miro kovač.jpg
Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac
Photograph: HINA/ Damir SENČAR/ ds

The European Commission's position that the issue of the Serbian law on universal jurisdiction for war crimes should not be a condition for the opening of talks on Chapter 23 was drawn up last year for internal use and the Croatian public should not be bothered with it, Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said on Thursday.

"Much ado about nothing," Kovac said in an interview with Croatian Television, noting that the EC's non-paper was an old document intended for internal use.

"I feel really bad bothering the Croatian public with some papers intended for internal use," Kovac said, noting that the document was made by the EC in the summer of 2015 when the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Serbia.

According to the document that was leaked to the public on Thursday, the European Commission believes that the issue of the Serbian law on universal jurisdiction for war crimes should not be a condition for the opening of Chapter 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) in accession negotiations with Serbia and has advocated this position from the start.

Croatia did not give the green light for the opening of Chapter 23, demanding that Belgrade revoke regional jurisdiction for war crimes, guarantee the rights of the Croat minority in Serbia and ensure full cooperation with the Hague war crimes tribunal.

Kovac reiterated that Croatia would insist that Serbia should meet those conditions, noting that the rights of the Croat minority in Serbia had two dimensions - the rule of law and the election of Croat representatives to the Serbian parliament.

Serbia's current legislation is detrimental to good neighbourly relations, Kovac said, reiterating that Serbia could not be the regional judge and policeman.

Croatia is a member of the EU, it is "neither a superpower nor a poodle", it has its voice, it "co-creates and co-decides" as an EU member and takes care that candidate countries meet the membership criteria, Kovac said.

In its non-paper the EC said that the issue of universal jurisdiction should be solved through cooperation between the two countries, "as it is for any case where a conflict of jurisdiction arises."

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