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Critères d’enregistrement

The position of other religious communities had remained unregulated until the Law on Legal Status of Religious Communities was passed in 2002. The Law differentiated between the then existing religious communities which had a very simple registration process and the new ones, those which would be founded after the law came into force and which have a special procedure of registration : 5 years of existence as citizens associations and proof that they have at least 500 members. More importantly, the Law extended many of the rights, albeit not all granted to the Catholic Church, to other religious communities by subjecting them to further regulation, i.e. by way of agreements between Croatia and religious communities on issues of mutual interest. These rights include the religious instruction in public schools, chaplaincy in military and police forces and in health and social institutions, financing of Churches, state recognition of Church weddings, etc. However, in December 2004 the Government formulated new criteria specifying the following two basic conditions of which one should be met in order to sign the agreement : (1) a given religious community should function on the territory of the Republic of Croatia since 6 April 1941 and continue with its activity uninterruptedly and in legal succession, having at least 6000 members according to the last census ; or (2) it is one of the traditional religious organizations in the country (the Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, Evangelical Church in Croatia, Reformed Christian Church in Croatia, Islamic Community or the Jewish Community).

On the basis of the Law and the Government conclusion eight agreements have been signed so far on issues of mutual interest with 19 mainly traditional religious communities, including the Serbian Orthodox Church, Islamic Community, different Protestant communities, two Jewish communities, etc.

Three registered religious communities, which also wanted to conclude agreements with the Government and which submitted formal applications during 2002/2003 (the Protestant Reformed Christian Church in the Republic of Croatia, the Full Gospel Church and the Word of Life Church), were declined by the Government on account of the Government criteria. The three communities then claimed that this decision discriminated against them referring also to those communities that did not fulfil conditions required by the Conclusion with respect to continuity, number of followers and legal succession but had nevertheless signed agreements with the Government (the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Macedonian Orthodox Church, the Evangelical (Pentecostal) Church, and others). In late 2006, they filed a motion for review of the Government’s conclusion before the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Croatia which dismissed the motion in 2007 proclaiming it was not authorized to pass a decision on the matter. Afterwards, these communities brought a lawsuit against the Government of the Republic of Croatia before the International Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on account of discrimination in 2007, i.e., on account of the impossibility to conclude agreements with the Government about issues of mutual interest aimed at regulating different, but for them important, rights. The European Court of Human Rights passed a judgement in their favour in December 2010 so they won the case. The Government of Croatia did not appeal the Court’s decision. However, it was only in September 2014 that the Government and these communities signed the agreement.

Beside religious communities that have agreements with the Government in place, 23 other religious communities are registered as such. They can freely operate in the country, but do not have additional rights which can be obtained only by signing agreements with the Government.

Source : Zrinščak, S., Marinović Jerolimov, D., Marinović, A., Ančić, B., “Church and State in Croatia. Legal frameworks, religious instruction and social expectations”, in S. P. Ramet (ed.), Religion and Politics in Post-Socialist Central and South Eastern Europe : Challenges since 1989, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, p. 131-154.

D 22 août 2017    ASiniša Zrinščak

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