EU's Reding warns Croatia of action in 'days' in extradition row

BRUSSELS Thu Sep 5, 2013 2:16pm EDT

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission has warned Croatia it may face legal action soon if it does not quickly change a law that clashes with EU extradition rules.

Last July, the small Adriatic state became the 28th member of the European Union, marking a recovery from years of war after Yugoslavia collapsed in the 1990s.

It quickly fell into disagreement with Brussels over amendments to its extradition laws, which effectively ensured protection of veterans from Croatia's 1991-95 independence war from facing inquiries elsewhere in the EU.

Following pressure from the EU, the Zagreb government pledged last month to apply European rules in full, in an effort to avoid sanctions which could include loss of EU aid.

But the EU's top justice official, Viviane Reding, warned Croatia in a letter to the country's Justice Minister Ornate Miljenic dated September 4 that its promise to change how the European Arrest Warrant will be applied in Croatia next year was not enough.

"I am ... surprised to learn that the amendment would take more than 10 months and would only enter into force on 15 July 2014," Viviane Reding wrote in the two-page letter, seen by Reuters, referring to the planned change in the country's law.

"This step needs to be taken unconditionally and promptly," she wrote, adding that she intended to propose actions "in the coming days".

In addition to cutting funds, the European Commission could introduce a monitoring mechanism to check Croatia's efforts in complying with EU rules. Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU in 2007, face similar scrutiny over their progress in fighting corruption, and governments there view such measures as embarrassing and unnecessary.

EU governments could also use the dispute over the European Arrest Warrant as an excuse to delay discussions over bringing Croatia into Europe's passport-free Schengen travel zone, which Zagreb said was its next priority.

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 EU rules to protect former Croatian intelligence chief Josip Perkovic.

The official had worked for communist Yugoslavia's secret service, the UDBA, and led intelligence services after Croatia became independent, and now faces charges in Germany over the 1983 murder of a Yugoslav dissident in Bavaria.

Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has denied any connection with the German case and says Croatia only sought to exercise the same privileges as its EU peers.

EU members could request exemptions from the European Arrest Warrant before 2002, but the Commission says that only applies to states that were in the bloc at the time.

Croatia could have asked for exemptions when it was negotiating its entry to the European Union, but did not do so.

(Reporting By John O'Donnell)

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Comments (1)
AdriaticIPP wrote:
Political posturing on Josip Perkovic extradition case by HDZ and SDP:
The extradition request by German authorities of Croatia’s former intelligence boss Perkovic did not come as a surprise to Croatia’s government. According to Deutsche Welle (DW): “Although the Federal Prosecutor in Karlsruhe has demanded the extradition of former intelligence official since 2009, nothing happened so far. While many observers abroad wonder why Croatia protects criminal suspects, Perkovic lives unmolested in Zagreb nobel quarter.”

Croatia’s SDP-led government (successor of the communist party) was well prepared to pass the last-minute law – when the final EU accession green light came from the German senate and just two days prior to Croatia’s EU accession. 

The centre-right HDZ coalition government which was in power from 2003 – 2011 under the leadership of PM Ivo Sanader (until mid 2009) and then PM Jadranka Kosor obviously knew about the extradition demand. Interestingly, when reading media reports in Croatia, Tomislav Karamarko, president of the HDZ political party is now one of the most vocal proponents of Perkovic’s extradition.

Tomislav Karamarko could have certainly done more to comply with Germany’s extradition demand when he was Croatia’s Minister of Interior (2008-2011) – if he was principled.

Prior to his cabinet position, Karamarko was the chief of the civilian intelligence agency while Josip Perkovic was with the military intelligence agency. Hence, they were both part of Croatia’s intelligence service and thus colleagues of an unreformed structure.

It is obvious that SDP and HDZ are on the same side in blocking the extradition of Perkovic who was active not only in Yugoslavia’s intelligence structure – UDBA, but also instrumental in establishing Croatia’s intelligence structures post 1991. Croatia’s intelligence structure continued with the UDBA practice of keeping compromised individuals on the top of government – holding secret files with dirt on politicians to maintain Croatia’s deep state.

HDZ and SDP, and their political party partners and subsidiaries are united against justice, the rule of law,  independent judiciary and oppose prosecuting criminals who were killing innocent civilians prior and post Croatia’s independence. 

Croatia’s deliberate delay of amending the Perkovic law by a full-year is an affront to EU leaders working to uphold the rule of law. Zagreb’s corrupt structures must be held to account.

Adriatic Institute for Public Policy
Rijeka, Croatia

Sep 05, 2013 6:22pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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