Croatia is close to finding a solution regarding the continuation of Serbia's EU accession talks, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said on Friday, adding that he was surprised that the EU had gone public with some information on the matter without prior agreement with Croatia.

"Croatia has made clear its demands and concern about Serbia's talks with the EU," Kovac said.

This refers to cooperation with the UN war crimes tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which must be "full and include and accept the tribunal's rulings and decisions", respect for minority rights, namely representation of the Croat minority in the Serbian parliament, and the issue of regional jurisdiction for war crimes, "because Serbia cannot have jurisdiction for all crimes committed in the area of the former Yugoslavia, including Croatia," said Kovac.

He added that he would talk on the phone with European Commissioner for Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn to discuss ambiguous information on the matter published lately in the media.

Commenting on his first four months in office, Kovac said that relations with neighbouring countries had changed significantly in that period, that there were no more insults, high emotions and verbal attacks.

"This refers to Slovenia, with which we have good relations at all levels. There is the outstanding issue of border arbitration with Slovenia, but the arbitration is no longer topical for us. We have attempted to find an alternative solution - bilateral talks or having an international court deal with the issue, but the arbitration is no longer an option," said Kovac.

Relations with Hungary have improved as well, the minister said, adding that the issue of relations between INA and MOL had been raised to the level of the two governments. The arbitration in the INA-MOL case is continuing, reports to the contrary in the Croatian press are mere fables, said Kovac.

Relations with Serbia have relaxed, too, except for an occasional report about the fascistisation and Ustashisation of Croatia to which Croatian officials do not want to respond because they want to build normal, long-term good neighbourly relations with Serbia, said Kovac.

Claims about the fascistisation of Croatia are irresponsible towards society, Kovac said, adding that the government would work to prevent all types of extremism, whether left or right.

"I can't accept criticism from abroad that values are jeopardised in Croatia and I claim responsibly that in terms of tolerance we are better than some of the countries that criticise us," said Kovac.

Croatia is present and active in Bosnia and Herzegovina and has helped the country submit an application for EU membership, and the two countries will soon sign a European partnership agreement envisaging Croatia's technical support to Bosnia and Herzegovina in the accession talks, said the minister.

He stressed that at a recent ministerial meeting in Brussels he supported Montenegro's accession to NATO, adding that he would make sure Croatia was among the first countries to ratify the treaty on Montenegro's accession.

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