news 17 Sep 13

EU Threatens Croatia Sanctions Over Arrest Law

Brussels has vowed to impose sanctions soon if Croatia doesn’t change its controversial legislation on European arrest warrants to meet EU requirements quickly.

Boris Pavelic

Croatia must change its law on European arrest warrants “quickly and unconditionally” or the European Commission will take “appropriate measures”, Mina Andreeva, spokesperson for EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding, warned on Monday.

The commission wants Croatia to amend a law, nicknamed the ‘Lex Perkovic’, which limits the application of the European arrest warrant to crimes committed after August 2002.

The law’s nickname 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.

“If you create a European borderless space, then you have to make sure that crimes perpetrated in one state must not stay unpunished,” Andreeva explained.

She did not say what sanctions could be imposed or set any specific deadline, saying only that the law should be changed “without unnecessary delay”.

Croatia’s parliament adopted the ‘Lex Perkovic’ on July 28, its last working day before the country joined the EU.

The government has agreed to change it, but not before July next year.

Croatian justice minister Orsat Miljenic confirmed on Monday that government doesn’t intend to make the changes to the law any faster than it originally promised, despite Brussels’ insistence.

“The law is going into to a faster parliamentary procedure, it will be adopted very soon, at the [next] parliament session, but will come into force on July 15 [2014],” Miljenic said in a televised reaction to the EU sanctions threat.

He said that sanctions were “absolutely unjustified” but sought to reassure Croatians that “citizens certainly won’t lose a single euro because of this situation”.

Unnamed diplomatic sources have said that Croatia could be denied European money for Schengen harmonisation - about 80 million euro over the next two years.

Another punitive measure against Zagreb could be the introduction of post-accession monitoring for the country, which some Euro-MPs proposed before Croatia joined the EU, but the European Commission rejected.

Tomislav Karamarko, the president of the country’s biggest opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union, said that “an irresponsible government and an irresponsible prime minister” had caused “serious problems for Croatia”.

“I’m really in a bad mood because of this Commission decision, although it is obviously a reaction to the unbelievable, irrational behaviour of the government and the prime minister,” Karamarko said.

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