The European Commission has given Croatia two weeks to amend its extradition laws to comply with EU legislation. If the bloc’s newest member fails to change the law, it could face financial sanctions.
Less than three months after Croatia's accession to the EU, the European Commission has set a deadline for Zagreb to amend a controversial extradition law. Viviane Reding, the European commissioner in charge of justice issues, has accused Zagreb of "misusing the trust" placed in it by the EU and said it must comply.
The disputed law was amended by the Croatian parliament just three days before the country joined the EU on July 1.
The amendment states that anyone accused or convicted of a crime before August 2002 cannot be transferred abroad for trial. As a result, those accused of atrocities during the Balkan wars of the 1990s cannot be extradited to face trial, which contradicts the EU's arrest warrant legislation.
Croatia's opposition party has also accused the country's leftist-led government of altering the law to protect former Croatian intelligence chief Josip Perkovic. Perkovic faces charges in Germany over the 1983 murder of a Yugoslav dissident in Bavaria.
"The Commission has consistently requested a swift and unconditional correction of the Croatian legislation implementing the European arrest warrant," the Commission said in a statement released Wednesday.
The Commission has threatened to suspend financial aid, which would slow efforts to improve border controls and harm the Balkan country's bid to join Europe's passport-free Schengen zone.
As it took just a matter of days to change the law, the commission said "returning it back to conformity should not take longer."
Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic told parliament on Wednesday the law would be changed but would only take effect next July. "We shall change the law and ask for a delay in its implementation, but no one should doubt that all suspects will eventually have to face justice," he said.
hc/msh (Reuters, dpa)