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Croatia

Constitutional & Legal Foundations


The Republic of Croatia is a parliamentary democracy with a strong presidency. The Croatian government's basic purposes and structures were established by the Constitution of December 22, 1990. The Croatian legal system is a civil law system. All Croatians, women and men alike, are eligible to vote at age 18; 16- and 17-year-olds are also eligible to vote if they are employed. Croatia's democratically elected chief executive and head of state, the president, is elected to a five year term of office. The executive branch of the Croatian government also includes the prime minister, who is appointed by the president and must be confirmed by the House of Representatives. The prime minister also recommends other ministers to the president for appointment to the executive branch. Early in the year 2000, Ivica Racan was chosen as Prime Minister. Since February 2000 the President of the Republic of Croatia has been Stjepan Mesic, a member of the Croatian People's party (HNS).

At the national level the Croatian legislative branch consists of a bicameral Assembly, or Sabor, composed of the House of Counties (Zupanijski Dom) with 68 members (63 elected by popular vote and 5 appointed by the president) who serve 4 year terms and the House of Representatives (Zastupnicki Dom) with 151 members also elected to 4 year terms. The third branch of Croatia's national government is the judicial branch, consisting of the Supreme Court whose judges are appointed to eight year terms by the Judicial Council of the Republic and the Constitutional Court with eight judges similarly appointed. The Judicial Council of the Republic is elected by Croatia's House of Representatives. Croatian regional affairs are administered through a system involving 20 counties (Zupanijski), though the national government continued to operate in a fairly centralized fashion and to exert significant control over administrative affairs throughout the country in the year 2000.

International human rights organizations and agencies such as Human Rights Watch and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. Department of State praised many of the steps Croatia took in 2000 to promote human rights and further democratize the country. For example, in February 2000 at the start of the new national administration under President Mesic and Prime Minister Racan, the government announced its intentions to make US$55 million available to assist in the resettlement and reintegration of 16,500 Croatian Serb refugees who had fled their homes in 1995 when Croatian government troops attacked rebel Serbs—an operation later subjected to consideration by the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Hague. Croatia also announced its support of the ICTY in 2000 and made significant legislative reforms to strengthen the country's protection of minorities and the privacy and free expression of its citizens. A new government body was appointed in 2000 to oversee the return of refugees, replacing the previous problematic Commission on Return, to enable the more effective return of Croatian Serbs who had taken refuge in Republika Srpska.

However, continuing problems in Croatia during the year 2000 of discrimination against ethnic Serbs, particularly regarding property rights, had not yet been effectively addressed by the end of the year; crimes of ethnic violence against Serbs also occurred in 2000. Croatia's Roma population of 30,000 to 40,000 people also faced continuing problems with the general population and Croatian authorities. Many Roma lacked access to education and employment opportunities, unfairly prevented from receiving state assistance and housing, met obstacles as they sought Croatian citizenship, and found themselves the targets of racist abuse with inadequate government protection. Discrimination and violence against women continued to be prevalent in Croatia in 2000.

Concerning its participation in regional and international organizations and conferences, Croatia has a better record. Croatia became a member of the World Bank and the International Development Association in 1993 but received no loans until 1995 when the security situation in the country had improved. Croatia is well linked to many international bodies and activities such as those associated with the United Nations, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Council of Europe, and NATO's Partnershipfor-Peace program and has received development aid and post-war recovery assistance from numerous nongovernmental, international organizations. Croatia's chief trading partners are Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Austria.

The legal basis for Croatia's education system rests in the Constitution of 1990 and various laws and measures passed since the country declared independence in 1991. Higher education is organized according to the principles laid out in the Higher Education Act of 1996 and through the recommendations of the Council of Europe's Legislative Reform Program. The transformation of the general education system in Croatia has been slower in coming. Although several attempts were made in the 1990s by government commissions and public actors to assess and reform the overly rigid, bureaucratic, authoritarian education system left over from when Croatia was part of Yugoslavia, by the end of the decade none of the proposals discussed had crystallized into an approved action plan. By June 2000 the Education Council of the Croatian government's Ministry of Education and Sports had drawn upon some of the proposed reforms made since 1985 and prepared a comprehensive set of recommendations for the country's entire education system at all levels and was inviting the public to formally review and comment on their proposal. The anticipated timetable for reviewing the proposal, making further recommendations to the Ministry and to the government as a whole, and advancing the proposal to the national Assembly went as follows: 1) Between mid-June and mid-September 2000 the proposal was to be reviewed by a full range of civil-society actors—schools, teachers' associations, professional nongovernmental organizations, employers' associations, business organizations, political parties, religious communities, and individuals—who would be invited to develop their own proposals and comments in writing for submission to the Council for consideration; 2) From mid-September until the end of October a working group appointed by the Education Council was to gather and review the above submissions and pass them along with their own comments to the Council as a whole, which by October 30, 2000, was to have completed discussions on what it had received; and 3) After the Education Council had adopted and passed along its recommendations on proposed education reforms to the government of the Republic of Croatia, the government was to decide whether to forward the material to the National Assembly for debate. Along the way, various government commissions would be engaged to review and prepare documentation and plans related to the proposed reforms.

The reform efforts begun in the year 2000 to accomplish the above evaluation of the entire school system and to propose a new, comprehensive package of recommendations in line with European standards was both nationally essential and strategically wise from an international perspective. Croatia was well aware that reforming its education system would bring better economic, political, and social relations with other European states and simultaneously facilitate transfers of students, professors, researchers, and funds between Croatia and the wealthier countries of Europe. European educational standards have become ever more important to the transitional countries in Eastern and Central Europe as they sought to improve their antiquated, often overly bureaucratic systems inherited from political predecessors of the socialist era. Not only would reforms in Croatia bring the education system up to the par with the European countries with which Croatia was doing business, but the reforms would also improve the likelihood that Croatia one day could be integrated into the European Union or at least made a more-valuable trading partner whose educated citizens would be welcomed as qualified employees for European jobs.

The essence of Croatia's official stance toward education is captured in a simple statement included in the government's program for 2000-2004 and cited by Minister of Education and Sports Vladimir Strugar in his presentation to the public of a Ministry proposal to fully transform the country's educational system: "Upbringing and education are development priorities of strategic importance for the overall development of Croatian society. . . ." Croatia's underlying philosophy of education is reflected in a speech presented by Bozidan Pugelnik, Minister of Education and Sports in 1998, at a UN-sponsored conference for government ministers in charge of youth-related issues held in August 1998. As Pugelnik remarked:


We believe that for the development of policy for young people, the active participation of young people is a condition sine qua non, based upon the following:

  • Strengthening democratic societies,
  • Peaceful resolution of problems within each individual country and among the nations of the world,
  • Strengthening democratic societies,
  • Peaceful resolution of problems within each individual country and among the nations of the world,
  • Strengthening awareness of the equality among nations, sexes, races, religions, i.e., the strengthening of multiculturalism,
  • Strengthening awareness of environmental protection,
  • Facilitating access to education, health care, employment and a general improvement of living conditions for young people, especially for the neglected groups,

in order to begin the attempt to provide young people with an opportunity for a better future.


Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceCroatia - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education