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

Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said in Brussels on Monday that he had the "impression" that a solution was close regarding the opening of European Union negotiations with Serbia on Chapter 23, for which Croatia has not given the green light yet.

"I have the impression that we are close to a solution," Kovac said, replying to reporters as to whether Serbia could open the chapter on the judiciary and fundamental rights by the end of June.

Minister Kovac was participating in a EU foreign ministers' meeting and reiterated that Croatia is not blocking Serbia's path but asking that criteria be respected.

"Croatia is acting very positively. We are currently helping and together with the European Commission and the EU's Dutch Presidency, we are looking for a solution so that we can continue with the negotiation process in Serbia's case," he said, adding that he couldn't recall that anyone had mentioned a blockade when Serbia had to wait for almost two years between formally opening the negotiations and the first negotiation chapter being opened.

"However, now when there is no decision yet about Chapter 23, Croatia is being called out every day in some media in Serbia. There is no need for that. Croatia is the best friend to all countries in Southeast Europe because it knows them best and has the greatest interest that those countries draw closer to EU membership, naturally, once they fulfil the criteria," Kovac said.

Asked whether Croatia had any allies in the EU that supported its stance concerning Chapter 23, Kovac said that all 27 EU member states were Croatia's allies.

"The EU has 28 member states and Croatia is one of them. As such. We have 27 countries as allies. All EU countries are Croatia's allies," he said.

Croatia is asking that the benchmark for opening Chapter 23 in Serbia's EU negotiations be for Serbia to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, to repeal a law on its universal jurisdiction for war crimes in all former Yugoslav states, and to guarantee the rights of the Croat minority.

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