The National Council Monitoring the Implementation of the Strategy to Suppress Corruption on Wednesday discussed ways of protecting the independence of democratic institutions and restoring citizens' trust in institutions, with the heads of about ten independent and judicial institutions debating the reasons for the lack of trust in state institutions.
The Council's chairman, MP Zeljko Jovanovic, claimed that citizens' trust in political institutions and the parliament was declining.
Only about four percent of citizens trust political parties, eight percent trust the parliament, giving it a score of 1.89 (out of 5). Surveys show a continuing decline of citizens' trust in the judiciary, all government institutions and even in the Church, Jovanovic said.
It was underscored that the lack of trust in the judiciary and court rulings was a particular problem.
During the debate that ensued, representatives of the institutions presented their views of the problems they are faced with.
A Supreme Court Vice President, Judge Marin Mrcela, called for abandoning the practice of commenting on court decisions without knowing the facts and for the purpose of scoring political points.
USKOK anti-corruption office deputy director Natasa Djurovic believes that the public perception of the work of the judiciary is based on the media's perception of prominent cases.
She said that the indicators were good but agreed that the low level of citizens' trust in the judiciary was concerning because that trust was exceptionally important to the judiciary.
Natasa Novakovic, head of the Conflict of Interest Commission, the institution that is most often exposed to criticism, including by the country's most senior officials, said that that certainly hampered the Commission's work. She noted the case of a trip to Helsinki by Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) officials in the government's jet and of the appointment of Croatia's ambassador to Great Britain, claiming that the prime minister had inappropriately commented on the Commission's decisions.
Jovanovic recalled that empowering the Commission was one of the preconditions for Croatia to access the Schengen Area.
The Council concluded that restoring citizens' trust in state institutions should be worked on not only by politicians but also by the heads of institutions as well as the media, and that the first step in that direction was preparation of a new national anti-corruption strategy.