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Cablegate: Modernizing Croatia's Civil Service and Public

VZCZCXRO3767
PP RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHNP RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHVB #0794/01 3231310
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181310Z NOV 08 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY ZAGREB
TO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8784
INFO RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ZAGREB 000794

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON HR
SUBJECT: MODERNIZING CROATIA'S CIVIL SERVICE AND PUBLIC
ADMINISTRATION: A WORK IN-PROGRESS

1. (U) SUMMARY: As Croatia approaches membership in the EU,
considerable money and legislative effort are being expended
on increasing the professionalization of Croatia's civil
service and reforming its functioning to allow for more
transparency, accountability, and efficiency. The
implementation of the final aspects of the Civil Servant Act
has, in theory, increased the authority of career civil
servants at the expense of political appointees, but it has
not been fully embraced across all government ministries.
While this law has spurred some needed re-organization of
government functions, it has also needlessly obscured
leadership roles in some government ministries. The law
re-vamping public administration procedures is still in
review in parliament, and if the current draft survives and
it is fully implemented it will be a powerful initiative to
simplify government red tape and improve the business
environment. END SUMMARY

Professionalization of the Civil Service Uneven
-----------------------------------

2. (U) A new Civil Service Law was passed in 2005, but the
final provisions were not to be implemented until 60 days
after the general election in 2007. These final provisions
required that formerly politically appointed leadership
positions -- typically positions below that of State
S\ecretary, such as Assistant Ministers or Deputy State
S\ecretaries of central government bureaus -- must become
career civil service jobs, filled via open competitions, but
retain their former decision making power. (Note: The title
of Assistant Minister was abolished and these positions have
been renamed Department or Office Directors) Full
implementation of the civil service act remains incomplete,
as government ministries are obliged to publicly post
vacancies for these newly minted civil service jobs, rather
than grandfather in the current political appointees holding
these positions.

3. (U) The Foreign Ministry, for example, has only partially
removed politically appointed officials below the rank
State-Secretary. Other ministries have simply elevated the
rank of political appointees to that of State Secretary,
obscuring leadership roles. The Finance Ministry, previously
with only one State Secretary and clear chain of command, now
has five State Secretaries from four different political
parties. Overall, Sanader's second term has seen the
mushrooming of State Secretary level positions, growing from
around 36 in his previous term to 76 currently. (Note: State
S\ecretaries report directly to the Minister of the relevant
government institution.) The ministries of Justice, Economy,
and Agriculture have also only partially implemented the law.
The real laggard, however, is the public administration
bureau itself, which has yet to even begin implementation and
where career civil servants still have almost no decision
making authority. Meanwhile, the good news is that the act
has spurred some ministries, such as the MFA, to at least
reorganize some functions and stream-line within the
mid-levels of their bureaucracy.

Reforming Public Administrative Procedures Just Getting Off
the Ground
--------------------------------------

4. (U) While personnel reforms move slowly, and despite
headwinds from an entrenched bureaucracy, a draft law on
reforming Croatia's public administrative procedures has
passed its first reading in parliament, and is likely to be
adopted in first half of 2009. This law modernizes many
aspects of public administrative procedure with
e-administration initiative, as well as simplifying the
myriad of "special procedures" that govern such activities as
telecommunication, real estate zoning, health, education, and
some business permitting. Crucial to the success of this
draft law will be provisions that allow parliament to
transfer decision making authority and competency over a
variety of regulatory decisions to the public administrative
bureau to improve efficiency. Currently special procedures
that cover a myriad of sectors have to be legislatively
amended in parliament to accommodate new business realities
or changes in technology.

Comment
-------

5. (U) The harmonization of public administration staffing
and procedures with European norms is a giant leap forward
from many of the current governing provisions that were
adopted in 1950s and designed to give appointed Communist
Party elites nearly complete decision making authority, with
little regard to public disclosure or efficiency. The
implementation of the staffing law, even if progressing

ZAGREB 00000794 002 OF 002


unevenly, allows for greater decision making by career civil
servants that should facilitate greater transparency and
accountability in government function. Likewise, pending
changes to public administrative procedures could further
improve the transparency and efficiency of Croatia's
regulatory environment, much to the benefit of the business
climate. However, it will take a paradigm change by a new
generation of civil servants to fully embrace the authorities
being granted them and to break with the old culture of
deferring decisions to the highest levels of government. But
the EU has provided a great deal of funding and technical
support for these reform efforts since 2003 and their efforts
are beginning to bear fruit. END COMMENT
Bradtke

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