20:33 / 01.06.2023.

Author: Katja Miličić

Croatian lawmakers debate changes to international adoption rules

Nikola Grmoja

Nikola Grmoja

Foto: Patrik Macek / PIXSELL

The news that eight Croatian nationals were acquitted on child trafficking charges in Zambia broke just as Croatian lawmakers were debating changes to international adoption legislation – changes sparked by this very case. 

Critics had called for tighter rules for international adoptions in the wake of the arrests of the couples back in December. The case raised significant controversy as opponents accused the couples of "buying children".

Opposition parties Možemo and the SDP said Thursday that the proposed changes shifted all responsibility for validating adoption documents from the state to citizens. They insist this is the job of the government.

“The law follows the necessary form but not the content. The solution cannot be that the entire responsibility is transferred to the adoptive parents, that they are the ones forced to collect another official stamp,” said GLAS MP Anka Mrak Taritaš during the debate of the amendments. 

She wanted to know just how much paperwork adoptive parents would have to collect to prove their adoption process was completely legal. 

Vedrana Šimundža Nikolić, a state secretary at the Ministry of Justice said validation of all the paperwork would be required from five different institutions. She said this was meant to strengthen the legislative framework that regulates the procedure for recognizing foreign court decisions on adoption and that this will increase legal certainty in international adoptions.

“Amending one article is clearly not enough, the legalization of the decision is still up to the adoptive parents and the state does not want to take responsibility and help them,” asserted SDP MP Martina Vlašić Iljkić, adding that she expected a more comprehensive solution to the problem from the drafters of the proposal.

Marko Milanović Litre from the Croatian Sovereigntist Party maintains that the procedures should not be accelerated because the focus should be on the interests of the children and the checking should be rigorous.

"We have to fix the system here in Croatia to avoid this happening again. These situations are very dangerous for the individuals who opt for international adoption but they are also bad for Croatia's international reputation,” said Vesna Vučemilović, an independent MP and the head of the Family, Youth, and Sports Committee in the Sabor, responding to the news of the acquittals.

Ivana Kekin of Možemo! said she was happy the couples had been acquitted and hoped they will be able to return home with their children as soon as possible.

"Now that we can breathe a sigh of relieve that our citizens have been freed, we must not forget who tried to profit from the tragedy of their fellow citizens and how,” she added.

Most MP Nikola Grmoja is skeptical of the intentions of Zambian authorities.

"This verdict is not final and is important for Zambia because our blabber-mouths - I am referring to Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman here - said that Croatia would not be investigating this matter further. That's why it mattered to Zambia that they investigate. However, this verdict does not tell us whether there was any child trafficking,” he said.

During the debate, Grmoja attacked the Government, accusing it of causing an exodus of domestic labor which has forced Croatia to seek foreign workers.

“Who will live here in the future and will we be able to let children walk freely in the cities or will we have ghettos like other European cities? Will Croatia ever be the way we know it?” asked Grmoja.

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