Probe into HDZ
Swoboda calls for fair investigation into HDZ
European Parliament rapporteur on Croatia Hannes Swoboda said on Thursday the expansion of a corruption probe into Croatia's ruling HDZ party must not be abused in the coming election campaign, while MEP Doris Pack said other political parties had not behaved a lot differently than the HDZ and that this was a case of a strong pre-election racket, Deutsche Welle said on its website.
Austrian Social Democrat MEP Swoboda said Croatia must show and prove that probes were fair at a time when several members of the HDZ were under investigation.
Swoboda stressed he had always been against premature judgments, and that the courts, the State Prosecutor's Office and the judicial bodies must act openly and freely. The courts must act without pressure from any side, he said.
Given that Croatia is about to hold a parliamentary election, one never knows how Croatia's citizens will respond and decide at the polls or if and how they will consider the latest developments when deciding who to vote for, said Swoboda.
Neither the government nor the opposition must use this investigation, and judicial bodies must act as in any other case and as if an election is not taking place soon, he added.
Swoboda said the European Parliament was against any kind of political judiciary, be it the case of Hungary, Ukraine or now Croatia. He added that this was not about the whole party and that there were many party associates and members who acted fairly.
Swoboda said he expected the judiciary to question everyone who ran afoul of the law.
A court's decision is one thing, and the voters' decision another. One is a judicial, and one a political decision, he said, adding that Croatian constituents were mature enough to draw their own conclusions from the investigations and the verdicts.
Swoboda said the European Union and he as the European Parliament rapporteur on Croatia abided by the law and court decisions. That is decisive because, if a conviction is handed down, it goes without saying that some political consequences should follow, but until then the presumption of innocence applies, he added.
German Conservative MEP Doris Pack said the fact that a political party was facing a trial because of its financing was nothing new in democracies, adding that this had happened to most political parties in Germany and voicing conviction that the current HDZ case was not the only one.
Pack said she could not imagine that the other parties in Croatia had acted much differently than the HDZ and that the entire case, therefore, should not be shouted from the rooftops.
She said it was imperative to abide by the regulations and law on the financing of political parties, and that if the parties failed to do so, they should return the money. She added that the noise about this case was a very strong pre-election racket.
The European Commission said it did not comment on individual cases but that in the accession negotiations with Croatia, it had paid special attention to judicial reform and the clampdown on corruption, said Deutsche Welle.
Croatia has made significant progress in those areas and the judicial framework and institutions do exist, and the Commission has recommended that Croatia to pursue that progress and that investigative and judicial bodies do their job in keeping with their mandate and by fully respecting the law, Deutsche Welle said.
Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) president and Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor confirmed at a news conference on Thursday that an ongoing investigation into alleged HDZ slush funds had been expanded to cover the party as a legal entity.