Croatia is the only EU member that has not given its consent for the opening of Chapter 23 in Serbia’s negotiations with the European Union, Serbian Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović stated.
“We will see how Croatia will decide, but we are carefully monitoring messages that we are receiving. It is important that we have done everything that was needed to open the chapter, which has been recognized by all other EU member states”, said Joksimović, adding that, if Serbia receives support from Croatia, Chapters 23 and 24 could be opened by the end of June.
“If Croatia would soon give its approval, then all the procedures in connection with the preparations for the opening of the chapters in the working bodies of the European Commission could be completed on time”, explained Joksimović. She said it would be “a good signal” if there was “an honest intention and good will in Croatia that bilateral issues should be resolved without the method of obstructing the negotiations”. “If not, that would further strain our relations, which I think no one needs”, said the Serbian minister in charge of European integration.
Croatia’s Deputy Prime Minister and MOST leader Božo Petrov published a Facebook post last week in which he criticized the Serbian government because it did not extradite to the Hague Tribunal Vojislav Šešelj, whose verdict will be announced on 31 March. “If Serbia thinks that people in Croatia are blind to such behaviour, it is wrong”, wrote Petrov. Similar comments were heard from the First Deputy Prime Minister Tomislav Karamarko.
Then the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs announced that Serbia must respect minority rights, cooperate with the Hague Tribunal and reform the judiciary, which includes the abolition of the jurisdiction to prosecute war crimes in the whole of former Yugoslavia. Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković said that he expected Serbia would make the right decision on Šešelj if it wants to become an EU member.
Serbian minister did not specify how long Croatia has to decide, adding that other EU countries may influence Zagreb, but that the ultimate decision will be made by Croatia. “Of course, other countries can to some extent influence Croatia, but it is up to each individual state, in this case Croatia, what position it would take”, said Joksimović and expressed hope that Croatia would, in the spirit of regional cooperation and sincere support to Serbia’s path to the EU, give its approval for the Chapter 23.
Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić said previously that Serbia will ask the EU to react to Croatian behaviour and its interference in internal affairs, and that Belgrade would probably make an official protest to Zagreb which, according to the Serbian interpretation, is violating its own decision that bilateral topics will not be turned into problems when it comes to Serbia’s membership in the EU and other international organizations.