On July 10, the government offered a new draft agreement covering recognition of religious marriage and provision of religious education in public schools with the previously-registered Church of the Full Gospel, Protestant Reformed Church, and Word of Life Church, following a similar attempt in October 2012. The government’s offer was an effort to comply with a 2010 European Court of Human Rights finding of discrimination. The three groups rejected the offer, however, because it did not include funding equivalent to the funding provided to other groups with such agreements. In addition, the agreements offered would have been valid only until the adoption of a new law on religious communities.
The SPC and Jewish communities continued to identify property restitution as their top priority. The SPC reported no progress in property restitution despite ongoing negotiations with the government over buildings in Zagreb, Vukovar, and Vinkovci, as well as the Holy Trinity chapel in Osijek, and several forests and agricultural plots near monasteries in the towns of Gomirje, Lepavina, and Pakra.
Police charged a group of seven ethnic-Croat juveniles with a hate crime for allegedly verbally and physically attacking five ethnic-Serb seminarians on March 17, near the Serbian Orthodox monastery Krka. The victims were attacked with baseball bats and iron rods. Prime Minister Milanovic condemned the violence. Local prosecutors in Sibenik charged the suspects as juveniles, requesting special supervision including remand to a developmental institution for three of the minors. Prosecutors also recommended that juvenile sanctions be issued for the other four perpetrators. Prosecutors requested that all perpetrators be ordered to apologize to all of the victims. The County Court in Sibenik issued a restraining order banning all perpetrators from coming near the Krka monastery.
In Dalj, the Serbian Orthodox Osijek Polljska Eparchy received a decision April 24 from the county branch of the state administration office restituting 400 hectares (1000 acres) of land, 40 percent of its claim. However, the restitution of this property was postponed following an appeal by the Osijek county prosecutor on grounds that one part of the property was registered to a private person and not to the Orthodox Church. SPC officials reported they received no response to letters sent to government officials in 2012, following up on a 2010 request for a permit to continue work begun before World War II on a church in the center of Split. On July 4, however, newly elected Mayor of Split Ivo Baldasar visited the Episcope of Dalmatia Fotije, which was the first mayoral visit with Serbian Orthodox leaders in Split since Croatia’s independence in 1991. Baldasar suggested initial steps to obtain construction permits for repairs of the church and offered additional municipal assistance. Slow progress continued on government-funded reconstruction of a number of Serbian Orthodox churches.
Several Jewish communal property claims, including the former headquarters of the Chevra Kadisha charity in Zagreb and vacation resorts in Crikvenica and in Ravna Gora, remained unresolved. The Jewish community stated that no progress was made on restitution of these properties despite repeated government pledges to return them since 2004.
The Croatian Bishops’ Conference (HBK) criticized the national public broadcaster, Croatian Radio Television, for failing to abide by an agreement with the Catholic Church and the other religious communities that regulates religious programs. Specifically, the HBK said that religious communities saw their influence decline over the content of religious programming and noted that one daily broadcast was removed from public radio. The HBK also criticized the government for stalling talks and failing to return or provide restitution for property seized during the Yugoslav period.
Muslim community representatives reported that officials in Istria resolved earlier problems with space allocation for Muslim graves at city cemeteries. After several years of delay, in Umag local authorities provided building permits for an Islamic community center, with construction scheduled to start in 2014. The Muslim community credited cooperation with authorities in Rijeka, where discussions were under way to zone a portion of the city cemetery for Muslim graves.