BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union's newest member, Croatia, promised Wednesday to meet EU demands and change a law on banning extradition of suspected criminals as soon as possible.
The EU had threatened sanctions such as suspending EU funds for Croatia's border controls if Zagreb didn't comply. Croatian Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic said his government "will swiftly ... take all measures to unconditionally make the law comply with European law."
The law was adopted just a day before Croatia formally became an EU member on July 1. It included a retroactive prohibition on Croatian citizens being extradited, which goes against EU practice. Miljenic said the law, which was officially intended to protect veterans of its 1991-95 war for independence from prosecution abroad, would change by Jan. 1 at the latest and fall fully in line with the EU's European Arrest Warrant, which eases the handover of criminals and suspects to other EU nations.
EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding didn't remove the threat of sanctions despite the promises, waiting for an assessment from EU member states by Oct. 5 and Croatian moves to effectively change the law.
"What we expect now is that the official declaration ... will be translated swiftly into action, into law," Reding said. Croatia's opposition said the law was intended to protect former Croatian intelligence chief Josip Perkovic — who is sought by Germany in the murder of a Croatian dissident allegedly killed by the former Yugoslav secret service in Germany in 1983. Perkovic, who created Croatia's secret service once Croatia split from the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, worked for Communist Yugoslavia's secret service in the 1980s.
EU lawmakers welcomed Croatia's commitment. "It is good that Croatia finally understood the risk of incorrect implementation of this key EU crime-fighting measure on the future freedom of movement of its citizens," said ALDE liberal Sarah Ludford, the European Parliament's rapporteur on the European Arrest Warrant.