Controversial treaties with the Vatican have emerged as an issue in a tight Croatian presidential vote to be held this Sunday, December 22.

Driving the news

Workers’ Front and Socialist Workers’ Party presidential candidate Katarina Peović denounced on the campaign trail December 18 Croatia’s agreements with the Holy See, deploring that those treaties are in violation of the country’s secularity.

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Peović decried that while the Government is saying there’s no money to increase public sector wages, the Croatian Catholic Church receives over 1 billion kuna (135 million euros) annually in public funds.

“That amount is much higher than 1 billion kuna because there are also non-transparent allocations by local government”, the Workers’ Front candidate warned in a press conference outside the Croatian Bishops’ headquarters.

“The actual amounts being allocated to the Church can only be speculated about because the Church does not submit any financial reports,” Peović denounced.

The presidential aspirant called on her fellow citizens to vote to rescind the Holy See agreements, which she said were against democratic standards because signed without public consultation and also run counter to the Croatian State, economy and people’s best interests.

Why it matters

Croatia’s agreements with the Vatican have been a point of particular contention in the country for some months now.

In October, hundreds of people rallied in Zagreb to protest, as they put it, that “it is unacceptable that the Republic of Croatia, one of the poorest EU members, is among the countries with the highest State allocations to the Church”.

Opposition party GLAS has also criticised the Government for allowing a “back door” for the “religious propaganda” of the Church into the country’s supposedly secular school textbooks.

What’s next

As for the presidential vote Sunday, observers expect it to be a tight race between incumbent conservative Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, leftist former prime minister Zoran Milanovic and right-wing candidate Miroslav Skoro.

But precisely, the question of dignified living standards for Croatians has become a major issue during the campaign, and as such candidate Peović’s point of public money going to the Church factors into that.

Although the Adriatic Sea region is booming thanks to the buoyant tourist sector, the country’s rural areas are becoming poorer and facing the mass exodus of inhabitants to more prosperous EU nations.

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