Claims coming from Zagreb "unfounded and untrue" - Ljajic
Serbian Deputy PM Rasim Ljajic has said that Croatian FM Miro Kovac's claims that Serbia is unprepared for EU accession talks are "unfounded and untrue."Source: Tanjug
Kovac said earlier on Friday Croatia insisted on Serbia's full cooperation the Hague Tribunal, respect for minority rights of the Croat community, and ensuring their presence in parliament, and abandoning of its "regional" jurisdiction in war crimes cases.
"Given that I have spent years dealing with all these issues, I can say with full responsibility that Serbia over the past 15 years achieved the greatest progress in the areas mentioned by Kovac," Ljajic said in a statement.
He stressed that when it comes to cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, Serbia had fulfilled all its obligations in terms of extraditing the accused, "and like no country in the region extradited 45 persons, including former presidents, cabinet members, heads of the general staff, highest representatives of civilian and military intelligence services."
When it comes to the jurisdiction in war crimes cases, Ljajic noted that Croatia did not mind when that same jurisdiction was used to put on trial those accused in the Ovcara case.
"Now all of a sudden it has became a problem in bilateral relations, although many EU member states have the same laws, with identical powers as the war crimes court in Serbia," Ljajic said.
As regards minority rights, Ljajic said that "all relevant international organizations such as the UN, the EU, the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the U.S. State Department" think Serbia achieved impressive results and set high standards of protection of human, and minority rights in particular.
Serbia is a rare country that respect individual as well as collective rights of minorities, including their right to cultural autonomy. "This cannot be said of many countries, including some EU member states and Croatia," said Ljajic.
Addressing the complaints coming from Zagreb about the Croat minority's representation in parliament, Ljajic said that Serbia has a provision in its electoral law on the so-called natural threshold, which allows minorities to enter parliament by winning as little as 0.4 percent of votes cast in an election.
Ljajic stressed that no country in the EU that allows minority communities unconditional representation in parliament, and that Croatia is among them.
In his statement, the Serbian official concluded that his country "wants to have the best possible relations with Croatia, primarily economic, because both countries have an interest in that," and added that Belgrade "also wants to enter the process of resolving the problems inherited from the past with a cool head."
This can be achieved only by constant discussions, bilateral consultations, and by seeking compromise solutions - not by ultimatums, blockades and pressure, concluded Ljajic.
Addressing a news conference in Zagreb earlier in the day, Croatian Minister Miro Kovac said his country was "close to a solution" that should enable Serbia to open chapter 23, currently blocked by Croatia.
However, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Thursday that an agreement had been reached and would be formalized next week.