Croatia bows to EU pressure over extradition law

| Updated on: Aug 28, 2013

Croatia,has signalled it is willing to change a controversial law obstructing the extradition of suspected communist-era assassins following pressure from the European Union, the bloc’s executive said on Wednesday.

The Croatian law, passed days before the country joined the EU on July 1, limits the implementation of the European Arrest Warrant to crimes committed after August 7, 2002.

The European Commission insists that the warrant may not be undermined and that Croatia has breached European laws.

Zagreb missed an August 23 deadline to respond to Brussels’ demand that the law be scrapped. The commission then threatened retaliatory measures. These could include limiting Croatia’s access to EU development funds or delaying its membership of the border-free Schengen area.

At the heart of the row is Josip Perkovic, 68, a Croat accused of playing a role in the slaying of dissident Stjepan Djurekovic on orders of the communist former Yugoslavia’s secret service in 1983.

Djurekovic was killed in Germany. German prosecutors, wanting to put Perkovic on trial, issued a warrant for his arrest in 2005.

Late Tuesday, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding received a letter from the Croatian justice minister “that appears to indicate ... the willingness of Croatia to change its legislation and bring it in line with EU law,” according to her spokeswoman, Mina Andreeva.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso had received similar assurances from Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, Andreeva added.

She said the commission was now in contact with Zagreb to “see that these positive political intentions are swiftly followed by the required legal action.” Failure to do so could prompt the commission to take action “in the first weeks of September,” Andreeva said.

As recently as Monday, Milanovic had shrugged off the threats from Brussels, saying that Croatia wanted to deal with communist-era suspects on its own.

About 20 other suspects are protected by the law limiting extraditions, according to Croatian daily Jutarnji List.

Published on August 28, 2013

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