Croatia's foreign minister Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said that transferring a top Croatian war crimes suspect to the U.N. tribunal was never a precondition for entry talks with the European Union.
Minister Kitarovic assured EU lawmakers, however, that her country would do everything it could to deliver Gen. Ante Gotovina to the U.N. court in The Hague, Netherlands.
"The criteria for EU membership was never defined as Gotovina being in The Hague," Kitarovic said in an address to the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee in Brussels.
Nevertheless, the EU in March postponed entry talks with Croatia - a prelude to eventual membership - and demanded that Croatia first capture and extradite Gotovina, who is charged with committing wartime atrocities.
Croatia has said that Gotovina fled the country after his 2001 indictment and so was no longer under its jurisdiction. Nevertheless, an investigation into Gotovina's whereabouts was making progress, Kitarovic said.
"There are specific moves on a daily basis in order to have personnel changes, to have a more efficient police, to have a more efficient intelligence service, and of course in breaking down the possible network, the possible support to Gen. Gotovina," Kitarovic said.
The U.N. war crimes tribunal has accused Gotovina of allegedly masterminding the killing of at least 150 Serbs and the expulsion of some 150,000 others during Croatia's 1991-95 war. More than 15,000 were killed in the fighting between Croatians and rebel minority Serbs, who opposed the country's independence from the former Yugoslav federation.