[JURIST] Former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader was arrested in Austria on Friday pursuant to an arrest warrant issued by Croatia. Sanader, who was elected to parliament after he stepped down from the prime minister position in 2009, stands accused of corruption, abuse of power and fraud for taking nearly €4 million from public firms and state institutions [Croatian Times report]. Those charges were filed against the former official after the Croatian parliament voted to rescind his immunity from prosecution [AFP report], to which he was entitled as a member of parliament. Sanader had left Croatia immediately before that vote [BBC report], leading to speculation that he was fleeing from possible prosecution. An Austrian judge has ordered that Sanader be held for two weeks in Austria pending his extradition to Croatia.
Croatian officials have been under serious pressure to the tackle the issue of corruption in order to gain accession [EU materials] to the EU by 2012. The prosecution of individuals for organized crime and war crimes has been one of the major issues faced by Croatia in its accession process. In 2008, Amnesty International called on the EU to use Croatia’s status as a candidate country to ensure that the Croatian government actively investigates and prosecutes [JURIST report] suspected war criminals. AI criticized the slow pace of war crimes investigations and noted that Croatian courts have mostly focused on crimes allegedly committed by ethnic Serbs. In March 2005, the EU suspended entry talks [JURIST report] on the grounds that Croatia was failing to fully cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia [JURIST news archive] investigating war crimes in the area.