Croatia and Serbia Far from Agreement on Border

By 21 February 2019

ZAGREB, February 21, 2019 - A year after Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and her Serbian counterpart Aleksandar Vučić met in Zagreb and agreed that the two countries should try to reach an agreement on the border in the next two years, there is still no agreement between Croatia and Serbia on the matter, with their positions being the farthest with regard to the border on the Danube River.

In February 2018 the two presidents agreed that Croatia and Serbia would try to reach an agreement on the border in the next two years and that if they did not succeed, they would address an international tribunal.

The Serbian president said at the time that Zagreb and Belgrade had opposed positions on the border.

According to officials in Belgrade, even though there has been some progress with regard to the land border, Croatia and Serbia are still miles from an agreement on the border on the Danube River.

A State Secretary at the Serbian Foreign Ministry, Nemanja Stevanović, said in a recent interview with the Serbian news agency Tanjug that the biggest obstacle to the agreement were two river islands on the Danube - the Šarengrad and Vukovar islands - and that Zagreb insisted on a solution that was contrary to international law.

In a comment for Hina, the Croatian Foreign Ministry dismissed the claim about the violation of international law, reiterating that the border of Croatia as a Yugoslav republic had become its state border with its declaration of independence.

"The positions and demands of the Republic of Croatia are firmly founded in and are in line with international law," the Croatian Foreign Ministry said, adding that Croatia wanted a future bilateral border agreement to incorporate "the 1991 border of the former republic which on the day Croatia declared independence became an international border between Croatia and Serbia."

In other words, Croatia wants the basis for an agreement to be the cadastre. "This was also confirmed in the position of the Badinter commission," it added. It noted that the border between the two republics had never been on the Danube.

"The border between the two former republics, in line with both Croatia and Serbia's legislation, was defined precisely and it was not on the Danube but rather stretched, both in Srijem and in Baranja, along the outer borders of municipalities of both republics that were also the outer borders of those municipalities' cadastres in 1991," the Croatian ministry said.

It also stressed that in the continuation of negotiations it expected "Serbia to abide by its general position, made public on a number of occasions, on the need to respect the borders between the former republics as one of the main principles of international law, and to apply them in defining its position for the entire border with Croatia because at present it accepts that principle for only one part of the border, in the area of Srijem."

Stevanović nonetheless notes that at a meeting of the inter-state commission for borders in 2018 certain progress was made with regard to the land border.

The Croatian side underlines that the border commission held a meeting in June 2018 in Zagreb at its invitation and that a meeting of an expert working group was held at the end of 2018. "We now expect an invitation from the Serbian side to a new meeting, and we hope it will be held soon," the Croatian Foreign Ministry said.

More news about the relations between Croatia and Serbia can be found in the Politics section.