The U.S. State Department’s Annual Report on Human Rights in Croatia contained important information regarding the business climate in the northwest Balkan country.
The detailed report described the improvements being made to Croatia’s economy and rule of law but maintained that the country continues to face severe challenges.
While the State Department report commended the Croatian government for respecting judicial independence, it also described the country’s long judicial delays claiming that “the judiciary suffered from a backlog of 520,000 cases.”
The backlog “raised concerns regarding judicial effectiveness, efficiency, and access to justice,” it said.
Corruption remained a problem
The report states that corruption remained a problem for Croatia at the end of 2016 and that “the highest risk of corruption in the country was in public procurement contracts.”
The high risk of encountering corruption in the process of public procurement contracts being awarded serves as an important warning for companies considering doing business with the Croatian government.
As the report describes, corruption charges have reached the highest ranks of Croatia’s government due to “former prime minister Ivo Sanader’s 2014 conviction on corruption charges linked to the illegal funneling of money from public companies to a party slush fund in the so-called FIMI Media case.”
Acceptable conditions of work
The 2016 report outlines the extensive problem of nonpayment of wages in Croatia’s formal and informal sector, affecting 12,944 people in 2015 and resulting in many employers being fined.
“The inspectorate conducted 19,622 workplace inspections in 2015 and reported 6,544 violations of the labor and workplace safety laws, including both minimum wage regulations and workplace health and safety laws,” the report said.
2,667 of the violations were referred to misdemeanor courts while 283 companies were closed during the first six months of 2015 for at least 30 days.
“Croatia: Media freedom in turbulent times”
Observers have cited a “lack of transparency in media ownership as a challenge to media and government accountability.”
An independent report released by a delegation of European media monitors, entitled Croatia: Media Freedom in Turbulent Times, detailed the lack of political will to challenge efforts to “harass and intimidate an independent regulatory body” during a January 26 march in Zagreb.