”, service outlets, small-scale manufacturing, open up small business veins throughout the country’s economy without which a healthy economy would struggle. Most Croatian people are well aware that one cannot start a business out of thin air, empty pockets or without a solid business plan projecting viability; they don’t need lectures or grandstanding such as the one offered by Jurcic.

With unemployment in Croatia reaching almost 18% cutting red tape around small business is a positive move. The government should now do more in low-cost and/or free training or educating people in small business via workshops, seminars, brochures etc. Furthermore, assisting people who come up with sound and viable business plans could also develop into small business government grants and loans.

The deeply regretful thing about Croatian business entrepreneurship is that its major development bank ( Croatian Reconstruction and Development Bank/Hrvatska banka za obnovu i razvoj/HBOR) has for years been extending loans to big business that often found itself in dire straits of profitless struggles and unchecked risks. Had there been greater attention to small and medium business, in developing better accountability for loans and grants, perhaps we’d be looking at a much healthier picture of employment and economy. Certainly a sole trader or small business owner feels the immediate effects of nonviable trading and fights harder to stay afloat than what an employee of a larger company does. The horizon for small and medium business in Croatia might be looking healthier as we speak. European Investment Bank has been reported in September for extending 100 Million Euro loan to HBOR for financing small to medium business in Croatia. I trust, though, that strict accountability and monitoring measures will be put in place for these loans and that such moneys will go to the genuine business entrepreneurs and not to  “free-money” larks or become an avenue for corruption or fraud which has not been swept clean yet. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

 

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