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Croatia Transitional Results Report 2018-2020

The Open Government Partnership is a global partnership that brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. Action plan commitments may build on existing efforts, identify new steps to complete ongoing reforms, or initiate an entirely new area. OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) monitors all action plans to ensure governments follow through on commitments. Civil society and government leaders use the evaluations to reflect on their progress and determine if efforts have impacted people’s lives.

The IRM has partnered with Ivona Mendeš Levak, an independent researcher, to carry out this evaluation. The IRM aims to inform ongoing dialogue around the development and implementation of future commitments. For a full description of the IRM’s methodology, please visit https://www.opengovpartnership.org/about/independent-reporting-mechanism.

This report covers the implementation of Croatia’s third action plan for 2018−2020. In 2021, the IRM will implement a new approach to its research process and the scope of its reporting on action plans, approved by the IRM Refresh.[i] The IRM adjusted its implementation reports for 2018−2020 action plans to fit the transition process to the new IRM products and enable the IRM to adjust its workflow in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on OGP country processes.

Action Plan Implementation

The IRM Transitional Results Report assesses the status of the action plan’s commitments and the results from their implementation at the end of the action plan cycle. This report does not revisit the assessments for “Verifiability,” “Relevance,” or “Potential Impact.” The IRM assesses those three indicators in IRM Design Reports. For more details on each indicator, please see Annex I in this report.

General Highlights and Results

This action plan focused on opening data, advancing the right to access information, fiscal transparency, and citizen participation in decision-making processes. Croatia fully completed 3 of 15 commitments in this plan, substantially completed 7, and achieved limited completion of 5 commitments. The overall progress in commitment implementation is comparable to Croatia’s performance in the implementation of the previous action plan.[ii]

Many commitments, including the four noteworthy commitments (Commitment 2 on fiscal transparency, Commitment 3 on political financing and election campaign transparency, Commitment 6 on protection of persons reporting corruption, and Commitment 11 on Central State Portal development) were aligned with other strategic or legal documents which contributed toward their full or substantial completion. In fact, the noteworthy commitments built on commitments and milestones from the previous 2014−2016[iii] action plan, and all but Commitment 11 are in line with the public finance, political integrity, and judiciary measures outlined in the Anti-Corruption Strategy 2015−2020.[iv] Commitment 2 on fiscal transparency also includes activities as mandated in the Budget Act along with the calendar of implementation .[v] A 2017−2018 anti-corruption strategy action plan included strengthening election campaign transparency (Commitment 3) and regulating the financing of referendum campaigns as well as whistleblower protection activities (Commitment 6).[vi]

Factors limiting implementation range from a lack of political interest (e.g., Commitment 13 on funding anti-corruption activities of CSOs),[vii] financial constraints (e.g., a youth open data hackathon planned as part of Commitment 10),[viii] delays in EU-funded projects and subsequent procurement procedures (e.g., Commitment 5 on creating a new IT system of CSO programs and projects funded by public authorities),[ix] as well as delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.[x]

Some commitments in this action plan introduce new legislation that are not required to be fully implemented before the end of the action plan cycle limiting the assessment of implementation of these new norms (such as Commitment 6 on the Act on Protection of Persons Reporting Corruption and its bylaws). However, other commitments demonstrated immediate benefits for citizens, such as Commitment 3. This commitment increased transparency in political financing and election campaigns, which improved the legal and institutional framework, and created an IT system for public monitoring of political activity and campaign funding in three election cycles (EU, presidential, parliamentary and local elections). This improved the quality of campaign funding data submitted by candidates and political parties, and allowed the interested public (especially the media) to access to such information.[xi]

COVID 19 Pandemic Impact on Implementation

The COVID-19 pandemic somewhat disrupted implementation of Croatia’s national action plan (between March and August 2020). Some of the planned activities were not implemented to the extent envisaged due to lockdown-related restrictions on gatherings and free movement (affecting education, trainings, and other public events), although according to the draft self-assessment report, some of these will be implemented in the next action plan. It also merits mentioning that at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, after lockdown began, the capital city of Zagreb was hit by a 5.5 earthquake on the Richter scale, devastating buildings and halting regular activities in the city center, which is where many state administrative bodies operate. (For example, the offices of the Information Commissioner were hard hit and are unusable for normal functioning.)[xii]

On the other hand, open government systems developed via the OGP process were used to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The e-Citizen system enabled e-Passes, which sped up the process of issuing passes to citizens abandoning permanent residences during the lockdown. The Croatian Institute of Public Health and the Ministry of Health collected and submitted open (machine-readable), accurate, verified, and transparent coronavirus data on the official government website[xiii] and the Open Data Portal. During the first lockdown in 2020, the public trusted the daily information on the number of new infections and deaths.[xiv] This trust declined; according to research conducted in November 2020, 33% of respondents stated they had little-to-no trust in the national Civilian Protection Headquarters (charged with COVID-19 decision-making), while almost 66% either trust it fully or with some reservations.[xv]

A joint initiative of the Ministry of the Interior and the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center launched the campaign, “Behind the doors,” to encourage reporting of domestic violence cases that were on the rise during the pandemic.[xvi] Also, technology companies and epidemiologists developed a “virtual doctor”[xvii] to advise Croatians on how to diagnose and manage suspected COVID-19 infections with personalized health advice and guidance. According to the government, it could process thousands of requests daily, while doctors can only handle about 50 calls a day.[xviii]

[i] For more information, see: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/process/accountability/about-the-irm/irm-refresh/.

[ii] In the previous action plan (2014−2016), 5 of 16 commitments were fully completed, 6 of 16 were substantially completed, and 5 of 16 had limited completion.

[iii] Government of the Republic of Croatia, Action Plan for Implementation of the Open Government Partnership Initiative in the Republic of Croatia for the Period 2014 to 2016 (OGP, Jul. 2014), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Action%20Plan-OGP-8-7-2014-final-ENG.pdf.

[iv] Croatian Parliament, “Anti-Corruption Strategy 2015−2020” (Official Gazette, 9 Mar. 2015), https://narodne-novine.nn.hr/clanci/sluzbeni/2015_03_26_545.html.

[v] Croatian Parliament, Budget Act 87/08, 136/12, 15/15 (Zakon HR Procisceni Tekstovi Zakona, 14 Feb. 2015), https://www.zakon.hr/z/283/Zakon-o-prora%C4%8Dunu.

[vi] Ministry of Justice, Action Plan for 2017 and 2018 accompanying the Anti-Corruption Strategy from 2015-2020 (Jun. 2017), https://mpu.gov.hr/UserDocsImages/dokumenti/Pravo%20na%20pristup%20informacijama/Akcijski%20plan%20suzbijanja%20korupcije%202017_2018.pdf. Number 5. See Measure 63 specifically for the whistleblowing commitments that were incomplete and therefore rolled over into the OGP action plan.

[vii] Jelena Tešija (GONG), interview by IRM researcher, 21 Feb. 2019; Jelena Berković and Melisa Skender (GONG), online interview by IRM researcher, 11 Nov. 2019.

[viii] Zoran Pičuljan (Information Commissioner) and Ina Volmut and Lucija Jadrijević (Ofc. of the Information Commissioner), interview by IRM researcher, 21 Feb. 2019; Volmut and Jadrijević (Information Commissioner’s Ofc.), email interview, 13 Nov. 2020.

[ix] Government of the Republic of Croatia, Croatia End-of-Term Self-Assessment 2018-2020 (OGP, 19 Mar. 2021), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/documents/croatia-end-of-term-self-assessment-2018-2020/; Darija Marić (Gov. Ofc. for Cooperation with Non-Governmental Organizations), online interview by IRM researcher, 9 Nov. 2020.

[x] Government of the Republic of Croatia, Croatia End-of-Term Self-Assessment 2018-2020.

[xi] Berković and Skender (GONG), interview.

[xii] The earthquake occurred on 22 March 2020. Volmut and Jadrijević (Information Commissioner’s Ofc.), email interview.

[xiii] Available at: https://koronavirus.hr/.

[xiv] See https://www.facebook.com/direktno.hr/posts/2673221309602349/.

[xv] The survey was conducted 2−6 November by the Promocija plus agency on 1,300 respondents, for the RTL TV station. Slobodna Dalmacija, “The survey reveals how much citizens trust the Headquarters and what measures they would introduce: almost 80 percent of respondents oppose lockdown” (7 Nov. 2020), https://slobodnadalmacija.hr/vijesti/hrvatska/istrazivanje-otkriva-koliko-gradani-vjeruju-sozeru-i-koje-mjere-bi-oni-uveli-kada-bi-se-njih-pitalo-cak-80-posto-ispitanika-protivi-se-lockdownu-1056143; SibHR, “EXCLUSIVE Large RTL survey: How many citizens support lockdown, and what would they leave open? We also reveal which member of the Staff they trust the most!” (7 Nov. 2020), https://sib.net.hr/video/416044/ekskluzivno-veliko-istrazivanje-rtl-a-koliko-gradjana-podrzava-lockdown-a-sto-bi-ostavili-otvoreno-otkrivamo-i-kojem-clanu-stozera-najvise-vjeruju/.

[xvi] Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center, “Kampanja ‘Iza Vrata’: Prepoznaj Miju u svom ulazu i nazovi 192” (10 Apr. 2020), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYPX8QwwzB8.

[xvii] Available at: https://andrija.ai/.

[xviii]  Government of the Republic of Croatia, Croatia End-of-Term Self-Assessment 2018-2020.

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