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News 23 Feb 17

Croatia Risks Losing EU Cash For Anti-Discrimination Plan

Croatia risks losing possible access to 6.8 billion euros in EU funds because the government is behind schedule in passing its national plan for fighting discrimination.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Zagreb Pride Parade in 2012. Photo: Zagreb Pride

Delays in implementing a promised national plan for fighting discrimination mean Croatia may lose access to the EU’s "Competition and Cohesion" program funds, as it is unlikely the plan can be adopted in time, an expert told BIRN.

The plan, specifying how numerous state institutions should implement anti-discrimination measures, should have been passed by the end of 2016. With a new deadline in summer looming, no members of the working group have yet been chosen.

The government’s Office for Human Rights and National Minorities’ Rights last Friday opened a tender for civil society members of the working group for the 2017-2022 period. It will close on March 1.

Sara Lalic, from the Centre for Peace Studies, an NGO, said she had been a member of the working group in 2014 and 2015 when the national plan for the 2015-2020 period was passed.

“With a few months of very intensive work, the working group could draft some kind of a document … but not a document that has any quality,” Lalic told BIRN, recalling that her working group had worked on a draft of the plan for ten months, and explaining that another three months are usually needed for all state institutions implementing the plan to evaluate the document, as well hold as an obligatory public discussion process.

The Foreign Ministry gave a negative review of the existing draft, but refused to specify the reasons, the daily Novi list reported on Friday.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister and Vice Prime Minister Davor Ivo Stier – known for his conservative views –  has assigned Ladislav Ilcic, president of the small right-wing Christian party, Hrast [Oak] - Movement for Successful Croatia, as his special advisor.

When the opposition centre-left Social Democratic Party, SDP, last week criticised the decision not to accept the current draft of the plan, Hrast MP Hrvoje Zekanovic warned that the SDP “won’t be satisfied” with how the new plan looks.

Zekanovic said the existing plan working group “presents sex equality as gender equality, and these things are different”, adding that he “believes and strongly hopes” that the NGOs involved in the current working group “won’t work on the new one [national plan]”.

Ilcic and Hrast are closely connected to conservative NGOs, such as Voice of Parents for Children, GROZD, which advocates Christian family values. GROZD campaigned especially against introducing sex education courses into public schools, claiming they promoted homosexuality.

In the last public debate on the plan, GROZD also criticised it for introducing gender equality, claiming that concepts based on gender ideology had been “scientifically discarded”.

GROZD also complained that the plan emphasised multiculturalism and did not speak about the need for patriotism - and that it advocated introducing civic education in schools as an alternative to religious education.

A different composition for the working group is possible since the Council for the Development of the Civil Society, which approved the last group’s members from civil society, has been formed but is not yet constituted.

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