Representatives of CRP Sisak participated in the conference which was held in the IMPACT center in Zadar, on 25th and 26th of May 2014. The National Foundation for Civil Society Development in collaboration with the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) from Brussels organized the conference. The conference was attended by about fifty participants, representatives of civil society – legal aid providers in the region and several European countries, representatives of the Office for cooperation with NGOs of the Government of the Republic of Croatia and the representatives of the Croatian Ministry of Justice. During the two-day conference, free legal aid provided within the state’s system in Croatia and in the region was presented. It has still been under the influence of bad and inefficient Laws on free legal aid, as well as supporting acts that regulate the implementation of free legal aid in practice. Representatives of CSOs criticized free legal aid state’s system in Croatia and in the region through presenting examples from their practice and statistical data in relation to cases where free legal aid was provided, within or outside the state’s system, which clearly showed inefficiency of the Law on free legal aid. Proposals and recommendations of the CSOs in preparing of the new Law on free legal aid were only accepted partially by the Ministry. At the same time, the Croatian Ministry of Justice continues to avoid building partnership relation with the CSOs – free legal aid providers. Representatives of the organizations from the UK and Republic of Ireland presented their programs in providing of free legal aid, counseling and providing of information to the citizens, either individually or as part of a network of legal aid providers.
Conclusion of the conference is that the organizations – providers of free legal aid should be connected even more and should cooperate more closely, through the implementation of joint activities and projects, and thus should contribute to the improvement of the system of free legal aid in Croatia. It was also pointed out that additional work is needed in order to enhance joint visibility of free legal aid providers in their local communities. Representatives of the Ministry of Justice reported that their web page, in the section that relates to free legal aid, will be refreshed and new content will be published soon in order that everybody could access useful information in relation to free legal aid. Current internet information has been inadequate and old for a long period of time. Representatives of CSOs proposed that free legal aid providers in Croatia should prepare and create a new web portal for free legal aid providers that would contain all important information in relation to free legal aid, enabling easier access to free legal aid for potential beneficiaries.
The further strengthening of the associations that provide free legal aid in Croatia will be to some extent supported by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development and the Office for Cooperation with NGOs of the Croatian Government, as well as by ECAS, especially in initiating and strengthening of a coalition of legal aid providers that participated in the conference.