(E) Britain ratifies Croatia's EU association agreement
Britain ratifies Croatia's EU association agreement
03 September 2004
Britain on Friday ratified an EU association agreement with Croatia that it had previously refused to sign owing to concerns about Zagreb's alleged lack of cooperation with the UN war crimes court at The Hague, the British embassy said.
"Croatia's future is in the EU and Croatia will have our full support as it tackles the next step in its journey towards full membership," an embassy statement quoted British Minister for Europe Denis MacShane as saying.
"I hope that Croatia's success will encourage others in the region to tackle the necessary reforms."
Britain's concerns about cooperation with The Hague centered on one of the tribunal's most wanted fugitives, retired Croatian general Ante Gotovina.
Zagreb claims the 48-year-old Gotovina, wanted for war crimes against Serbs during Croatia's 1991-95 independence war, has problabely fled abroad. He has been on the run since mid-2001 when the UN court charged him.
MacShane said "it is vital that Ante Gotovina appears before the tribunal in The Hague as soon as possible."
Croatia received EU candidate status in June and is to start accession talks early next year. It hopes to join the bloc in 2007, along with Bulgaria and Romania.