Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic expects Serbia to comply with the conditions for further talks with the European Union, including one that it cannot prosecute Croatian citizens for war crimes, the government said in a press release on Monday.
Serbia opened two key chapters in its EU accession negotiations in Brussels on Monday -- Chapter 23, dealing with the judiciary and fundamental rights, and Chapter 24, concerning freedom, justice and security.
Croatia had blocked the opening of Chapter 23 for some time, demanding guarantees that Serbia would not abuse its law on universal jurisdiction for war crimes trials and that it would ensure rights for the Croatian minority in Serbia and full cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal.
The EU's common negotiating position now incorporates, at Croatia's request, the need for regional cooperation and good neighbourly relations in prosecuting war crimes, including a goal to avoid a conflict of jurisdiction.
Before the opening of the negotiations in Brussels, Oreskovic, Foreign Minister Miro Kovac and Minister of Veterans' Affairs Tomo Medved met with representatives of veterans' organisations, the government press release said.
The prime minister said that "the government will do everything to protect national interests and the interests of Croatian veterans", adding that with today's opening of the negotiations Serbia committed itself to honouring the agreed common views.
He said he hoped that Serbia would not depart from the conditions and common positions determined, noting that the EU and Croatia shared the view that Serbia would show responsibility and consistency in respect of the agreements reached.
"Statements of a daily political nature from Serbia which are contrary to the positions agreed are not contributing to the progess and strengthening of the EU and the fact that Croatia is actively advocating the integration of Southeastern Europe into the EU," Oreskovic said.
Medved said it was important that Serbia repeal universal jurisdiction that arises from its law on the organisation and jurisdiction of state authorities in prosecuting war crimes committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia.
He said that Croatian veterans and war victims were also interested in resolving the issue of people still listed as missing from the 1991-1995 war.
"Since Croatia had to meet all the conditions before it could enter the European Union, we demand that Serbia be treated in the same way," Medved said.
The senior government officials informed the veterans about a Croatian statement which had been read at the third EU-Serbia intergovernmental conference in Brussels on Monday.
Kovac underlined five key requirements that Serbia would have to meet under Chapter 23: ensure rights for war victims and their access to justice without discrimination, not to apply its criminal legislation in Croatia and not to prosecute Croatian citizens, cooperate in efforts to shed light on the fate of missing persons, fully cooperate with the Hague tribunal, and amend its electoral legislation to ensure that the Croatian minority in Serbia has a guaranteed seat or seats in the Serbian National Assembly, the government press release said.