Republic of Croatia and the Council of Europe
Chronology of Croatia's accession to the Council of Europe
The frame of reference of the Council of Europe, a Pan European organisation bringing together 47 countries, generally includes the development of democracy and the protection of human rights, as exemplified by its activities focused on the strengthening of the rule of law, freedom of the media, education, culture, environmental protection and fostering of local and regional democracy. It is in these areas that Croatia has been most intensively co-operating with the CoE since 1991 when the CoE Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) at its session of 21 September 1991, based on the 1974 SPRY Constitution, recognised the right of dissociation to the former Yugoslav republics wishing to consume this right. Following its international recognition, on 4 May 1992 the Republic of Croatia was granted a "special guest" status with the Council of Europe. Application for the full CoE membership was submitted on 11 September 1992. The dialogue with the CoE thus initiated, evolved on a regular basis through a permanent Croatian Parliament delegation to Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), visits by PACE Rapporteurs for Croatia's admittance to the full CoE membership, CoE legal experts as well as high-level meetings.
Republic of Croatia became a full member of the Council of Europe on 6 November 1996, after the signing of the CoE Statute, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and the Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime.
Republic of Croatia and the Council of Europe
The key issue in CoE-Croatia relations was the honouring of the obligations (totalling 21) assumed upon 1996 accession to the CoE. Taking into account the fact that Croatia fulfilled almost all of the mentioned obligations during the following years, on 26 September 2000 PACE adopted a resolution on the closing of monitoring, with a recommended "post-monitoring" dialogue on some still open issues (such as more efficient functioning of the judiciary, freedom of the media, minority protection, refugee return). Finally, based on the report and recommendation of its Monitoring Committee, in September 2000 the Parliamentary Assembly decided to close the post-monitoring dialogue with the Croatian Parliament.
Croatia's increasingly intense co-operation with the CoE was accompanied by harmonisation of national legislation with the European standards in line with the CoE conventions, as well as comprehensive co-operation in other areas covered by 20 or so conventions that Croatia acceded to prior to admittance, or more than 50 conventions and protocols Croatia signed or both signed and ratified after admittance to full CoE membership.
Over the past ten years the Croatian representatives have regularly been participating in the work of about fifty permanent and ad hoc bodies of the CoE and various expert meetings organised by the CoE in Strasbourg, the member States and Croatia. Since the admittance to full membership the Croatian representatives have also been regularly and actively participating in CM meetings at various levels (twice a year – since 2004 once a year - at MFA level, every week at the level of ambassadors and permanent representatives of member States with the CoE). In the PACE Croatia is represented by 5 MPs plus their 5 deputies. With the same number of representatives of local and regional authorities (5+5) Croatia is represented in the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE). The Republic of Croatia has one judge at the European Court of Human Rights and it is also represented before the court by a Government representative.
Co-operation between the Republic of Croatia and the Council of Europe
Co-operation between the Republic of Croatia and the Council of Europe encompasses numerous activities. It is conducted through governmental institutions, academic community, professional bodies and non-governmental organisations and is multidimensional.
It is largely achieved through regular participation of Croatian representatives in all of the steering committees and a large number of expert committees covering various CoE activities, which discuss topics of interest to the CoE and member countries and prepare legal and other documents (conventions, recommendations, resolutions and declarations) and relevant decisions of the Council of Europe.
It also includes programmes of technical assistance and co-operation aimed at fostering the institutional, administrative and legal reforms, which are negotiated and adjusted to the needs of the beneficiary country. Since 2001 two such programmes have been successfully implemented in Croatia: Co-operation programme to strengthen the rule of law (the functioning of the judicial system including the efficiency of justice, establishment of independent, reliable and functional judiciary, enhancement of judicial co-operation, training of judges and prosecutors, the development of the profession of lawyers, the reform of the criminal legislation and its implementation, fight against corruption and organised crime, participation in the regional CARDS Police programme, fight against serious crime including trafficking, development of local and regional democracy and transfrontier cooperation and fight against sexual exploitation of children) and Assistance and technical co-operation programme in the field of media
Multilateral co-operation (European and regional conferences, seminars, workshops, round tables etc.) facilitates gathering of all interested parties around topics of common interest (for example strengthening of the rule of law, access to social rights, freedom of expression, cultural policies). Within this framework, representatives of member states exchange opinions, experiences and set standards for resolution of certain problems/issues. Representatives of the Republic of Croatia have attended nearly every multilateral meeting during the past several years and have participated in different educational and expert programmes which the CoE has organised in co-operation with other international and non-governmental organisations. Resource ministers led Croatian delegations to numerous European conferences, and in 2007 the Republic of Croatia hosted the Regional Conference on the issues of disabled persons. As a part of CoE’s campaign for the suppression of violence against women, a seminar called “Active participation of men in fight against family violence” was held in Zagreb in May 2007, as well as a seminar of the Venice Commission UNIDEM on the rights of national minorities.
Since the CoE and the EC/EU established a tight network of relations and co-operation links, (in 2001 a Joint declaration on co-operation and partnership was signed), a number of joint multilateral/regional programmes of assistance and co-operation have been developed. Since 2003 Croatia has participated in several thematic joint regional programmes of assistance and co-operation in SEE of which the CARDS Social Institutions Support Programme (SISP), Regional Programme for Cultural and Natural Heritage of South Eastern Europe (IRPP/SAAH), and the Cultural Corridors Programme are still active, while 2007 saw the completion of the CARDS regional programme for justice reform in South Eastern Europe (CARDS Justice) and CARDS regional police programme for the strengthening of capacities in fighting capital crime (CARPO), and 2006 the completion of PACO Impact, the project for the implementation of anti-corruption plans in South Eastern Europe.
Conventions and partial agreements:
The Council of Europe has 202 legal instruments. Croatia is party to 82 conventions and protocols. 9 conventions and protocols are yet to be ratified by the Republic of Croatia. Of all the CoE conventions and protocols, about a hundred are important for the accession to the European Union, and 28 are a part of the acquis communautaire. Croatia is party to most of these conventions.
Croatia is a member of 10 (out of 14) partial CoE agreements: