Entre Nous reported three weeks ago how the Croatian parliament, just hours before Croatia joined the European Union on 1 July, adopted legislation that would exempt alleged crimes committed before 2002 from the scope of the European arrest warrant (“A lukewarm welcome to the EU”, 4-10 July).
It also reported that the European Commission warned Croatia that this was not legally possible.
The Commission’s warning was based on a Council decision of 13 June 2002 that sets the rules for the European arrest warrant and the surrender procedures between member states. Article 32 of that decision contains a provision that allowed member states to limit the application of the arrest warrant. It says: “Any Member State may, at the time of the adoption of this Framework Decision by the Council, make a statement indicating that as executing Member State it will continue to deal with requests relating to acts committed before a date which it specifies in accordance with the extradition system applicable before 1 January 2004.”
What has now emerged, through the Croatian daily Vec?ernji list, is that, in the official translation into Croatian of this part of EU law “at the time of the adoption” is rendered as “after the adoption”.
The Croatian translation suggests that any member state may limit the application of the European arrest warrant at any time after the adoption of the decision. The original is clear that such an exemption was possible only at the time of the law’s adoption (2002) and is therefore not available to countries signing up later on.
Vesna Pusic´ (pictured), Croatia’s foreign minister, said on the sidelines of a meeting in Brussels on Monday that the government had been aware of the error for several months. “This has no impact on our political position and agreements with the European Commission,” she said. Perhaps not, but it might explain why the Croatian government was trying it on.
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