EU threats force Croatia to change law
25.09.13 @ 17:56
BRUSSELS - The European Commission says it will not lift its threat to fine Croatia despite assurances from Zagreb that it will swiftly amend its European Arrest Warrant (EAW) law in line with EU demands.
Croatia’s minister of justice Orsat Miljenic told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (25 September) that “the amendment should enter into force as soon as possible and by 1 January 2014 at the latest.”
Miljenic’s pronouncement backtracks earlier statements made by Croatia’s Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic.
The Prime Minister had told reporters last week in Zagreb he would not change the EAW before the end of the year. He said Croatia will “not lose a cent” of money despite the threat of EU sanctions.
The dispute started when Croatian lawmakers modified the EAW three days before their accession to the EU on 1 July.
Known as the "lex Perkovic," the law prevents authorities from extraditing anyone suspected of a crime committed before 7 August 2002.
The law is seen to protect Josip Perkovic, a Communist-era security chief, accused of involvement in a political murder in Germany. German authorities want to prosecute him.
The commission, for its part, says Croatia cannot place limits on how the arrest warrant is applied. They note that Croatia did not call for any exception or reservations on the warrant during accession negotiations.
Speaking alongside European Commissioner of Justice Viviane Reding, Miljenic noted that the soon-to-be-amended EAW would apply to all offences committed before and after 7 August 2002.
“The effective entry into force and application of the amendment should not be limited by any other condition,” said Miljenic.
He brushed off a question on why Croatia decided to break the EU law by modifying the EAW in the first place.
“We are moving on,” he responded.
He noted that Croatia is now in the process of changing its own constitution, which will remove all statute of limitations on murder suspects, including those committed under the Communist era.
He said the constitutional changes are a separate issue from the EAW.
“It is something not to be connected to this law [EAW], it is something that is a separate process that is going on because we are facing in Croatia a lot of political murders from the past, including the Communist regime, and this is something we want to deal with,” he said.
Reding, for her part, said the commission would consider removing the threat of imposing sanctions when and if the amended EAW fully complies with EU law.
“We will [then] decide about any further procedural steps, including the termination of the procedure,” she said.