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News 03 Jun 16

Serbia Claims Deal With Croatia on EU Chapters

After months of disputes, Serbia said it has struck a deal on opening talks on Chapter 23 and 24 in its EU accession talks.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
European Commission in session. Photo: Facebook

Serbia's chief negotiator on EU accessions, Tanja Miscevic, said Croatia had accepted Serbia's proposal that all remaining disputes between them should be solved in a regional context.

“This means that Serbia does not need to abolish the law on universal jurisdiction for war crimes, which the Croatian government disputes, but that also, under the agreement, Croatia could block trials of its citizens accused under this law in Serbia," Miscevic told N1television.

Under Serbia's war crimes law, it can try anyone accused of war crimes, committed in any former Yugoslav state, whatever the nationality of the alleged perpetrator or victim.

Croatia strongly objects to the law and also - before agreeing to the EU opening talks with Serbia on Chapters 23 and 24, on the judiciary and fundamental rights, and on justice, freedom and security, - was demanding that Serbia fully cooperate with the Hague war crimes tribunal, the ICTY, and respect national minority rights.

Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac on Friday said that Serbia would get a green light to open Chapter 23 only when all Croatia's interests had been adopted into the framework.

“We will form a working group with representatives from the [Croatian] Ministry of Justice, Veteran Affairs and Interior matters, and then we will determine the positions of Croatia so they can be integrated into the EU negotiation position on this Chapter,” Kovac said.

He underlined that Croatia would fight to ensure that Croatian war veterans are protected from prosecution by the Serbian courts.

EU spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security, Maja Kocijancic, told BIRN that Brussels is ready to aid Serbia on rule-of-law issues.

“We will set the framework for the coming years, which should help Serbia to focus its work in this very important field," Kocijancic said.

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