Croatia Exempts Church From Financial Checks

Source: Balkan Insight:

Croatia’s government has given a green light to a new law on the financial reporting of non-profit organizations, which omits the country’s powerful Catholic Church from checks.

The draft Law on Financial Transactions and Accountancy of Non-profit Organisations introduces stricter regulations and monitoring for the financial transactions of Croatia’s numerous NGOs.
However, religious communities, including the Catholic Church – originally included in the law – have now been left out of the provisions.

Finance Minister Boris Lalovac, presenting the law, noted that significance of the amount of money circulating through civil society.

“The total [annual] revenues of non-profit groups are 1.6 billion euro, of which 490 million euro go for associations,” Lalovac said.

There are 25,481 non-profit organisations in Croatia. The biggest, the Catholic Church, has to report on the money that it receives from the state budget, but is relieved of the need to register or report on donations, alms, assets or rents. The Church receives 39 million euro a year directly from the state.

With 86 per cent of the population declared as Catholics in Croatia, the Church plays an important role in public life.

Its role was significant in ensuring the success of the recent referendum defining marriage as a strictly heterosexual union, and in initiating the Sunday working ban in 2008.

The status of the Church is guaranteed through international treaties with the Holy See.
The exclusion of the Church from the draft law has caused some criticism in the NGO sector. Daniel Martinovic, from Zagreb Pride, said the exclusion of the Church blurred the division between Church and State.

“This shows how much Croatia is a secular state,” Martinovic said, complaining of the Church’s influence on the political elite.

“The government has done this for populist reasons,” Martinovic added.

He claimed surveys showed that most citizens accepted the principle that religious communities should be financed by their own members, not by the government.

The draft law now faces a vote by MPs, which will probably take place before parliament takes its summer break.

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