Croatia must resolve hurdle with UN war crimes prosecutor on EU path

Croatia must resolve a standoff with the chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor by next spring or risk a delay in its EU accession timetable, a top government official said

Croatia must resolve hurdle with UN war crimes prosecutor on EU path

Croatia must resolve a standoff with the chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor by next spring or risk a delay in its European Union accession timetable, a top government official said on Wednesday.

"Once we get approval to open (EU) entry talks on the judiciary 'chapter', it takes two months to start them. Hence, we want to sort things out by spring as this field will probably be the last to be closed, given the scrutiny it gets," the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

Croatia is in the final stage of EU entry negotiations, which comprise 33 policy areas or chapters, and hopes to join in 2012. However, it must first remove objections by the tribunal's chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz.

Failure to achieve that could jeopardise Zagreb's goal of completing accession talks in 2010, the official said.

"A prolonged economic crisis combined with a delay in EU talks would be a really bad scenario. But I hope we'll not find ourselves in such a situation," the official said.

Brammertz has been seeking artillery logs from Croatia's 1991-95 independence war against Serbia which he says are needed for a trial of three Croatian generals.

He insists Croatia must do more to track them down, but Zagreb says it has delivered everything it found, while some of the documents had been destroyed or never existed.

The U.N. tribunal held a hearing on Wednesday on Croatia's request that the tribunal itself, rather than Brammertz, make a formal assessment of Zagreb's cooperation.

The court said more meetings among Croatia, the prosecution and the defence were needed to clarify if Brammertz's requests had been met, Croatian state radio reported.

"I expect the court will assess our cooperation in more favourable terms than Brammertz, as in recent months we have gone the extra mile to satisfy requests from The Hague. That would boost our chances to dispel doubts among some EU members," the official said.

A few EU members, led by Britain and the Netherlands, have voiced reservations about Croatia's readiness to open talks on the judiciary until Brammertz gives his thumbs-up.

To complete the talks, Croatia needs to make its judiciary more efficient, prove it is fighting corruption and organised crime and cut hefty state subsidies to ailing industries.

Reuters
Last Mod: 17 Aralık 2009, 09:09
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