miro kovač.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ FENA/ EMIR BURLOVIC/ ua

There has been no progress at Friday's meeting of the Council of the European Union enlargement task force in defining benchmarks for opening the chapter on the judiciary and fundamental rights in the EU's accession negotiations with Serbia because Croatia has not given the green light, a European source said.

There is still no full agreement, Croatia has still not given the green light, a Council source said.

Until the task force agrees on the definition of the benchmarks, there can be no progress in preparations for opening Chapter 23.

The intention of EU president Netherlands is to open that chapter in June together with Chapter 24, on justice, freedom and security.

Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac said earlier today that Croatia expected Brussels to state how it intended to incorporate the criteria Serbia must meet in the accession negotiations on which Croatia insisted. He said Serbia must abolish regional jurisdiction for war crimes, ensure the rights of the Croat minority in Serbia, and fully cooperate with the Hague war crimes tribunal.

The Serbian government said in a press release that it was "appalled by Croatia's decision not to support Serbia's European path. The Republic of Croatia had not one valid reason for such a decision. Serbia has taken note of Croatia's position and Serbia will not allow anyone in Europe and the world, including the Republic of Croatia, to blackmail, humiliate and belittle it in any way."

The press release underlined Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic's message that "Serbia is a country of a freedom-loving people and will never be anyone's punching bag."

Vucic said earlier in Novi Sad that Serbia would not beg anyone nor change its laws only because Croatia wanted it too.

"We will not agree to anyone's ultimatums," he said commenting on the news that Croatia had blocked the opening of Chapter 23.

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