From: Reuters
Published February 18, 2008 05:50 AM

EU warns Croatia again on fisheries zone

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union stepped up pressure on Croatia on Monday not to apply a protected fisheries zone to its EU neighbors.

The ecological and fisheries zone came into force on January 1, theoretically excluding fishing vessels from Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency, and Italy from Croatian waters. So far Croatia has done nothing to enforce the zone, aimed at preserving fish stocks and limiting pollution.

EU foreign ministers stopped short of suspending part of Zagreb's accession negotiations but made clear they were keeping the issue under review and asked the European Commission to hold further talks and report back to them at a forthcoming meeting.

"The council recalls its conclusions of December 2007, calling on Croatia to fully respect the agreement of June 4, 2004, and not to apply any aspect of the Ecological and Fisheries Protection Zone to the EU member states until a common agreement in the EU spirit is found," ministers said in a statement adopted without discussion at their monthly meeting.

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"The council calls again on Croatia to live up to its commitments in this regard."

Croatian President Stjepan Mesic last week challenged the government of Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to choose between the fisheries zone and the country's European future.

"It is high time we chose -- ZERP (the zone) or the EU," Mesic said. "We can say we'll enforce the zone and we are not interested in the EU. But if that's what we want, someone needs to come out and say so openly."

The Croatian government has called for talks with Slovenia, Italy and the EU but set no date for a meeting.

(Additional reporting by Zoran Radisavljevic in Zagreb; Reporting by Paul Taylor; editing by Alison Williams)

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