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

Croatia expects Brussels to state how it plans to incorporate the criteria that Serbia has to fulfil in negotiations on membership of the European Union, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said on Friday, adamant that Belgrade has to abolish regional jurisdiction for war crimes and ensure minority rights for Croats in Serbia.

Negotiations on Serbia's accession to the EU are formally conducted by the European Commission (EC) and Zagreb expects the EC to state how it intends to incorporate those criteria in the negotiation benchmarks, Kovac said after a lecture on Croatia as a junction of central and southeast Europe.

"We expect a reply from the EC," Kovac said and reiterated that one of the criteria was the abolishment of jurisdiction for war crimes in the entire area of the former Yugoslavia.

A law that enables Serbia to be "some form of judge for war crimes" for the entire former Yugoslavia, including Croatia, is "absolutely unacceptable," he said.

Complete cooperation with the Hague tribunal (ICTY) and the obligation to protect Croat minority rights are criteria that should also be embedded in the negotiation chapter on the judiciary.

Serbia and Croatia have an agreement on the protection of Croat minority rights in Serbia and Serb minority rights in Croatia, Kovac said and reiterated that Croatia is "implementing" that agreement and expects that the agreement be "fully implemented" in Serbia too.

Addressing a panel discussion, Kovac spoke about the ministry's activities since the incumbent government came into power in January, saying that he had visited most neighbouring countries and that he would visit Serbia after its parliamentary election on April 24.

After the war, Croatia and Serbia can build good relations just like Germany and France did, he said and commended Serbia for rehabilitating its German minority which had been stigmatised after the war. However, he expects "that much effort" to be dedicated to the Croat minority too, all the more so because Serbia has established good relations with the Hungarian minority too.

Negotiations are led by the European Commission and "I leave it up to people from Serbia to conduct that type of talk with the European Commission," Kovac said.

"We want to have healthy neighbourly relations," and they require "healthy foundations," to resolve the question of the war legacy, and we wish for Serbia to progress, he said and again insisted that "Serbia has to meet the criteria."

Referring to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Minister Kovac said that Croatia has a special responsibility because it is a signatory of the Dayton Accord.

"We wish for Croats, who are a constituent and equal people in Bosnia and Herzegovina," to be the best promoters of its European integration, Kovac said. "We wish to be the best friend to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the best friend to Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina on (its) path to the European Union."

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