Plagiarism accusations plague Croatian euro coin design contest

Sarhan Basem
euro coin with national flag of croatia on the euro money banknotes background. finance concept

Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The winner of the design competition for Croatia’s upcoming euro coins abruptly withdrew his entry on Monday, after facing a slew of criticisms that his winning design was based on a photograph taken by a Scottish author.

Croatia is set to adopt the euro as its national currency in 2023, replacing kuna (marten), which was in use since 1994. Since every country is responsible for minting its own euro coins, the Croatian National Bank (HND) held a competition for designers to determine the future designs of the 2 euro and 1 euro coins, as well as for the 50, 20, 10, 5, 2, and 1 cent coins.

As the competition concluded on Friday, Croatia’s Prime Minister, Andrej Plenković, expressed his satisfaction with the winning designs, saying they were exactly what the government wanted. However, a scandal broke out soon after the winners were declared, when social media users noticed the design for the 1 euro coin – a pine marten – appeared to be a relief version of a picture taken by Scottish photographer Iain Leach.

Both the winning design and Leach’s photo featured a side view of a pine marten, with identical proportions and the same body posture – the only major difference was a slightly thinner branch on which the marten was perched.

A further social media investigation uncovered that the author, Stjepan Pranjković, had been inquiring in a Facebook group as to how he could use Photoshop to make an existing element of a photograph appear as if it is in relief, indicating that he was “designing some coins”.

Having kept silent through the weekend, Pranjković announced on Monday that he was withdrawing his entry, and that he would return the 70,000 kuna (9,300 euro) first prize. Pranjković blamed the “unpleasant atmosphere in media and social media” for his decision, but did not respond to the plagiarism allegations.

Soon after he had withdrawn, the news portal Index discovered that the second-place design for the same coin, which presumably was now to be selected, used a near-identical outline of a pine marten as published in a 2013 issue of the Croatian Forests magazine.

Without commenting on any of the plagiarism accusations, HNB announced today that it will launch a new contest for the design of the 1 euro coin, still with the pine marten as its motif.

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Sarhan Basem is Brussels Morning's Senior Correspondent to the European Parliament. With a Bachelor's degree in English Literature, Sarhan brings a unique blend of linguistic finesse and analytical prowess to his reporting. Specializing in foreign affairs, human rights, civil liberties, and security issues, he delves deep into the intricacies of global politics to provide insightful commentary and in-depth coverage. Beyond the world of journalism, Sarhan is an avid traveler, exploring new cultures and cuisines, and enjoys unwinding with a good book or indulging in outdoor adventures whenever possible.