Croatia gives way in dispute with EU over extradition regulations
By Justyna Pawlak, ReutersBRUSSELS -- Croatia has given in to pressure to speed up plans to bring its extradition laws into line with the European Union, a move that should end a row that has marred Croatia's first months as an EU member state.
September 21, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
This week, the EU executive threatened to cut financial aid to Zagreb because of its failure to comply with laws on arresting suspected criminals.
Zagreb had angered Brussels by introducing rules effectively protecting those accused of atrocities during the Balkans wars of the 1990s from being extradited to face trial.
With a two-week deadline imposed for Croatia to act to amend its law, an EU official said European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Croat Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic had spoken by telephone and agreed a compromise.
Croatia, which had promised to change its legislation by July next year, has verbally committed to do it by Jan. 1, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“The details of the deal still need to be worked out,” the official told Reuters, saying Croatia's justice minister would meet the EU's justice commissioner next week to finalize the terms of the compromise.
The dispute focuses on a law the Croatian parliament amended just three days before the country joined the EU in July. The amendment means anyone accused or convicted of a crime before August 2002 cannot be transferred abroad.
While the Adriatic state had promised to change the law, the EU was not satisfied it was moving quickly enough. It wanted evidence of its commitment, hence the threat to cut off financial aid, needed for Croatia to strengthen its borders so as to be able to join the EU's passport-free zone.
It is not uncommon for the Commission to take steps against a member state for non-compliance with EU legislation, but never has a move towards sanctions been made so quickly after a country has become an EU member state.
Croatia's opposition HDZ party, which ruled the country in the 1990s and between 2004-2011, has accused Zagreb's leftist-led government of tweaking the law to protect former Croatian intelligence chief Josip Perkovic.
Perkovic worked for communist Yugoslavia's secret service, the UDBA, and led intelligence services after Croatia became independent. He now faces charges in Germany over the 1983 murder of a Yugoslav dissident in Bavaria.
Milanovic says there is no connection.