Croatia expects all countries aspiring to join the European Union, including Serbia, to meet all the necessary criteria, just as Croatia did, Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic and President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said on Saturday.
They were speaking to the press in central Zagreb during an event marking the 20th Daffodil Day, which aims to raise public awareness of breast cancer.
"Given the criteria that Croatia had to fulfil, we only want every country aspiring to join the EU to meet the same criteria. This goes for Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and all other countries. That's all we ask and that's what all Europe asks," Oreskovic said when asked if Croatia would formally block Serbia's EU membership talks in Chapter 23 which deals with judiciary and fundamental rights.
Grabar-Kitarovic reiterated that Croatia supported Serbia's Euro-Atlantic integration. "I have always said and I maintain that position that we will support Serbia's entry into the EU and NATO. But we expect of all candidate countries to meet absolutely all the criteria, just as Croatia did," she said.
Asked about the possible blockade of Serbia's EU membership talks in Chapter 23 over its law on universal jurisdiction, Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner said that Croatia's position on that law was clear from the start. "That law is inappropriate, it does not fit into the acquis communautaire, and all countries that wish to join the EU should accept the acquis communautaire," he said.
Speaking to the press during a visit to Posedarje, inland from the coastal city of Zadar, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said: "Serbia has not yet opened that chapter and we only want to help Serbia. I have told my EU colleagues that we want to help Serbia change this law and become ready for EU membership."
"Croatia supports the EU integration of all its southeastern neighbours, including Serbia, and on the path to EU membership they need to meet all the criteria set by the EU. As for Chapter 23, which includes respect for human and minority rights, compliance with and implementation of international treaties relating to minority rights, as well as full cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal (ICTY), it is clear that Serbia cannot have jurisdiction over all war crimes committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia," Kovac said.
Serbia's Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the National Council for Cooperation with the ICTY, Rasim Ljajic, said on Friday, after comments by Croatian state officials on the Seselj case, that he expected that Croatia would start making conditions on Serbia's EU integration path.