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EU warns Croatia in arrest warrant row

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EU warns Croatia in arrest warrant row

Photo © Volker Hammermeister - Fotolia

(BRUSSELS) - The European Union warned Tuesday that it will crack down on newest member Croatia for dragging its feet to comply with the bloc's arrest and extradition regime.

"A sanction will be imposed, that is clear," EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said.

"The Commission has the right to impose sanctions... We will consult with member states, then apply them," Reding said.

Reding said Croatia's adherence to the Schengen visa-free agreement could be under threat if Zagreb failed to reverse controversial changes to its extradition laws made just days before joining the bloc on July 1.

The changes prevented the extradition of suspects of crimes committed before 2002, which would cover war crimes committed during the country's 1991-1995 independence war.

Croatia was initially defiant when a Brussels deadline on conforming with the EU's laws passed and the bloc threatened sanctions.

In late August, Zagreb appeared to give ground when it promised swift legislative action to remedy the problem but Reding said the pledge had yet to be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said his country would respect its EU-related obligations but warned that it would not give up plans for the amended law to enter into force on July 15, 2014.

The government was to back the amendments and forward the law to the parliament on Thursday.

"We don't want to cheat or trick anyone and we have tried from the beginning to lead a civilised dialogue" over the issue, Milanovic told reporters in Zagreb.

"We are not doing anything amoral or wrong," the premier said, adding that Zagreb was "just demanding that all EU members be equal."

Croatia has earlier complained that Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Luxembourg and Slovenia had all amended the European arrest warrant, which regulates extradition between member states.

But the Commission retorted that Croatia should have advised Brussels beforehand during its talks to join the bloc.

The row has especially soured Croatia's relations with Germany, whose Chancellor Angela Merkel was a no-show at ceremonies marking Zagreb's entry to the EU.

After hastily amending its extradition legislation, Zagreb declined a German request to extradite a former spy, Josip Perkovic, sought in connection with a Communist-era murder.

He is wanted for involvement in the murder of Croatian dissident Stjepan Djurekovic in Germany in 1983.

Perkovic headed Croatia's military intelligence services after the country proclaimed independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991.

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