Parliament formulates final draft of constitutional amendments

Zagreb, 13.03.2013 - Tomislav Karmarko i potpredsjednik Hrvatskog sabora Tomislav Èuljak tijekom sjednice Hrvatskog sabora. foto FaH/ Denis CERIÆ /ds

Parliament on Friday formulated by majority vote a draft of proposed amendments to the Croatian Constitution.

The draft envisages lifting the statute of limitations on first degree murder, reducing the number of signatures required to call a referendum requested by citizens and stipulating the requirements for a referendum to be considered valid.

Under the draft, a constitutional law on national minorities’ rights would be passed under the procedure required to amend the Constitution. The same would apply to other laws if so requested by a majority of all MPs.

Also, regions would be included in the Constitution as local self-government units alongside counties.

The draft was backed by MPs of the ruling majority, as well as opposition parties such as the Croatian Democratic Party of Slavonia and Baranja, the Croatian Labour Party, and independent MPs. Only the strongest opposition party — the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) — was against.

None of its nine proposals to modify the draft were approved, in which they requested lifting the statute of limitations on crimes committed during totalitarian regimes, more MPs from the diaspora constituency, and different requirements for a referendum to be considered valid.

The HDZ also wanted the constitutional law on national minorities’ rights no longer to be called constitutional and erasing the provision under which any other law can be passed under the procedure required to amend the Constitution.

A heated debate and mutual accusations

The vote on the draft of constitutional amendments took place amid a heated debate and mutual accusations.

The HDZ was dissatisfied with how the draft was being adopted and with Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), who called the Constitutional Court judges “HDZ masters” and accused the HDZ of anti-European behaviour.

Davorin Mlakar of the HDZ called on the ruling coalition to scrap the proposed constitutional amendments, saying the HDZ had remained alone in its attempt to warn about everything that was inappropriate and bad about them.

He said the draft amendments would reduce democratic standards, lead to violations of fundamental principles and seriously undermine the rule of law. He said the ruling coalition was changing the Constitution for the interests of a small group of people or one man, which he said should be roundly condemned.

Pupovac said the changes would markedly improve constitutional norms and “eliminate the risks of a constitutional crisis which has been manifesting itself over the past year.” He said the changes would make the constitutional order more consistent and that future constitutional laws “are getting the status they should have had since day one.”

“Since the 90s, nobody has brought into question the constitutional character of the constitutional law on national minorities’ rights, other than some masters from the Constitutional Court who conceived that something can have a name but not be,” said this SDSS parliamentarian.

Gordan Jandrokovic of the HDZ accused the ruling coalition of causing world-view discussions. “I’d like to recall what President Josipovic said about you, that sometimes you live off mild inter-ethnic tensions in Croatia,” he told Pupovac.

He accused the ruling coalition of breaching European values three days before Croatia joined the European Union on July 1 with amending the law on the European Arrest Warrant. “That’s when European standards and achievements began to crumble. That’s the truth, so stop constantly blaming others.”

The adoption of the constitutional amendments requires the approval from two thirds of all MPs.