Twenty days ago, at the inauguration of Aleksandar Vučić as the new President of Serbia, Croatia and Serbia managed to relax tensions in their relations. But, this is certain to change in the next twenty days, when the 22nd anniversary of the Operation Storm will be marked, reports Večernji List on 16 July 2017.
In the past years, this date has made relations between the two countries more challenging and has occasionally led to more radical political conflicts. Two years ago, Serbia even proclaimed an alternative “holiday,” the Memorial Day for Victims of Storm, which is marked on 4 August, when the Operation Storm began in 1995. In Croatia, Storm is celebrated on 5 August, when Croatian forces liberated Knin, the capital of the self-proclaimed Serb state.
In Croatia, the day is marked as the Day of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving and the Day of Croatian Defenders. Croatia has resisted pressures from Serbia that it should not celebrate the event which is a sad occasion for Serbs. For years, Serbia even tried to put diplomatic pressure on other states, especially members of the European Union, to ban Croatia the right the celebrate its holiday. Of course, it is entirely impossible that Croatia would ever be ready to accept such a demand. On the other hand, commemorations for the Serbian Memorial Day have regularly brought together Vučić, President of the Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik, the Patriarch of the Serbian Orthodox Church and others.
The day before last year's celebrations in Knin, Vučić said that “There will not be another Storm, Serbia will not allow it.” Since it was easy to read that message as a threat of possible military intervention on the territory of Croatia, Vučić added, “We are not threatening anyone, but we are saying that we will always have the power to protect our people.”
Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović spoke the day after in Knin. She said that the Operation Storm represented an honourable victory for a just goal. “It must be known that Storm was politically legitimate, ethically pure and military brilliantly operation carried out on the Croatian state territory.”
These are the positions which Croatia certainly will not change, just like Serbia will probably not change its opinion. This year, we will almost certainly see the same order of events, as well as speakers, but the details will enable us to detect in which direction the relations between Croatia and Serbia are moving.