The European Commission will review Croatia's amendments to the warrant law and decide if monitoring is necessary.
By Kruno Kartus for Southeast European Times in Osijek -- 24/10/13
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said that if Croatia fails to comply with the rules, the commission could withdraw funds earmarked for the country. [AFP]
The European Commission will review Croatia's amendments to the Law on Judicial Co-operation in criminal matters with EU member states after they are implemented on January 1st 2014, and decide then if any sanctions are necessary.
In the hopes of avoiding a rift with the EU just months after joining, Croatia's parliament adopted the amendments earlier this month, which change restrictions on the use of the European Arrest Warrant for crimes committed after August 7th 2002.
The previous law, passed just before Croatia's EU accession on July 1st, exempted people who committed crimes before August 7th 2002 from being extradicted, and drew ire from the European Commission.
In mid-September, the commission announced the launch of the Article 39 procedure on Croatia.
"This means the activation of the justice and home affairs safeguard clause in Croatia's Accession Treaty to take appropriate measures in view of the continued non-compliance by Croatia with the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision," the commission said in a news release.
Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said the agreement with the EU on the law was poorly negotiated, and that Croatia and some other members of the EU are at a disadvantage compared to members who are entitled to limit the application of the warrants.
"We changed the law, but we also noticed a systematic disadvantage in which the states have a problem. So, this conversation is not over," Milanovic said.
The commission still needs to know how Croatia's legislation will be changed and when that will happen before it takes action, according to EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding.
Reding said that if Croatia fails to comply with the rules, the commission could withdraw funds earmarked for the country and impose a monitoring mechanism to supervise the country's compliance with Brussels' laws.
After the amendments were passed, a spokeswoman for Reding said "the commission welcomes this constructive approach, and now the commission is in contact with the Croatian authorities to clarify their intention and see that these positive political intentions are swiftly followed by the required legislative actions."
Justice Minister Orsat Miljenić said Croatia will not suffer any damage in the EU, despite the conflict.
"There is no harm in this for Croatia and there will be none," Miljenić told reporters.
Croatian media dubbed the law the "Perkovic Law" because the time limit for implementation of the law favours Josip Perkovic, the former head of secret services of the former Yugoslavia, and later Croatia.
Germany linked Perkovic to the murder of Stjepan Đureković, an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, who was assassinated in 1983. Although Germany sent a warrant, Croatia has not extradited Perkovic.
Because of the controversial law, Milanovic's government is facing criticism from the right-wing parties and the Catholic Church, who claim the government is protecting officials from the former Yugoslav system.
"The law is important for the country and the EU. We cannot be sidetracked because of one person," Dragutin Lesar, leader of the country's left-wing Labour Party, told SETimes.
What can the government do to ensure that its laws meet European standards? Tell us in the comments.