The Croatian online news outlet Telegram.hr published an article alleging that the Croatian Government allocates millions of HRK each year for the development of local communities and that predominantly it is the Catholic Church that wins the competition. The claim is highlighted in the title of the article, labelled as an ”exclusive“. Investigative journalist Andrej Dimitrijević writes about the allocation of funds from the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds, saying that the ministry regularly invites tenders under the Community Investment Program project. Although the public call for expressions of interest for co-financing says that applicants may be non-profit organizations in the field of health, education, culture and social welfare, religious communities and owners of public buildings; according to Telegram, money is almost exclusively given to parishes.
Money goes to the most powerful institution in Croatia?
We have researched in more detail the truthfulness of the claim in the title of the article that points to the fact that on the annual Government contest for local community development the Church always wins.
According to information found on the website of the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds published by Telegram.hr, in the last two contests (in years 2017 and 2018) almost all the money was allocated to religious communities, especially to the Catholic Church, known for its concordance with the political right-wing, including center-right party HDZ which is currently in power.
Support for non-Church organizations is like a needle in a haystack
In year 2017 almost 1 million Euros (7.074.000 HRK) was distributed to different local projects from the Community Investment Program. The committee approved 36 projects out of which 35 of them, which include repairs of the churches, church grounds and interiors, were proposed by the biggest religious organization in Croatia – the Catholic Church. These projects claimed more than 917.000 Euro (774.000 HRK) which amounts to 97% of the amount of money approved. On the other side, the only non-Church organization which received funds was the City Museum of Karlovac which got merely 45.000 Euro (300.000 HRK) for reconstruction and conversion of an old military complex into the Museum of Army Collections from the Croatian Homeland War.
However, in year 2018 the Church won all the money from the same program. That year the projects proposed by the Church received more than 1,5 million Euro (11 368 000 HRK) for the renovation of numerous chapels and mission houses, for the renovation of dilapidated floors, for the repairment of towers and confessionals, as well as for the reconstruction of roofs and the installation of underfloor heating. In other words, other projects that include the core objective of strengthening social cohesion and investing in public institutions for this purpose have not received a cent in 2018.
Hence, the very title of Telegram’s article saying that the Church always wins the competition, according to the research, is correct, with one exception. Therefore, because of that one project in year 2017, we assess that the claim was mostly true, even though it is possible that the journalist based his claim on solely the funds allocated in year 2018.
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RESEARCH | ARTICLE © University of Zagreb, Croatia. Tonči Gabelić & Goran Balde