Since July 1st, Croatia’s tenure as the newest member state on the European Union has been overshadowed by an open confrontation with Brussels over Zagreb’s application of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW). Three days before official entry into the EU, the Croatian Parliament adopted changes preventing the extradition of anyone suspected of committing a crime before August 7, 2002. Unofficially known as Lex Perkovic, in reference to Josip Perkovic, the former head of Croatian intelligence, whose extradition is being sought by Germany for his involvement in the 1983 assassination of a Croatian dissident. Croatia has received 23 extradition requests from other EU nations, dating back before 2002, that fall under the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision.
“Croatia started, after having [gained] a lot of trust, to misuse this trust the day it entered the European Union.” , said Viviane Reding, Vice President of the European Commission in charge of Justice, in reaction to the Croatian Parliament’s action. Following weeks of fruitless negotiations, the EU raised the specter of financial sanctions, including the withholding of €80 million in aid to assist with Croatia’s entry into the EU passport-free Schengen zone. A defiant Prime Minister Milanovic was adamant that Croatia would not be “used to wipe the floor with.” According to Milanovic, the last minute parliamentary change in the law was due to “internal political reasons.”
This week Croatian Prime Minister Milanovic and the European Commission averted the monetary penalty and agreed that Croatia will change its extradition law to conform to EU standards by January 1, 2014 at the latest. Croatia’s Minister of Justice, Orsat Miljenic, met with EU’s Viviane Reding to work out an agreement early Wednesday September 25. In a press release, Miljenic announced that Croatia intended to “urgently take the necessary steps to align” the law with the European Arrest Warrant. The new deadline for amendment is 1 January 2014.
Although both Minister Miljenic and Vice President Reding have agreed to focus on putting this issue behind them, Brussels is not lifting the threat of financial sanctions until Zagreb re-amends its application of the EAW to cover all offenses committed before and after August 7, 2002.