Officials Respond to Serbian President’s “Provocations”

By 11 September 2018

ZAGREB, September 11, 2018 - The Croatian government on Monday dismissed as futile provocations Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's statement that former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević was a great leader and that the Croatian coat-of-arms that is displayed in Knin today was never there before, noting that those provocations could not change historical facts.

It is a historical fact that in the early 1990s Croatia was attacked and was a victim of the aggression of Milošević's Great Serbian regime, the government said in a statement. "The victorious Croatian Army defeated that regime in the Homeland War, liberating the entire occupied territory, including Knin," the statement said. "A lasting symbol of that victory is the Croatian flag on the fortress overlooking Knin, a 1,000-year-old symbol of Croatian statehood," the government said.

If the wars of conquest waged by the Slobodan Milošević regime are "the best of intentions" for the incumbent president of Serbia, then the building of destroyed bridges between Serbia and the victims of its aggression will require much more effort and time, said the government.

"The position of Serbia as the loser who is responsible for so many tragedies suffered by almost all neighbouring peoples must surely be difficult. The sooner Serbia, its leadership and public come to terms with that and adopt European values, the sooner will true reconciliation and good neighbourly relations come into being," the government said in the statement.

Addressing ethnic Serbs at a rally in Kosovo on Sunday, Vučić said that Serbia had had an illusion of being great and powerful, and that Milosevic had been "a great leader." "But his wishes were unrealistic," he said, adding that Serbs had paid a big price for that, without becoming bigger. "When you lose a war, you pay the price. The highest one," he said. Illustrating the consequences of the wars for Serbs, he said that "the Croatian checkerboard flag today waves in Knin, where it had never waved before, there are 50% fewer Serbs in Sarajevo, and only a handful of Serbs live in Priština."

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Monday she would not stoop to the level of commenting on Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's speech in Kosovo, adding that he was not relevant for Croatia.

Asked by reporters if she had discussed Vučić's speech with Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen, who is on a two-day visit to Croatia, Grabar-Kitarović said that had not been a topic. "We didn't talk about President Vučić's speech. I don't see why he would be relevant for Croatia at all. Why should Mr Vučić impose topics in Croatia? We have our issues, we are dealing with Croatia, we are dealing with Croatia's journey to prosperity. We want good relations with Serbia, with the Serbian people," Grabar-Kitarović said.

She said she also wanted the stability and safety of the Serb community in Croatia and the Croat community in Serbia. "But I won't let Mr Vučić impose any topics that I will address nor will I stoop to the level of commenting on his speeches because I think they best speak for themselves."