INTERVIEW WITHaDRAZEN BOSNJAKOVIC, CROATIA'S MINISTER FOR JUSTICE : CROATIA'S JUDICIARY SYSTEM READY FOR ACCESSION BY YEAR END

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Ahead of the publication by the European Commission of Croatia's progress report toward accession, on 9 November, the country's Minister for Justice, Drazen Bosnjakovic, expresses confidence that Zagreb would manage to wrap up all the work in the area of judiciary and fundamental rights by the end of this year, paving the way for the chapter to be closed in the first half of next year. According to Bosnjakovic, Croatia has not only implemented all required laws in this area but is well advanced in their implementation - a necessary precondition for a positive assessment of the country's efforts.

How much progress have you achieved since the opening of talks on Chapter 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights), in June 2010?

We have achieved great progress since the opening of talks in June. Already before opening Chapter 23 we were working on the closing benchmarks. So, in fact the date of the opening of the chapter coincided with the final phase of the implementation of our activities towards meeting the closing benchmarks. Therefore I truly believe that we will fulfil all the conditions by the end of this year.

The European Commission underlines that before giving its nod for closing Chapter 23 it would thoroughly check whether Croatia has fully implemented all the required laws. Can you provide such a proof?

We continuously provide evidence that we are not only effective in passing the laws in the parliament but also in implementing them. At the meetings that we have with the European Commission we always provide information on our activities and we also file the regular monthly reports on our activities to the EU executive. So, a lot of things covered by the chapter have already been implemented. We are well aware that it is not enough and sufficient to only pass laws in the parliament: we also have to implement them. For example, regarding the rationalisation of the court network, we have already ended the process at the municipal and misdemeanour courts.

Do you feel optimistic that talks on Chapter 23 can be wrapped up in the first half of 2011?

I'm a genuine optimist. I firmly believe that we will meet all the requirements as planned and that the talks will be concluded in the first half of next year.

The opening of talks on the judiciary and fundamental rights has been delayed over your country's insufficient cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Has this problem been fully resolved?

As you know, the ICTY issued a decision recognising that Croatia is in fact cooperating with the tribunal. But regardless of that decision, for us there are absolutely no barriers for continuing the cooperation on whatever issues may occur at the table in the future. …