news 07 Oct 13

Croatia Changes Controversial Extradition Law

Zagreb gave in to the threat of European Union sanctions and changed an extradition law which was allegedly brought in to shield a Croatian spy from arrest.

Boris Pavelic
BIRN
Zagreb

The Croatian parliament voted on Friday to change the legislation which limited the application of the European arrest warrant to crimes committed after August 2002 – a violation of an obligation that Zagreb accepted during its negotiations to join the EU.

The law change was the result of pressure from Brussels, which announced sanctions against Croatia if it didn’t withdraw the limit on the application of European arrest warrants and harmonise its legislation with that of the EU.

The controversial law was nicknamed the ‘Lex Perkovic’, which stemmed from suspicions that it was brought in to shield Josip Perkovic, a former Yugoslav state security and Croatian secret services operative who is wanted by Germany for questioning over the murder of a Croatian businessman there in 1983.

Zagreb angered Brussels by changing its previously negotiated law, and thus limiting the European arrest warrant application, on the very last working day before it joined the EU on July 1 this year.

The European Commission then launched sanctions procedures against Croatia in September, after the government refused to amend the legislation immediately.

However after the sanctions procedures began, Croatian justice minister Orsat Miljenic agreed with European justice commissioner Viviane Reding that Zagreb would change the law so that the amendments come into force on January 1 next year.

The European Commission praised the Croatian parliament’s move but did not immediately lift the sanctions threat.

“The Commission will carefully follow the process, and after the law comes into force it will assess if it is harmonised with European arrest warrant decisions. After that the Commission will decide on further procedural steps, including the end of the sanctions procedure,” it said in a statement.

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