Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Croatia Allowed to Continue EU Talks

The Netherlands had opposed further talks because of Zagreb’s failure to hand over documents to prosecution.
The Dutch foreign ministry announced this week that it will allow Croatia to continue negotiations for entry into the European Union.

The Netherlands has until recently opposed further talks because Croatia has failed to hand over documents requested by the Hague tribunal chief prosecutor, Serge Brammertz.

The documents are said to concern the 1995 Operation Storm military offensive and were requested for the trial of three senior former Croatian army and police commanders, Ante Gotovina, Ivan Cermak and Mladen Markac.

The three are charged with ordering the shelling of civilian areas, murdering Serb civilians and destroying their property during and after Operation Storm. About 200,000 Serb civilians are estimated to have fled their homes in the days leading up to the offensive.

In a speech to Dutch parliament on February 11, foreign minister Maxime Verhagen commended the creation of an inter-agency task force on the Hague tribunal set up by Croatian prime minister Jadranka Kosor.

Kosor is quoted by the Croatian state-run HINA news agency as saying that “every week or 10 days a report is to be sent to the UN court chief prosecutor about what is being done” regarding cooperation with the tribunal.

Brammertz also mentioned this task force in a speech to the European parliament on January 26, stating that “we believe that those efforts which are currently deployed have to be maintained and we very much hope that a positive result can come out of this working group”.

He noted that the documents in question have yet to be produced, but that the prosecution expected to receive them.

Gijs Korevaar, a spokesman for the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs, told IWPR that “what the Dutch government wants is full cooperation with the [tribunal]. [Croatia] should turn over the documents or show they have done real research in cooperation with the demands of the prosecutor”.

This will remain a “crucial condition” in the progress of negotiations, he said.

Rachel Irwin is an IWPR reporter in The Hague.