Less than two months after it became the newest member of the European Union, Croatia is already facing the threat of sanctions by fellow EU countries.
The Croatian authorities must propose a deadline to amend their extradition laws by midnight on Friday or face sanctions, according to a spokesperson for EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding, the EUobserver reported.
Croatia amended its accession treaty days before entering the European Union on July 1, exempting the European Arrest Warrant (EAW) from crimes committed before August 2002, when it was implemented.
The action “breaches EU law” and requires fixing, Reding wrote Croatian Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic in June.
In a statement before Croatia’s accession, Reding described the EAW as “a key tool for the proper functioning of the area of freedom, justice and security and for the development of mutual trust between member states.”
Many believe that “lex Perkovic,” as the Croatian provision is known, was implemented to prevent the extradition of Josip Perkovic, thought to be an ex-spy for the Yugoslav secret service. Germany hopes to extradite the 68-year-old for his connection to Stjepan Djurekovic, a Croatian activist who was killed in West Germany in 1983.
Germany first called for Perkovic’s extradition in 2005, but was denied on the grounds that he is a Croatian citizen.
Croatia’s recent amendment agitated Germany because the EAW requires extradition of all EU citizens. Many believe German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to cancel her visit to Zagreb, the Croatian capitol, for celebrations marking Croatia’s EU membership was a rebuke for the action.
Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusić told Croatian media on Wednesday that although her country would comply, it may miss the deadline.
Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Monday that he would propose a constitutional amendment that would make the statute of limitations no longer apply to severe politically-motivated crimes.
He also said the EAW was “discriminatory against countries” that have joined the European Union recently, including other Balkan states, because they are subject to greater regulations than older, more established members.
Croatia has yet to tell the European Commission when it plans to change its extradition laws.