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Croatia's EU Membership Off to Rocky Start Over Extradition Law

New European Union member Croatia backtracked somewhat in its first row with the bloc's executive arm on 28 August, 2013, agreeing to fully apply the EU extradition law but only after Brussels raised the prospect of sanctions.

Croatia had previously angered the European Commission over its resistance to implementing the EU law, with Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding warning that it could even face consequences after the Croatian government changed its extradition laws just a few days before acceding to the bloc on July 1. In Croatia, the amended extradition law has been dubbed the “Perković Law” because it prevents authorities from extraditing alleged former spy, Josip Perković, for the 1983 assassination of a Croatian dissident in Germany.

There are speculations that the Croatian government amended the country's extradition law just ahead of accession for the purpose of preventing Germany from extraditing Perković. As Global Voices reported on the eve of Croatia's accession to the EU, when Angela Merkel canceled an official visit to Croatia:

The current Croatian opposition, however, sees other reasons for Merkel cancelling her trip [hr], citing the Croatian government's recent legislative amendments that aim to put a time limit on European arrest warrants, in which case Germany would not be able to extradite former Yugoslavia State Security Administration agent Josip Perković, who is wanted for murder and lives in Croatia.

The European Commission could still put Croatia under monitoring and suspending the new member's access to EU funds, and the case could slow down Croatia's Schengen accession.

 Viviane Reding, Vice-President and Commissioner, Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, European Commission, Brussels; photo courtesy of World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2013, used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Viviane Reding, Vice President and Commissioner, Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, European Commission, Brussels; photo courtesy of World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland, January 2013, used under Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Croatia failed to meet the deadline to abolish the law by 23 August. Soon, the spokeswoman for the Justice Commissioner Reding expressed the “deep regret” of the European Commission regarding Croatia's decision.

Those interested in geopolitics, history and current events in Europe quickly took notice on social networks and expressed their opinions, mostly dismay. John Schindler, a professor at the Naval War College and Senior Fellow at Boston University, said:

Following angry statements from the Commission, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic published a letter that he sent to Brussels. In this letter to Commission President Manuel Barroso, published on the government website, he stated:

On behalf of my government, the justice minister said that Croatia will take necessary measures to bring the law on judicial cooperation in line with the European legislation it had accepted in accession talks.[...] Croatia has always fulfilled its obligations and will continue to do so.

Croatian Justice Minister Orsat Miljenić confirmed to the media that his Ministry had addressed a letter to European Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding concerning the application of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW).

The government of the Republic of Croatia published the letter on it's official Twitter account:

The letter from President of #VladaRH to the President of@EU_Commission @BarrosoEU http://t.co/vdRMyHXlJw #EU #croatiaEU

— Vlada R. Hrvatske (@VladaRH) August 28, 2013

Mina Andreeva, a spokeswoman for EU Justice Commissioner Reding, confirmed Croatia had responded to a letter Reding sent in July outlining EU concerns.

The letter, sent by Croatia's justice ministry, “appears to indicate a constructive approach on this matter,” Andreeva said at a press briefing.

She said Croatian authorities had indicated that they would bring their legislation implementing the EU arrest warrant “in line with” EU law. Andreeva said that European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso had received “similar assurances” from Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović.

“The commission welcomes this constructive approach,” she said. The EU's executive is “in contact with the Croatian authorities to clarify their intention.”

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