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European Commission


Brussels, 25 September 2013

Press point with Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice and Orsat Miljenić, Croatian Minister of Justice

[Vice-President Reding speaks]

Ladies and Gentlemen I am happy to welcome my colleague Minister Miljenić here in Brussels today.

The meeting was among others a good opportunity to prepare the Justice Council in October where Croatia is going to sit for the first time not only as an observer but as a full member, so it's going to be a historic moment. Croatia can then show that it is a player in the European team and I hope, an active player in the construction of a common European area of justice – build on mutual trust and the mutual respect of our commonly agreed rules.

We of course have discussed the topical issue of the implementation by Croatia of the European Arrest Warrant. And here I give the floor to my colleague Minister Miljenić in order to inform you of the next steps on this file.

[Minister Miljenić speaks]

Thank you very much I would like to welcome you all, with regards to the application of the law on judicial cooperation we discussed about it even before and today we had a meeting during which we agreed what we should do next with regards to this issue.

The Republic of Croatia will urgently take the necessary steps to align swiftly and unconditionally the Act on judicial co-operation in criminal matters and fully comply with the Framework Decision on the European arrest warrant in respect of the application of the European Arrest Warrant to all offences, irrespective of the date of commission by removing the time limitation preventing its application to crimes committed before 7 August 2002.

The amendment should enter into force as soon as possible and by 1 January 2014 at the latest. The effective entry into force and application of the amendment should not be limited by any other condition.

Apart from that there were a range of other topics that were discussed and that we are happy to share with you.

[Vice-President Reding speaks]

The European Commission welcomes steps taken by the Republic of Croatia to ensure that criminals are brought to justice.

In this context, the swift, effective and unconditional alignment of the law implementing the European arrest warrant in line with the acquis communautaire will allow for all requests for the surrender of suspected and convicted criminals to be dealt within the European arrest warrant system irrespective of the date of commission of the crime.

The Commission will closely watch this process. What we expect now is that these welcome political commitments are translated into action, that is: into law.

Questions and Answers

1. Question on the abolition of the Statute of limitation in Croatia [question was not audible]

[Minister Miljenić speaks]

I can say that one of the things we are doing in Croatia is a change of constitution, it is not related to this issue, we are changing the constitution in order to streamline the statute of limitation for all heavy murders, including political ones, but this is not connected to this process [the implementation of the European Arrest Warrant], it is separate. This is something that shouldn't be connected with this law, but it is a separate process that is going on, because we are facing in Croatia a lot of cases of political murders from the past, including the communist regime and this is something that we want to deal with and we don't want those people to have a statute of limitation as their protection. The only way to deal with this is within the constitution; otherwise we have a problem of retroactivity. This is why we are changing the constitution.

2. What do you think of the use of Cyrillic signs in the Croatian town of Vukovar? This policy which the government says is aimed at protecting minorities is leading to violent protests on the street.

[Vice-President Reding speaks]

The Minister and I have been discussing this issue, which is a wider issue than this city.

The European Commission is aware of the continued efforts of Croatia aimed at protecting the rights of persons belonging to minorities.

In line with the commitments made by Croatia during the Accession Process, the implementation of the Croatian Constitutional Act on the Rights of National Minorities has continued at a steady pace.

The Commission welcomes the efforts of the Croatian government in order to raise awareness for persons belonging to minorities in Croatia and to ensure the exercise of their rights.

3. What about possible / foreseen constitutional changes on time limitation periods?

[Vice-President Reding speaks]

The Minister has informed me about the intentions of the Croatian Government to change its constitution, but the issue of our discussion today, was the alignment of the Croatian law concerning the European arrest warrant.

Time limitations are a very important issue. They are governed by the law of the country in which the crime was committed.

These are complex jurisdictional issues that need to be looked at on case-by-case basis - by the judicial authorities.

From the discussion we had before coming here it was very clear with the Minister: everything that Croatia does to strengthen the efficiency of the functioning of the European arrest warrant, I will welcome, the Commission will welcome.

And likewise everything that Croatia does to reduce the efficiency of this instrument will not be welcomed.

The Commission will therefore assess every national measure taken in this respect.

[Minister Miljenić speaks]

There is no connection and I don't see how this could be related, so all requests presented to us according to European Arrest Warrant will be honoured and this change of constitution is not related to this.

4. Why did you decide to break the EU law?

[Minister Miljenić speaks]

We have discussed this, I think there was a lot of discussions in regards to this on this in Croatia, I won't enter into these discussions, because it will take a lot of time, I think it is time now to focus on the closure of this issue and that we are moving on.

[Vice-President Reding speaks]

I do agree with the Minister, we are here to solve the problems and he has explained a long history of political decision making. What is important is that Croatia goes in line with what has been signed, the acquis and the re-establishment of the law as it was before.

5. What happens to the on-going procedure? Are you suspending the Article 39 procedure?

[Vice-President Reding speaks]

You know that we, the Commission have launched the procedure on Article 39 and we have asked for the opinion of Member States, they will have until the 5th October to answer and the Minister explained to me today that he will enact all the necessary legislative changes - swiftly and unconditionally.

The Commission will closely watch this process and once the law is enacted then assess whether it is, again, in line with the European Arrest Warrant Framework Decision. We will then decide on any procedural steps, including the termination of the procedure.

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