The Croatian central bank HNB on Monday reported that it was "unpleasantly surprised" by Raiffeisenbank Austria's (RBA) advertisement for a PR agency in which it notes that one the agency's tasks would be to "put pressure on courts" in the dispute over Swiss franc-denominated loans. HNB added that it would "urgently conduct an inspection" of RBA and take "necessary steps."
"The Croatian National Bank underlines that any form of pressure on the Croatian Constitutional Court or any other court or judge in Croatia, regardless of whether it comes from a party in court proceedings or via a mediator, constitutes inappropriate, impermissible and possibly criminal behaviour," the HNB told Hina.
The Index.hr website reported on Sunday that RBA was looking for a PR agency that would exert pressure on the Constitutional Court. In its advertisement, RBA is looking for crisis communication services concerning CHF loans. One of the services it needs is "exerting pressure on the Constitutional Court and other courts in Croatia."
"The Croatian National Bank is extremely unpleasantly surprised with this conduct and it will urgently conduct an inspection of Raiffeisenbank Austria d.d., Zagreb and take the necessary steps, in line with its powers," the HNB has reported.
The central bank recalled that the Croatian Constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary.
"Under the Law on Courts, as institutions of government authority, courts conduct judicial authority independently and within the remit defined by law. The same law prohibits any form of influence on court decisions, particularly any form of pressure on judges, abuse of public authority or personal influence and the use of the media and public statements that are contrary to principles of a democratic society and are aimed at influencing the course and outcome of court proceedings," the HNB said in a press release.
The Franak association, which represents citizens who had taken loans pegged to the Swiss franc, on Monday reacted sharply to the news of RBA's advertisement.
RBA told Hina on Monday that they had advertised the tender for a PR agency so as to ensure equal representation for banks' positions in the Swiss franc loans case.
"In all activities, including this tender, we have sought legitimate procedures, that is, communication activities that would reach their target audience through the media," said RBA.
It added that it had not been involved "in the said activities, has never discussed them and has not hired any agency in that regard."
RBA points out that all its business operations are, and have always been in compliance with Croatian laws and regulations.
Independent MP Marin Skibola told a press conference on Monday that it was scandalous that in its advertisement for a PR agency, in its description of the tasks required, RBA cited "pressure on the Constitutional Court or any other Croatian court."