The parliament adopted the law three days before the country joined the EU on July 1st.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Zagreb -- 25/09/2013
Croatia said Wednesday (September 25th) that it would amend its extradition law this year to comply with EU standards. [Drazen Remikovic/SETimes]
Experts say that sanctions issued this month by the European Union against Croatia for the country's refusal to change its controversial legislation on European arrest warrants could damage the country's political position and Schengen harmonisation.
The European Commission wants Croatia to amend its "Lex Perkovic" law that limits the application of European arrest warrants to crimes committed after August 2002.
The law's nickname stemmed from allegations that it was created to shield Josip Perkovic, a former Yugoslav state security and Croatian secret services operative who is wanted by Germany for questioning in connection with the murder of a Croatian disident there in 1983.
German police issued an arrest warrant for Perkovic, which is obligatory for EU member states to respond to, and offered a reward of 12,000 euros for information leading to his arrest.
Croatia's parliament adopted the law three days before the country joined the EU on July 1st.
The European commission announced on September 19th that the sanctions include enhanced monitoring and the suspension of the Schengen facility, which was to support Croatia in the implementation of the Schengen acquis, and an associated 80 million euros in funding.
Davor Djenero, professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, said it is unusual for a new EU member to be drawn into a conflict with Brussels so quickly after joining the organisation.
''Regardless of the financial penalty, the political consequences are already much higher. And it will be even greater. Croatia is slowly losing its hard-won political reputation. Croatian officials are already treated as second-class Europeans. I would like to say that the situation will improve, but it will be very difficult," Djenero told SETimes.
Viviane Reding, EU vice president and commissioner for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship, said Croatia's extradition laws were completely harmonised with the EU before the change.
''Now the new law is in contradiction with EU law. I am very unhappy with that. The trust of the EU has been eliminated now. This is not the way that EU members behave," Reding said at a news conference last week in Trieste, Italy.
After government officials initially promised not to amend the law before next July, Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic said Wednesday (September 25th) that changes to the law to resolve the issue will take effect no later than January 1st to comply with EU law.
Croatian representatives in the European Parliament stressed that Brussels' laws must be respected and that the country is in conflict with the EU.
''As a politician, I'm not afraid of conflict. If the issue is hot, good for discussion, we can argue about it for years. But in this case, Croatia is simply not right. We are all equal before the law. The Croatian government is trying to protect criminals of former secret service, " European Parliament MP Nikola Vuljanic told SETimes.
Domo Anicic, a lawyer from Split, called the law "irresponsible."
"Just when we joined the EU, we showed our Balkan mentality to Europe and the world," he told SETimes. "We're ready to destroy all because of one man."
When do you think changes to Croatia's extradition law should be put into effect to harmonise with the EU? Add your comment below.