Prof. Josip Kolanović, member of the State commission for approval of the municipal coats of arms and flags,and former director of the Croatian State Archives, held for us an interesting lecture on the development of legislation and process of adoption of county, city and community coats of arms in Croatia. In the hall of the Croatian History Museum (HPM) gathered some two dozen HGZD members and our guests interested in the issue, while we had a particular honour of attandance by two guests from abroad.
Mr. Valt Jurečič from the Slovenian society “Herold” provided some basic information on the state of municipal heraldry and vexillology in Slovenia, pointing out many similarities and parallel problems that prof. Kolanović mentioned in his talk. The materials that Mr. Jurečič due to the very limited time, showed briefly, only teased the interest of the auditorium, and we certainly hope taht soon we shall have opportunity to listen a whole lecture by Mr. Jurečič on this topic.
Mr. Jovan Jonovski, president of the Macedonian Herladic Association (MHZ) forwarded the greetings from his Association and delivered to HGZD a blagodarnica (acknowledgement) as well as a collection of recent issues of the Makedonski Herald and other MHZ publications.
In his paper, Prof. Kolanović provided a historic review of regional and municipal heraldry in the region, and then went on presenting the development of legislation and process of adoption of coats of arms of units of local self-government. The legal basis for adoption of coats of arms and flags of counties, cities and communities was established with the Law on local administration and self-administration of 1992, however, the legal determinations were prepared without consultation of any experts and, among other flaws, do not prescribe for any kind of expert supervision of the process of adoption of arms nor do they provide for the Minister to prescribe any further details regarding the issue. Therefore, the Croatian State Archive (HDA), who was at the time headed by Prof. Kolanović, took the initiative to change the Law. Quite unexpected, the state system reacted very positively, and in only ten days after the meeting with the Ministry of Administration representatives, the law was amended, providing the Minister to prescribe regulations regarding the adoption of coats of arms and flags of the units of local self-government. The HDA provided expert support and proposed the establishment of a Commission for heraldry within the Ministry of Administration as well as the proposal of the regulations on jurisdiction and procedures that such Commission would use. This included development of basic principles of the procedure of re-establishing historical coats of arms where counties, cities and communities had one, and the procedure and design elements of coats of arms when a new one is being made for the units not having a historical example.
Since the establishment of the Commission in 1994, until the retirement in 2003, Prof. Kolanović was a members of the Commission, and he presented us with some issues the Commission had to face in that time. Based on the experience of the Commission, the regulations were amended in 1998, including the principle mentioned above.
Furthermore, those determinations were also included in the new text of the Law on local self-administration in 2001, in a way closing the circle – after full eight years from the initial “bureaucratic” solution toward the solution taking into account the heraldic and vexillologic studies.
Prof. Kolanović, however, concludes that even this legislation leaves some open questions, mentioning a few of them. Among the most important he considers the question weather the adoption of a coat of arms is a right or an obligation of a unit of local self-government, i.e. weather the possibility for adoption of the symbols should be left open for the units for unlimited time. The statistics provides us with info that ever more units have an adopted and approved coat of arms. Until the end of September 2007 the Commission (today within the Central State Office for Administration) approved coats of arms and flags of all twenty counties, of 93 cities (out of 127) and of 262 communities (out of 429).
Another issue is publication of an armorial book, letter patents and a database. Unfortunately, the work of the Commission, although in theory public, is not available to the public and the data on approved coat of arms and flags are not obtainable (easily) . By issuing a collected work (proceedings) of approved coats of arms and flags (as some other European countries do) possibly in several volumes, annually or by some other dynamics, these information would become publicly available and the use of coats of arms and flag would be popularized greatly. Prof. Kolanović observed that HGZD would have a role in solving these issues by showing initiative.
We are pleased that this lecture was very well received among the auditorium and that a constructive discussion followed it, enjoying the pleasant atmosphere.