“I’d say that there are a few things of note, lately, that lawyers in Croatia find particularly interesting,” says Babic & Partners Partner Iva Basaric, who, first, reports “some turmoil regarding the election of the new President of the Supreme Court of Croatia.”
Under the Croatian Law on Courts, the process of election of the Supreme Court President is initiated by the State Judicial Council, which publishes an invitation to prospective candidates to submit their applications, ultimately leading to the Supreme Court President being elected by the Croatian Parliament, at the proposal of the President of Croatia. “But President of Croatia Zoran Milanovic is attempting to circumnavigate this by relying solely on the provisions of the Constitution and the right of the President to propose the candidate to the Parliament, thereby pushing his preferred candidate, a law professor from the University of Zagreb, even though this professor has not formally applied for the seat,” Basaric says.
On top of this, Basaric points out that extra friction has been added to the process by the fact that President Milanovic, elected as the candidate of Social Democratic Party, has often clashed with the party holding the majority in the Croatian Parliament (the Croatian Democratic Union (or HDZ)). “The parliamentary majority, led by the HDZ party, is pushing for the process that the Law on Courts prescribes, and that President Milanovic has called unconstitutional.”
Regardless, Basaric says that, in order for a candidate to be elected by the Parliament, a significant majority would be needed. “With this in mind, it is difficult to see how President Milanovic’s candidate could win. It is a stalemate position, and it will be interesting to observe how the process will unravel.”
The current political clashing over the next President of the Supreme Court comes against the backdrop of perceived lack of trust in Croatia’s justice system. “There is a strong notion among the people of Croatia that the justice system is not very trustworthy,” Basaric says. “A 2019 Eurobarometar poll showed that some 42% of Croatian citizens partaking in the poll described the independence of courts as very bad – the most in all of Europe, and far ahead of second-placed Slovakia, where the number was around 24%.”
Finally, turning to the Croatian market, Basaric says that not all is bleak. “There were some negative moments in the past year, but, on the whole right now, the transactions are up to par and the rhythm is good,” she says. “The life sciences sector is booming, as we could see with a couple of major transactions of last year – including the Rohatyn Group's acquisition of Optimapharm and Selvita’s acquisition of Fidelta from Galapagos.” Basaric reports that the IT sector is doing well too, as is retail, “especially in terms of the food retail part of the sector.”