The annual report on the rule of law is the basis of the European Commission’s mechanism promoting the rule of law in member states and preventing the emergence or deepening of associated problems. The annual report consists of comparable data on the independence, quality and efficiency of the national justice systems of the member states. Four reports have been published so far: for the years 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. In the process of creating the report, the European Commission relies on relevant sources and, along with other actions, conducts a targeted consultation with stakeholders that include various EU agencies, European networks, national and European civil society organizations and professional associations. Information obtained through these consultations are used as a source of factual findings regarding changes within member states and is taken into account in the assessment process.

The House of Human Rights in Zagreb participated in targeted consultations in January 2023. for the preparation of the now published Report on the Rule of Law and presented the problems and challenges Croatia faces in the four areas or pillars covered by the report: the justice system, anti-corruption framework, media freedom and pluralism, and other institutional problems related to checks and balances.

In the 2023 report, the European Commission noted that despite some positive developments in 2022, confidence in the independence of the judiciary remains at a very low level, and the excessive duration of investigations, prosecutions and sentencing for corruption offenses undermines the effectiveness of the anti-corruption system. The commission expressed concern about the issue of salaries of judges, state attorneys and judicial staff, whose strike is in the center of attention these days.

Regarding media freedom and media pluralism, the issue of political independence of the Council for Electronic Media and the HRT public service has not been resolved and SLAPP lawsuits remain a significant problem affecting the professional environment of journalists.

Furthermore, the Commission criticized Croatia for not making progress with the preparation of the new National Plan for the creation of a stimulating environment for the development of civil society for the period from 2021 to 2027, which has been on hold since 2016.

You can read the entire Report on the Rule of Law and the chapter for Croatia here and access the Human Rights House contribution here.