nikola selaković.jpg
Photograph: sr.wikipedia.org

Serbia's Justice Minister Nikola Selakovic on Wednesday said that statements by Croatian authorities about blocking Serbia's European integration and criticism coming from Zagreb were "more of a political nature rather than law-related topics", suggesting that these matters should be resolved through bilateral relations.

In response to Croatia's objections calling on Serbia to refrain from applying the principle of universal jurisdiction for war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia, Selakovic said on Radio-Television Serbia that Croatia was questioning something that had once been asked of Serbia and that was to apply the principle of universal jurisdiction.

"We do not see anything contentious in this," the Serbian minister said, claiming that the universal jurisdiction has enabled Serbia to try many  suspects indicted for war crimes.

Selakovic claimed that universal jurisdiction for processing war crimes was "something that the most developed countries in the world support," legally and politically.

According to Selakovic, objections to universal jurisdiction coming from Zagreb are a matter for "bilateral meetings and not for sabotaging Serbia" in its European integration process.

Selakovic underscored that "it was important for Serbia that 27 of the 28 European Union member states support Serbia," in its bid to draw closer to the EU and that this "showed the results of domestic and foreign policies".

The minister is hopeful that "Serbia's effort until now will be fruitful," and that Belgrade would soon open Chapters 23 and 24 on human rights and the rule-of-law.

Referring to the Serbian-Croatian dispute, chairman of the European Affairs Committee in Germany's Bundestag, Gunther Krichbaum on Tuesday said that it is necessary to "soft-pedal" and that he was convinced that "all stakeholders" would realise that it's important to move ahead. After meeting with Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, he said that the process of European integration is not a means to resolve bilateral disputes.

Without explicitly mentioning Croatia, Krichbaum told a joint press conference held with Vucic that "there is no place for bilateral disputes at the European level."

Numerous comments by officials in Serbia and Croatia have been triggered by Croatian Deputy Prime Minister Bozo Petrov's criticism of Serbia's authorities over their failure to hand over war crimes indictee Vojislav Seselj to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) whose sentencing is to be rendered on March 31 in his absence.

Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry has stated that Serbia is required to respect minority rights and to cooperate with the Hague-based UN tribunal and reform its judiciary which meant withdrawing jurisdiction of prosecuting war crimes that had been perpetrated in the area of former Yugoslavia.

Croatian Prime Minister Tihomir Oreskovic has said he expects Serbia to make the right decision about Seselj if it wants to become a member of the EU.

Serbia's minister for European integration Jadranka Joksimovic on Monday said that Croatia was the only EU member state that had not okayed the opening Chapters 23 and 24 and that the remaining EU member states could influence Zagreb, however, in the end it was up to Croatia to make the final decision.

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