Freedom in the World
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Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Croatia’s political rights rating improved from 2 to 1 due to improvements in the treatment of minority Serb and Roma communities.
Halfway through his second term, Prime Minister Ivo Sanader unexpectedly resigned in June 2009, and Jadranka Kosor became Croatia’s first female prime minister in the post-communist period. The first round of presidential elections was held in December, with SDP candidate Ivo Josipovic and independent candidate Milan Bandic moving on to a second round scheduled for January 2010. Progress was made in public administration and judicial reform, and the treatment of ethnic minority communities also registered improvements.
Croatia was invited to join NATO at the 2008 Bucharest Summit, and formally became a member state in April 2009. The country’s other main foreign policy goal of joining the EU has been significantly delayed in recent years due to the country’s territorial dispute with neighboring Slovenia over maritime and land borders. The EU cancelled accession talks with Croatia in June 2009 after Slovenia blocked the closing of several chapters of Croatia’s accession negotiations. However, the two sides came to a mutual agreement in September to allow for international mediation in the dispute, unlocking Croatia’s EU accession path. By year’s end, negotiations had opened on 30 of 33 chapters for Croatia’s EU accession, and 18 chapters had been successfully closed; the country is likely achieve full EU membership in late 2011 or early 2012.
Croatia is an electoral democracy. Both the 2009 presidential poll and the 2007 parliamentary elections were deemed generally free and fair. The 153-seat parliament (Sabor) is a unicameral body composed of 140 members from geographical districts, 8 representing ethnic minorities, and a variable number representing Croatians living abroad. All members are elected to four-year terms. The president of the republic, who serves as head of state, is elected by popular vote for up to two five-year terms. The prime minister is appointed by the president, but must then be approved by the parliament.
The constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. However, women are paid significantly less than men with similar qualifications. There are currently 36 women in the 153-seat parliament. Women must comprise at least 40 percent of the candidate lists for each political party at the local, national, and EU levels, though it remains unclear whether the prescribed fines are large enough to deter violations. Domestic violence against women is believed to be widespread and underreported, though the government has helped to finance several shelters and counseling centers for victims. Trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution continues to be a problem, and Croatia is a transit countryfor women trafficked to Western Europe.