CROSOL – the Croatian Platform for International Citizen Solidarity, in collaboration with Ipsos Puls, has published the results of a public opinion poll on Croatia’s presidency of the EU Council taking place in the first half of 2020. The research was carried out within the framework of the project “Towards an open, fair and sustainable Europe in the world – EU Presidency 2019-2021” funded by the European Union.
The purpose of the poll was to examine citizens’ attitudes and awareness on topics related to Croatia’s EU Presidency, the priorities of the Croatian Government and civil society organizations for the presidency, and the functioning of the European Union and the role of Croatia within it. Below is a summary of the key findings:
- According to citizen opinion, the most important topic that Croatia should prioritize during its Presidency is the fight against corruption, which was stated by about 65% of citizens.
- 64 % of citizens express strong support to EU international development policies
- Nearly half of citizens, 47%, consider the protection of human rights as one of the most important topics that Croatia should prioritize. Other priorities identified are reducing developmental inequalities between member states, managing migration flows and combating climate change.
- 81% of citizens are aware that Croatia will preside over the Council of the European Union in the first six months of 2020.
- 47% of citizens expect that Croatia’s EU Council Presidency will be more beneficial than harmful for Croatia, while 22% disagree. The benefits that citizens expect are the positive impact of the Presidency on the economy and living standards, and greater recognition of Croatia. The most commonly expected harm is related to the financial cost of the Presidency and the potential for harm to the country’s reputation in the event of a bad presidency. The loss of independence in decision-making is also noted as a potential negative outcome.
- With respect to EU policies, citizens are most concerned that the EU must work to reduce social and economic disparities between Member States, which is highlighted by 86% of citizens. The second most important topic of concern is climate change, which is highlighted as an important topic for EU policy by over 80% of citizens.
- With respect to questions about human rights and the rule of law, citizens see the biggest differences between Croatia and the European Union in the independence of the judiciary, public institutions working in the interest of citizens, and freedom of expression by civil society. Of particular concern are the findings that 65% of citizens believe that judges in Croatia do not make judgments independently (without exposure to pressure), while only 17% of citizens believe the same is true for the EU.
- 67% of citizens believe that the Croatian government and Parliament do not work in the interest of its citizens, while 25% of citizens believe that EU institutions do not work in the interest of EU citizens.
- 29% of citizens believe that civil society organizations in Croatia are not free to express their opinions and criticize the policies and activities of those in power, while 15% of citizens think that the same is true of civil society organizations in the EU.
- As the most important factors for the development of democracy in Croatia, citizens point to an independent judiciary, independent media and independent institutions. Political parties are considered as the least relevant for the development of democracy.
- Citizens equally support the accession of all countries in the region to the EU, with the exception of Serbia, whose accession to the EU is not supported by 45% of citizens.
According to the results of the opinion poll, it is evident that citizens generally have a positive attitude about Croatia’s EU Presidency (they are aware that it is happening and think that it will be more beneficial than harmful for Croatia, etc.)
At the same time, it is clear that citizens have, to a large extent, identified the same priority topics for the Croatian Presidency of the EU Council as those highlighted by civil society, while there is a significant deviation between the priorities of citizens and those of the Government, especially concerning the fight against corruption and the rule of law.
Hence, we hereby urge the Government of the Republic of Croatia to make greater efforts during the Presidency to work on the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and institutions, and the protection of human rights – in particular by defining a mechanism within the next EU budget that will prevent the transfer of EU funds to those members who violate the rule of law.
Furthermore, we call on the Government of the Republic of Croatia to become more involved in the fight against climate change.
Unfortunately, these two topics have not yet been recognized through the specialized conferences that the Government intends to hold during the Presidency.
The results of the survey are available here: