Croatian Foreign Minister: Serbia Will Have to Adapt if It Wants to Enter EU

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Foreign Minister Miro Kovač talks about Croatian decision to block Serbia’s EU negotiations.

“I am embarrassed that Croatian public is being bothered with some European Commission papers which were made for internal use. We have investigated it and the document was written in the summer of 2015. It is an old document and it only says that such legislation in Serbia violates good neighbourly relations”, said Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Miro Kovač, reports HRT on April 15, 2016.

“Croatia is neither a superpower nor a poodle. Croatia is a member state of the European Union. If we are admitting someone in our family we have to monitor the accession process and co-decide about it. If Serbia wants to be a part of the EU, it will have to adapt to its standards. Serbia cannot be a judge and a policeman for war crimes in the entire territory of the former Yugoslavia”, said the Minister.

According to a “non-paper”, an internal document of the European Commission, the Serbia’s Law on the Organization and Jurisdiction of Government Authorities in War Crimes Proceedings, which Serbia used to declare itself authorized to conduct trials for war crimes committed in the entire former Yugoslavia, regardless of nationality of the perpetrators or the victims, does not violate the sovereignty of the countries of the former Yugoslavia and does not interfere in the internal affairs of these countries.

Croatian diplomacy must persist in explaining why the Serbian law on universal jurisdiction for war crimes is detrimental to good neighbourly relations and stability in Southeast Europe, said the president of the Croatia’s Parliamentary Committee on European Affairs Gordan Jandroković. We have a very strong case to demonstrate what is wrong with the Serbian law, he said.

Joško Klisović (SDP) shares the view of the government about the Serbian law, given that the Hague Tribunal exists. In this context, we do not consider it as a contribution to regional cooperation, which is an important part of negotiations between Serbia and the EU, he said.

Croatia has not given the green light for the opening of Chapter 23 Judiciary and Fundamental Rights in the negotiations between the EU and Serbia. Zagreb wants Belgrade to abolish regional jurisdiction for war crimes, ensure the rights of the Croatian minority in Serbia and achieve full cooperation with the ICTY.

The Commission in its internal document states that the issue should be discussed between the two countries. It also points out that Serbia is not the only European country to “limit the application of universal jurisdiction for crimes committed in a particular conflict”.

According to the framework for negotiations with Serbia, negotiations on Chapters 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and Chapter 24 (Justice, Freedom, Security) should be opened at the beginning and closed at the end of the process so that the country has enough time not only for a legislative harmonization with the acquis communautaire but also to begin implementation and show results in the implementation of the changes to the laws.


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