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A. Uzelac

ACCELERATING CIVIL PROCEEDINGS IN CROATIA – A HISTORY OF ATTEMPTS TO IMPROVE THE EFFICIENCY OF CIVIL LITIGATION

1. Introduction

The general consensus is that the excessive duration of court proceedings is one of the fundamental and most important symptoms of the crisis in the judicial system of the Republic of Croatia. Although the Croatian judicial system may suffer from other, less obvious and less measurable, disfunctionalities, ranging from the lack of experience and knowledge of trial judges, which may result in decisions of poor quality, to difficulties in securing impartial and fair trials for particular categories of parties and cases, ensuring a fair trial within a reasonable period of time has emerged at the beginning of the third millennium as the most pressing and most obvious problem.

I start this paper by pointing to several of the factors that have stimulated dis- cussion of the need to accelerate proceedings. Such factors help to explain why the speed of legal proceedings has emerged at the very centre of the public discussion of reforms of the judicial system.

Next, I attempt to define the basic notions necessary for understanding the meaning of ‘acceleration’ in the context of this paper. After having distinguished the two ways in which the problem of reasonable time can be understood, this paper presents a short history of the problem of the duration of court proceedings in Croa- tia in the light of its legal and political traditions.

The second part deals with current projects aimed at accelerating court pro- ceedings. Six acceleration strategies that can be recognized in the various attempted reforms will be analysed. In particular, I will present the current reform of the law of civil procedure: the 2003 Amendments of the Code of Civil Procedure, enacted with a view to accelerating and streamlining procedure.1 Some of the most impor-

1

The 2003 Amendments of the Code of Civil Procedure were prepared several years prior to the initiation of the legislative process in the national Parliament (Sabor) in October 2002. The Amendments were finally enacted in July 2003 and published in Narodne novine (Official Ga- zette) 117/2003. They are applicable as from December 1, 2003.

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