EU welcomes 'constructive' Croatia response in arrest warrant dispute

28th August 2013, Comments 0 comments

The EU executive Wednesday welcomed new member Croatia's "constructive" response to a dispute over the European Arrest Warrant but warned that Zagreb could still face sanctions.

A European Commission spokeswoman said the executive had received a letter from Croatia which "could indicate a constructive approach" to the row that erupted after its parliament amended the EAW, used to extradite suspects from one European Union country to another.

The unilateral changes were made just three days before Croatia became the 28th European Union member on July 1, further fanning the controversy.

"We welcome this constructive approach and we are in touch with Croatia to see ... if it is followed up by swift legislative action" to remedy the problem, said Mina Andreeva, spokeswoman for EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.

The Commission meanwhile "was preparing appropriate measures (which) ... could be taken in early September" if Zagreb failed to meet its EU obligations, she added.

The Croat parliament in June decided that the EAW would apply only to crimes after August 2002 -- when the EAW came into force -- and Zagreb subsequently declined a German request to extradite a former spy, Josip Perkovic, sought in connection with a Communist-era murder.

Reding told Croatian media last week that making "a unilateral change to one of the most important EU laws a few days before accession" was not just a breach of law, but a "breach of trust".

"This must be corrected at once or the relations between Croatia and the rest of the union could be burdened for years," Reding said.

Possible sanctions could include a suspension of EU funding, she said.

In a statement, Croatia's justice ministry complained that Austria, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg and France had all amended the EAW.

But the Commission retorted that Croatia should have advised Brussels beforehand during its negotiations to join the bloc.

Croatia has said it turned down the German extradition request for Perkovic, a former secret service agent, since it involved a crime committed before 2002. He is wanted for involvement in the murder of Croatian dissident Stjepan Djurekovic in Germany in 1983.

Perkovic headed Croatia's military intelligence services after the country proclaimed independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

He was also deputy defence minister during the country's 1991-1995 independence war.

© 2013 AFP

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