16th Sep 2019

Croatia's EU talks may be delayed

  • Chief Prosecutor Carla Del Ponte believes Croatia's efforts to find a war crimes suspect are insufficient (Photo: European Commission)

The likelihood of Croatia opening EU talks on 17 March has been dealt a blow by claims by the UN chief prosecutor that the country has not done enough to find and arrest a war crimes suspect.

Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague, sent a letter to the Luxembourg EU Presidency criticising Zagreb for not doing enough to locate the fugitive general, Ante Gotovina.

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"I have had no new information (since 11 February) capable of making me change my evaluation on Croatian co-operation with the ICTY", Ms Del Ponte was reported as saying by Reuters.

"In spite of all the guaranties provided by Zagreb, Ante Gotovina is within Croatian authorities' reach, and we will not be able to say that the country is co-operating fully with the ICTY as long as it has not handed him over to the tribunal", the prosecutor is reported to have written.

Ms Del Ponte has found recent measures taken by Croatia, such as freezing the general's assets, belated and insufficient.

She also said Croatian authorities had tried to obstruct her investigations last year.

Croatia has refuted Ms Del Ponte's criticisms.

"Croatia is doing its best to resolve the Gotovina case and we are regularly putting forward our efforts to Ms del Ponte and the EU", according to a representative of the Croatian Foreign Ministry.

The European Commission had said earlier that if the prosecutor's statement was negative, membership talks with Croatia, planned to start next Thursday, would be delayed.

Member state experts will discuss the issue tomorrow (10 March) with a formal decision expected to be taken by EU foreign ministers at a meeting next Wednesday - on the eve of the planned opening of talks.

However, a Commission spokesperson told the EUobserver on Monday that "if something happens between the 10th and the 16th (March), it will of course be taken into account".

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