There were no reports of abuses of religious freedom.
At the end of the year, there were 44 registered religious communities; two registration requests were pending and a dozen were rejected because the authorities alleged that they did not meet the legal criteria. Three small Christian groups that were registered but unable to sign agreements with the state criticized the criteria for such agreements and claimed that authorities applied them inconsistently. In 2010 the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Croatia discriminated against the three Christian communities. In May the government paid to the three communities a 9,000 euro ($12,000) fine in line with the ECHR ruling. The government did not, however, implement legal or regulatory changes to prevent similar violations in the future, but formed a working group to identify and recommend changes.
Restitution of property nationalized or confiscated during World War II by the Ustashe (the Nazi-controlled regime that ruled Croatia during World War II) and the post-war Yugoslav communist regime remained a problem. The SPC and Jewish religious communities identified property return as their top priority and complained of the lack of progress.
The SPC noted that there has been minimal progress in property restitution over the past decade. While no progress was made in Zagreb, the Orthodox Church in the Dalmatia eparchy reported progress on its main claim, the return of a building adjacent to their seat in Sibenik. A Zagreb Administrative Court decision returned the building in April. The Dalmatia eparchy also sought permission to complete a church in the center of Split begun before World War II. In 2010 Orthodox Church authorities submitted geodetic measurements to the Regional Institute for Protection of Monuments for a permit to continue work on the church but have not received a response. Elsewhere, government-funded reconstruction of a number of Serbian Orthodox churches continued, but progress was slow. SPC officials considered the pace satisfactory given the economic recession in the country. The SPC continued to press for changes to a 1996 law, which they alleged opened the possibility for the government to resell previously nationalized property to new private owners, making restitution more difficult.
Catholic Church officials stated that there was no progress on restitution during the year, but the restitution process overall was satisfactory and proceeding within the government’s capabilities.
Several Jewish communal property claims, including the former Chevra Kadisha charity at Amruseva 8 in Zagreb, remained pending; the Jewish community complained that restitution had been at a standstill for years. The Jewish community gained the title to its community summer camp property at Pirovac in September.
Muslim community representatives reported that progress had been made during the year in the allocation of space at city cemeteries in Rijeka and the wider area of Istria for Muslim graves. In the city of Umag, local authorities issued a location permit (a type of building permit) pending since 2005 when the government sold the Muslim community the land to construct a community center. A neighboring private company challenged the permit through a complaint to the Ministry of Environment Protection, Zoning and Construction, claiming that the community center’s variances posed a harmful effect.
In issues other than property concerns, SPC officials reported that they had access to hospitals and prisons to provide pastoral care; in an improvement over past practice, they were able to assess the need for religious care in military and police structures.
The Muslim community reported some women continued to face obstacles when attempting to obtain identity cards with photographs in which they were wearing a headscarf. There were four such cases in Primorsko Goranska and Karlovacka County during the year. The law allows local police to determine their own policies on details related to identity card issuance.
The government requires that religious training be provided in public schools, although attendance is optional. The Roman Catholic catechism is the predominant religious teaching offered in public schools. In May the Government Commission for Relations with Religious Communities asked non-Catholic communities to accept an amendment of their agreements that would remove their rights to provide public school religious instruction. The commission backed down when some communities challenged the amendment. As a result, the communities continued to provide public school religious instruction.
SPC officials in Zagreb commended city authorities for a substantial donation that completed their new high school building, finished at the end of July and hosting 87 students, who are mostly from outside of the city and provided with stipends by the SPC. The school is open for students of different ethnicities and religious affiliations and is developing an ecumenical cultural center.