At the end of a two-day visit to Croatia, PACE President Anne Brasseur has praised the excellent co-operation between Croatia and the Council of Europe. “During its 19 years as a member of the Council of Europe, Croatia has fully benefited from the high standards that the Organisation offers. Croatia has ratified 92 Council of Europe conventions and I encourage the authorities to continue this positive dynamic. In particular, I welcome the support of the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament for the prompt ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence, and hope that the necessary legal procedures will be completed soon,” she pointed out.
“As a member of the EU since 2013, Croatia is an example for the countries of the region: the Council of Europe’s support and expertise were instrumental in fulfilling the political criteria for accession, as well as reforming the judiciary and fighting corruption,” stressed the PACE President. She encouraged the authorities to share their best practices with neighbouring countries, as well as the lessons learnt from any mistakes that may have been made.
At the same time the PACE President encouraged the authorities to maintain the momentum of reform: “Establishing laws and institutions is important, but making them work effectively is a longer and more complex process. A critical look at achievements helps progress.” She offered Council of Europe support to improve further the efficiency of the judiciary, raise judges’ awareness of the standards of the European Convention, promote minority rights protection, and effectively combat corruption.
The President praised in particular the action of the Croatian Parliament and the Croatian delegation to the Assembly in following up Assembly resolutions and monitoring the execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. “The holding of annual discussions on the case-law of the Court, with the participation of the Minister of Justice, Judges of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts and the Croatian Government Agent at the European Court of Human Rights raises the awareness of parliamentarians of the standards of the Convention and gives them the necessary information and tools to scrutinise draft laws from a ECHR perspective,” she pointed out.
Combating hate speech and counteracting manifestations of extremism and terrorism were also addressed in the discussions. “I fully agree with Croatian Speaker Josip Leko that our answer to hate-speech should be to make our democratic institutions stronger. Politicians bear a special responsibility to promote inclusiveness, tolerance and respect. All democratic political forces must speak out against divisive and populist rhetoric, intolerance and hate-speech,” said Ms Brasseur in her address to the Croatian Parliament.
“It was an honour to meet the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, only a couple of days after the official start of her mandate. Our discussion – in particular about regional co-operation and the Council of Europe’s response to the crisis in Ukraine – was extremely interesting and inspiring. I salute the President’s commitment to European values and standards and look forward to welcoming her in our Chamber during one of the forthcoming sessions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,” Ms Brasseur said after her meeting with the President of Croatia.
Turning to regional co-operation, Anne Brasseur encouraged the countries of the region to continue their efforts to promote dialogue and reconciliation, addressing in particular the issues of refugee return and integration, as well as co-operation in the field of prosecution of war crimes. “There can be no impunity for human rights violations, especially, as we are talking about crimes of such gravity,” stressed Ms Brasseur in her address to the Croatian Parliament.
Speaking about the crisis in Ukraine, the PACE President expressed support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and international law, and reiterated the call on all sides to abide strictly by the agreements made in Minsk.
During her official visit, the PACE President met Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, Prime Minister Zoran Milanović, the Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Josip Leko, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Vesna Pusić, the chairpersons and members of the parliamentary committees on human and minority rights, legislation, and judiciary, as well as the members of the Croatian delegation to the Assembly. In addition, Mme Brasseur addressed the Croatian Parliament and delivered a lecture at the University of Zagreb.