Chief State Prosecutor Drazen Jelenic said on Monday, International Anti-Corruption Day, that the fight against corruption was constant and that the only true values that needed to be promoted were competence, knowledge and integrity.
"We should all insist on Croatia being a law-based country instead of a country where citizens have a feeling that everything has a price. The only true values that need to be promoted are competence, knowledge and integrity," Jelenic said ahead of a working meeting at the parliament with the national council in charge of overseeing the implementation of the strategy for the prevention of corruption.
The council's chair, Zeljko Jovanovic of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), said that the council decided to hold a working meeting with Jelenic because it believed that in Croatia, along with the economic damage caused by corruption, the key problem was the loss of trust in all institutions - the government, the parliament, the president of the state and the judiciary.
The council's mission is to restore that trust because by losing it, citizens tend to report corruption even less, Jovanovic said, adding that only 4% of citizens were willing to report corruption.
Prevention important segment in fight against corruption
Jelenic dismissed assessments that citizens do not want to report corruption because they believe that the prosecutorial authorities do nothing about it.
"That simply is not true because the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH), notably the anti-corruption office USKOK, are in charge of prosecuting the perpetrators of criminal offences of that nature," said Jelenic.
He underlined the importance of prevention in fighting corruption.
"... Prevention, which includes prevention of the conflict of interest, transparency, protecting integrity and a number of other measures, should definitely be the first on the list of measures to counter corruption."
Jelenic said that "a high percentage" of reports for corruption result in verdicts.
He went on to say that the prosecutorial authorities' job was not only to issue indictments but also to check allegations as well as decide to drop a case if there are no elements warranting issuing an indictment.
"Such decisions are like any other decisions, the prosecutorial authorities back them and they should also be backed by politicians, society and all the others involved in the fight against corruption and raising public awareness of the need to have strong institutions," said Jelenic.
War crimes among priorities
Jelenic also dismissed criticism that DORH was not doing enough to prosecute war crimes.
"We are investigating and working on all criminal cases, there are certain priorities and war crimes cases are definitely among them," he said, stressing that considering the time when those crimes were committed, it was very difficult to find evidence.
"But what the prosecutors do, together with police, is to check any information, on any war crime, and to try to convert it into evidence," he said.