miro kovač.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Daniel KASAP / dk

Croatia has ensured that its demands are included in accession negotiations between Serbia and the European Union, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said in Bulgaria on Tuesday.

"Croatia can be pleased with its achievement. We have managed to ensure that our legitimate demands are incorporated in Serbia's negotiating process and those demands are well known to the Croatian public: full cooperation with the Hague tribunal, full application by Serbia of national and international obligations in protecting minority rights, including the rights of the Croatian minority in Serbia, and avoiding judicial conflict in prosecuting war crimes," Kovac told Croatian reporters on the margins of a meeting of foreign ministers of Southeast Europe Cooperation Process (SEECP) member states in Pravec, Bulgaria.

"Without these criteria there can be no progress in that regard. That's why Croatia will now give permission for work to begin on defining benchmarks for chapters 23 and 24" in negotiations with Serbia, he said, adding that benchmarks need to be defined first.

Chapter 23 relates to judiciary and fundamental rights and Chapter 24 concerns justice, freedom and security.

Asked how long this might take, Kovac said that this work might be completed by the end of June. "If everyone is quick enough, if all this is incorporated, it can be done by the end of June. That's not up to us, we are already in the European Union."

Kovac thanked the European Commission, Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn and the Dutch EU Presidency for their cooperation in resolving this issue.

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