INTERVIEW WITHaANA LOVRIN, CROATIAN MINISTER OF JUSTICE : CROATIA CATCHING UP ON JUDICIARY SYSTEM REFORM
Croatia has been criticised recently by the EU for the lack of progress in reforming its judiciary system and combating corruption. In a bid to inform the EU about the recent efforts undertaken by Zagreb in these two fields, Croatian Minister of Justice Ana Lovrin visited Brussels for talks with EU officials and MEPs. On the margins of these meetings, Lovrin spoke to Europolitics about the course of judicial reform and fight against corruption in Croatia as well as about her expectations regarding the pace of her country's EU membership negotiations.
According to the European Commission, Croatia is still unsuccessful in fighting corruption. What measures are you taking to root out corruption?
I have informed the Commission about the Croatian government's anti-corruption programme for 2006-2008. My impression is that the Commission has realised that there is a strong will and political determination on the part of our government to fight corruption and organised crime. There is a long list of specific measures we have introduced, such as the strengthening of the capacity of the Office for the Prevention of Corruption and Organised Crime (USKOK), which start to bear fruits.
The low professional standards, coupled with systemic weaknesses, contribute to the creation of a negative image of the judiciary in Croatia. What do you do to improve this image?
The government, very much aware of the fact that the Croatian judiciary system needs to be reformed, adopted in 2005 the Strategy for the Reform of the Justice System and the accompanying Action Plan. We have already completed almost half of the measures foreseen in this strategy, and the remaining part is being implemented. The first positive results of this work are already noticeable. We have recorded excellent results in resolving land registry cases. From 2004 up until today, we have reduced the number of unresolved cases by almost 70%. We have had equally good results in resolving the backlog of enforcement cases. The total number of unresolved enforcement cases in all courts decreased by as much as 72% in 2006. What is now left to be done in 2007 is the reduction of the backlog of unresolved civil cases.
I do not agree that low professional standards could be identified as the main problem of the Croatian judiciary system. Croatia has inherited from Yugoslavia a judiciary system overloaded by a large number of unresolved cases - and that is our main problem. …