Monday, May 05, 2003

Seventh Day

It is the election year in Croatia, a perfect time for Catholic Church to flex its muscles.

Few weeks ago Catholic bishops did so by issuing statement in which they demand new labour legislation that would prevent shops from being open on Sundays. On May 1st, International Labour Day, this initiative was joined by few labour unions. Even Ivica Todorić (Ivica Todoric), one of Croatia's top businessmen and owner of huge retail empire, attended public festivities in Zagreb in order to give public support. Catholic intellectuals within Croatian media are joining the fray, few of them attacking the work on Sundays as "un-Christian" and more attacking "heartless capitalists" who "exploit poor workers by forcing them to work on Sunday for lousy salaries".

It is still unclear whether the government would bow under such pressure and send bill to Sabor.

But if this initiative becomes a law, that would be a bad thing for Croatia.

First, obviously political motives behind this initiative would seriously compromise the idea of Croatia as a secular state. If Christians (Catholics) are offended by shops being open on Sundays, why should 7th Day Adventists or Jews feel any better about shops being open on Saturdays? Or atheists or agnostics of shops being closed at all?

Second, if the aim of Croatian foreign policy is to enter EU (and this is something everyone in Croatia seems to agree with, Church included), than the practice of EU members leads to opposite direction. Germany and Austria – two countries that had adhered to old customs and had their shops closed on Sundays, have recently liberalised such policies, partially forced by their EU partners that had their shops open and thus gained extra revenues from border-crossing German Sunday-shoppers. Croatian experiences in past decade indicate that the measure would result in increased cross-border traffic on Sundays and plenty of lost revenue.

Third, closing shops on Sundays is going to prove incredibly inconvenient for many average Croatians.

It is also unfair for workers in retail business to be the only ones spared from Sunday work. If shops are closed, why not hospitals, police and fire stations? Why should soccer players and other professional athletes have their games on Sundays? And what about bars? Should they be closed too? It doesn't take genius to see how this measure would be enforced.

In most likelihood, this initiative would be talked of in media, probably even in Sabor, perhaps in some form even passed, only to be quietly dropped after next elections.


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