1st Apr 2020

EU concerned over Croatia war crimes co-operation

While all eyes have recently been focused on Croatia's dispute with Slovenia over their common border and the blockage this has caused to Croatia's EU accession talks, a number of EU states are now also concerned about Zagreb's co-operation with the UN war crime tribunal in the Hague.

"A few" EU member states "feel particularly strongly" about the issue, diplomatic sources told the EUobserver on Friday (6 February).

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"The UK, the Netherlands, Germany and to a certain extent also even France ... have expressed their concern about Croatia's co-operation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY)," one EU diplomat said.

UN prosecutor Serge Brammertz presented a report in December in which Croatia's co-operation with the ICTY was not assessed as complete. His next report to the UN is due in the summer.

In addition, Mr Brammertz this week also called on Croatia to deliver potentially incriminating documents for the case of General Ante Gotovina, who is accused of driving out ethnic Serbs at the end of the 1991-95 war in Croatia.

General Gotovina had already caused trouble to his country's EU bid before, when Zagreb's failure to capture him in 2005 delayed the launch of EU accession talks.

"We have questioned Croatia's co-operation in relation to the Gotovina dossier," Mr Brammertz told the Financial Times on Wednesday.

"After a year and a half, a number of the documents we were looking for still have not been produced."

For its part, Croatia has denied withholding any information from the court.

"We have submitted the prosecutor absolutely everything we've found and we sent him a new report on that at the end of January," Croatia's deputy prime minister Jadranka Kosor said on Thursday following a meeting with Mr Brammertz in Zagreb.

"The government does not have any reason to hide anything," she added, insisting that any additional document that could be found would be turned over, French news agency AFP reported.

EU member states are still having discussions over the issue of Croatia's co-operation with the ICTY and have not yet decided whether the justice chapter of the Balkan country's EU accession package would be opened during the next EU–Croatia accession conference in April.

"I wouldn't jump to conclusions at this stage," said one diplomat.

But with another 11 chapters of the 35 contained in the country's EU accession package currently blocked (nine for opening and two for closing), notably due to its border dispute with Slovenia, the target date of 2011 for Croatia's EU membership seems increasingly difficult to reach.

"Every day increases the risk that the timetable [for Croatia's EU membership] will slip," EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn warned on Thursday.

Time running out for Croatia's EU reforms

The structural reforms Croatia still needs to carry out are more likely to hold up its EU membership bid than the current border dispute with Slovenia, a senior EU official has warned.

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