Government amends extradition law

The government on Thursday sent to parliament amendments to the law on judicial cooperation in criminal matters with European Union countries enabling as of January 1 the full application of the European Arrest Warrant (EAW), including to crimes committed before 7 August 2002.

A few days before Croatia joined the EU on July 1, parliament amended the law, dubbed Lex Perkovic, to apply the EAW to crimes committed after 7 August 2002. This resulted in a conflict with the European Commission, which last week initiated a procedure that could result in sanctions against Croatia. Today's amendments enable the termination of the procedure.

The Commission has said that the option to impose a time limit on the EAW existed only during the adoption of the EU acquis and that Croatia could have asked for the option during the accession negotiations, which it did not do.

"We wanted to apply it to crimes committed since 2002, not before, but it was eventually said that this was not allowed. Okay. I won't say that those who negotiated on Croatia's behalf made a mistake or a gross oversight, but I can say that they didn't give it much thought, none at all, actually," Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said at the cabinet session.

He said this entire case showed that the EAW system was unequally conceived, enabling old EU members, probably by accident and oversight, the possibility of restriction, while new members did not have this option.

He mentioned the Czech Republic which, as Croatia, will apply the EAW as of January 1, but faced no sanctions. "The European Commission tolerated that for years."

We have amended the law but also noticed this system deficiency with which states have a problem, and this discussion is not over, Milanovic said, adding that the problem would probably be solved with the time limit being rescinded for everyone.

However, this does not solve the problem of Croatian citizens who, under the principle of universal jurisdiction, can be tried for crimes during the 1991-95 Homeland War. That's possible, he said.

"We must warn about that because no other state in the EU has this problem. And this can be abused by malicious people who don't live in Croatia. That's a possibility and we must be aware of it."

He also commented on the many commentators and pundits who commented on the dispute with the European Commission, saying that 99 per cent had not even read Lex Perkovic but just made a racket and stirring panic.