The European Commissioner in charge of European neighbourhood policy and enlargement negotiations has called on Croatia and Montenegro to avoid misusing open bilateral issues in the EU accession process.

Commissioner Johannes Hahn was referring to the long-running dispute between the two countries over the ‘Boka Navy’ heritage.

As reported by European Western Balkans online, MEP Marijana Petir asked the Commissioner declare on Montenegro’s ‘illegal ownership’ of the ‘Boka Navy’, since in her opinion, it belongs to Croatia.

The Commissioner pointed to an official EU document from February related to the ‘Credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans countries’. It underlines that the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights remain the topmost priority for all countries negotiating to accede the EU, including Montenegro.

As for the ‘Boka Navy’ issue, the EC noticed that, according to the international legislation, identification and protection of intangible cultural heritage belong to the state on whose territory the aforementioned intangible cultural heritage is situated.

“These issues are determined by UNESCO’s Convention concerning the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage. Even though some its provisions are present in the EU legislation, the EU didn’t sign the Convention. Therefore, the EC cannot interfere in procedures for recognition of UNESCO’s heritage,” said Hahn.