Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Milanović: Croatia, too, Could Have Indicted Vučić, but Didn't

ZAGREB, 25 May 2022 - President Zoran Milanović repeated on Wednesday that Serbia should watch its actions and that he was only asking for "a fair relationship" between the two countries, adding that Croatia could have indicted Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić but made a political decision not to do it.

"Look at what is happening to Sweden which wants to join NATO. Maybe it had reason to be arrogant towards Turkey over the past 30 years but now it is asking for mercy. So, watch what you say and do because what goes around comes around," Milanović said in a message to Serbia.

The Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor's Office has issued an indictment against Croatian Air Force officers Vladimir Mikac, Zdenko Radulj, Željko Jelenić and Danijel Borović for war crimes against Serb civilians because on 7 and 8 August 1995, during Operation Storm, they allegedly ordered a missile attack on a refugee convoy outside Bosanski Petrovac and in Svodna, near Novi Grad, northwestern Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to the indictment, 13 people were killed in the attack, including six children, and 24 were wounded.

Milanović on Tuesday said that the indictment would cost Serbia, which Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić today interpreted as a threat.

"Who is Serbia's prime minister? Is Brnabić still the prime minister?... I have not seen her in Krk for a long time, she is welcome," Milanović said in an allusion to the fact that Brnabić's family from her father's side hails from the northern Adriatic island.

Recalling the time when he was prime minister, Milanović said that "Vučić's speech in Glina (in 1995) was a criminal act", but a political decision was made for Croatia not to indict him.

"Vučić did not kill anyone, that's true, but his rhetoric at the time cost many people their lives and souls," he added.

Criticising Serbia for accusing Croatian pilots of crimes, Milanović said he was only asking Serbia to act in a fair manner, recalling that Croatia was a member "of the associations Serbia aspires to join."

He added that there was no need for the Serbian PM "to be nervous" because he was also speaking in Serbia's favour.

Milanović repeated that some conditions set by the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts (HAZU) for Serbia's EU accession are "exaggerated" and that "one should refrain from humiliating anyone" but that the neighbouring country should "be careful about what it does" considering its EU membership bid.

Stoltenberg cannot change anything

Milanović does not share the Croatian government's position on Finland and Sweden's NATO membership candidacy and wants Croatia to make support to their bid conditional on the reform of Bosnia and Herzegovina's election law.

Milanović and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenbrg spoke over the telephone on Tuesday, and the reason was Milanović's letter to NATO member-countries regarding the status of BiH Croats.

"He cannot change anything in that regard, he is technical personnel. He is expected to distribute the letter, anyone who wanted to has now read the letter and that's it," Milanović said.

He added that the NATO secretary-general was not the one making decisions but implementing them and that "it is his task to listen to the Americans", with the USA "being the boss", however, being Croatia's president, he was fighting "for his own."

Milanović said that Stoltenberg did not share his view that Finland and Sweden's NATO accession should be linked to the amendment of BiH's election law but that he called for taking into account Turkey's reservations to the two countries' accession.

When Turkey presents its demands, then that's not a problem, Milanović said, describing his conversation with the NATO secretary-general as friendly.

He again criticised "the apathy and misery of Croatian politics" with regard to the protection of national interests.

"Let's be clear, Bosnia and Herzegovina does not belong to Croatia... I do not want anyone to think that we act the same way as Budapest... with its constant insistence that this used to be Hungary. This used to be Austria as well, from Pula to Dubrovnik... yet you do not hear Austrians say that this was Austria's sea because they are mature," Milanović said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

Milanović Reiterates Idea to Mediate in Bosnia with Vučić and Erdogan

ZAGREB, 4 Nov 2021 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović on Thursday reiterated the idea for representatives of the three constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina to sit down together with him and the presidents of Serbia and Turkey "because in such a setting a satisfactory solution can be found" to the crisis in that country.

"I would like to see Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan as some sort of guarantors. There will be misunderstandings, but let's see what can be done for Bosnia and Herzegovina to remain whole," Milanović told the press in Zagreb.

He believes that "only in such a setting can a satisfactory solution be found." 

"Each side, and that means the three ethnic sides, would have someone they trust as well as someone they do not fully trust. I'm not sure how much the Bosniaks trust Vučić, but the Serbs do. That is enough for me," Milanović said.

The president recently called Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to coordinate the policy towards BiH, to which Plenković retorted that Milanović was "a staunch advocate of Željko Komišić whom he supported against the HDZ member," and that now he seems to be "mates with Dodik."

Milanović responded by saying that the prime minister needs to explain why he is making statements in Brussels that "are detrimental to the Croats."

"I am saying we need to maintain a common front, not in discipline but in views. Each one of our disputes in Croatia causes bitterness and nausea in Mostar, Široki Brijeg, and Vitez," said Milanović.

During the EU-Western Balkans summit in October, Plenković said the EU was following Dodik's statements about the functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina "with caution and disapproval".

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

President Milanović: "I think Serbian President Vučić is Proud of His Wartime Role"

ZAGREB, 22 Sept, 2021 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović reiterated in New York on Tuesday that his current Serbian counterpart, Aleksandar Vučić, had incited to war and that he was probably proud of that.

In a talk at Columbia University on Monday, Milanović said Vučić had been a warmonger, which set off a storm in Serbia.

"You can't ignore which roles some people had in our region in the last 30 years. Blood was spilt, there was arson, killing, and some people incited to that," he told the press on Tuesday, adding that "Croatia has gentlemanly let it go but won't bury its head in the sand as many in Serbia are doing."

"I think Vučić was proud of what he was doing. This is something that should be said from time to time, especially when someone... sends on a daily basis his political holograms, spokesmen and agitators to say on his behalf whatever pops into their heads. That's dirty and methodologically cheap," Milanović said.

Vučić said on Monday that Milanović was saying such things about him, "shallow and low insults", because Croatia is jealous of Serbia's economic success. He said Milanović was bothered by the fact that this year Serbia would surpass Croatia in GDP "by a 300 to 600 million euro margin."

"Serbia has a bigger total GDP even than Luxembourg. But Croatia's and Serbia's GDPs per capita are not even close. Serbia is much closer to Albania there," said Vučić. "In terms of general development, Serbia is not at Croatia's level. Life in Croatia is better and richer than in Serbia by all parametres."

Friendly talk on Bosnia with Erdogan

Milanović spoke to the press after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying they had a friendly talk on Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"What I say in public, I say at such meetings," he said, adding that Turkey's foreign and defence ministers were also at the "quite open and very pleasant" meeting.

"What I underlined to Mr Erdogan is that there is no one in Croatia who will throw around stories that Mostar and Herzegovina will separate, which we hear from some others about some other parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina. And that's not smart nor necessary. In Croatia, no one advocates such a policy and such outcomes nor thinks that," Milanović said.

While in New York, he was to have met with UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres, but the meeting was cancelled because Milanović had more important commitments.

That wasn't even supposed to be a meeting but a photo op and a five-minute talk, Milanović said. "At that moment, I assessed that I had something more productive, an informal meeting concerning the region, state business."

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

 

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Branko Bačić: Vučić's Call is a Provocation, Illegal to Hang Out Another Country's Flag

ZAGREB, 14 Sept, 2021 - Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) whip Branko Bačić said on Tuesday that the call by Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić to "Serbs in all Serb lands" to hang out their Serb flags on 15 September, wherever they may be, is inappropriate, unacceptable and a provocation.

"I consider that to be a provocation and inappropriate, all the more so, because it is in violation of the law," Bačić told reporters in the Croatian Parliament, citing the Public Law and Order Act which says that displaying other countries' flags is not allowed.

I expect the Serb community to respect the law

"I expect that our fellow citizens and members of the Serb community in Croatia will respect its laws," said Bačić, underscoring that it is inappropriate and unacceptable for the "president of Serbia to call on citizens of Croatia, notably members of the Serb community in Croatia, to hang out Serbian flags in Croatia on 15 September."

Asked if the police would monitor that, Bačić said that the Croatian police perform their duties according to the law and that he believes that this will be the case tomorrow too.

"It is not particularly hard to check if someone has displayed the flag of another country in their window," said Bačić.

He rejected claims from the opposition that the government should have reacted more sharply to Vučić's call and that it did not do so because of the cooperation with its coalition partner, the Independent Serb Democratic Party (SDSS).

He underlined that HDZ is cooperating properly with its coalition partners. "The ruling majority is stable but that does not mean that we will pass over this kind of call, merely because we are in a coalition with members of national minorities," he said.

Bačić would not comment on a statement by SDSS MP Milorad Pupovac that all Serb minority institutions should hang out the Serbian flag alongside the Croatian flag and that he saw Vučić's call as an encouragement and not as an imposition.

Ruling majority is stable

Ahead of the autumn sitting of the Sabor, Bačić said that the ruling majority is stable and that the government has full support in addressing numerous challenges, from economic recovery and the fight against the pandemic to the reconstruction of earthquake-struck areas.

He expects the government to adopt amendments to the Reconstruction Act by the end of the month to accelerate the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb and the Banovina region.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 3 August 2021

Operation Storm Panel By YIHR: What to Expect From 2021 Commemoration

August 3, 2021 - The Operation Storm Panel by YIHR will bring history experts together to discuss the progress in Operation Storm (Oluja) commemorations and future relations between Serbia and Croatia. The audience is welcomed to participate too.

The 26th anniversary of the Operation Storm (Oluja) is afoot. Marked on August 5, this operation back in 1995 returned every bit of occupied territory back to Croatia, apart from Eastern Slavonia. The event took place during the 1990s in the war Croats refer to as the Homeland War (Croatian: Domovinski rat).

In the light of the anniversary that is set to take place this Thursday, the Croatian branch of Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR) has organised an online panel entitled ''The 26th anniversary of Operation Storm: Challenges and obstacles for reconciliation'' this Wednesday.

As the YIHR website announces, the panel, which will be held via Zoom, will feature a debate moderated by the initiative's coordinator of programmes for justice and reconciliation, Branka Vierda, while the speakers will be Jelena Đureinović and Sven Milekić.

Dr. sc. Jelena Đureinović is a historian and coordinator of ''Transformation and Eastern Europe'', at the Austrian University of Vienna. She earned a Ph.D. in modern and contemporary history at Giessen University in Germany. Her fields of interest are the politics and culture of memory in Yugoslavia and the Ex-YU area. In 2020, Routledge published her book ''Politics of Memory of the Second World War in Contemporary Serbia: Collaboration, Resistance and Retribution'', and she cooperates with a Humanitarian Law Centre in Belgrade as memorialisation programme coordinator.

Sven Milekić is a scholar of the Science Foundation Fund Ireland and a Ph.D. candidate at Ireland's Maynooth University. As part of his research, he is interested in founding and developing veteran associations and exploring how they formed a dominant narrative regarding the war back in the 90's. In 2010, he got his MA at the Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Zagreb. He cooperates with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), where up until 2018, Milekić worked as a journalist, covering topics including justice, politics, economy, and society. Until 2014, he worked as a coordinator for the Transitional Justice Programme at YIHR.

Established back in late 2008 by a group of young human rights activists in Croatia in consultations and with the support of the regional organisation, YIHR is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation that claims it is convinced that the sanctity of human life is the sole foundation and fundamental value of every open and prosperous society.

''To live in responsible and accountable societies that have learned the lessons of the past and strive towards a positive future based on the respect of human rights, civic values and the rule of law,'' states YIHR when describing its vision.

The Operation Storm panel (for which you must register in order to participate) will discuss expectations for this year's anniversary in both Croatia and Serbia, symbolic gestures and actual social change, a new law on civil casualties of the war, perspectives on the same law in Serbia, as well as on perspectives for war crime processes and the concept of ''isolated incidents'' which could be deemed war crimes during and after the operation. Other topics that include building mutual trust and good relations in the future will also include questions and participation from the audience.

''Last year's anniversary was marked by changes in the official policy towards Operation Storm, known in Croatia as Victory Day (Dan Pobjede) and as the Day of Homeland Gratitude (Dan Domovinske Zahvalnosti). August 2020 saw the public space filled with messages about reconciliation, dialogue, the the importance of facts, condolences for war crime victims, and appeals for a conversation about different views on Operation Storm in both Croatia and Serbia,'' they recalled from YIHR.

They added that the speech of Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on last year's anniversary can be thanked for the above. Plenković also visited Varivode where Croatian soldiers killed nine Serbian civilians. President Zoran Milanović, along with veteran Minister Tomo Medved, visited Grubori, where six Serbian civilians were killed. At the same time, Boris Milošević's attendance during last year's Operation Storm commemoration was the first time in history that a high representative of the Serbian minority in Croatia attended the ceremony.

The downside, however, as YIHR warned, was the medal ceremony for the special police that was lead by Zlatan Mijo Jelić, who is under investigation for allegedly committing crimes against humanity against civilians and prisoners of war.

Meanwhile, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić organised last year's commemoration of what he refers to as the victims of Operation Storm, but without taking responsibility for denying protection to the Serbian refugees from Croatia and for the forced mobilisation of the said refugees.

With several downsides, but many upsides in Croatian terms when approaching this enormously important historical event, this year's anniversary will show whether or not the positive progress will continue or if the overall unusual year of 2020 was a mere one off.

Learn more about Croatian politics and history from the 1990s on our TC page.

For more about science in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić Says Croatia Trying To Humiliate Serbia With Participation in Kosovo Force

ZAGREB, 7 May, 2021- Serbia wants to have good and fair relations with all neighbouring countries but Croatia's actions and statements by its officials are not expressions of respect for Serbia but an attempt to humiliate it, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Friday.

In a comment on the statement by Croatia's foreign minister that Croatia would increase the number of its troops in the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) because that was important for maintaining peace in the region and on disputes triggered by Serbian Minister of the Interior Aleksandar Vulin's statements, Vučić said that Croatia could have refused to serve in KFOR but opted to do the contrary "in order to additionally humiliate Serbia."

Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry stated earlier in the day that Serbia's strong reaction to the planned deployment of a greater number of Croatian troops in Kosovo was "a hysterical speculation" intended to divert attention from the introduction of the Bunjevci dialect as an official language in the northern Serbian town of Subotica, which it considers an attempt to fragment the Croat community in Serbia.

The Serbian president today wondered "why anyone would need to participate in the KFOR mission or brag about it", alluding to Croatia's involvement in the international peace mission.

"They could have refused to take part in KFOR, but they intentionally made that decision to additionally humiliate Serbia. We get the message," Vučić told Serbian reporters during a visit to Obrenovac.

In a message to Serbs in Kosovo, he said that they "should not worry" and that he would soon talk with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, stressing Serbia's commitment to avoid conflicts and maintain peace.

"My message to all those who think that there will be new Storms, new pogroms and expulsions - I guarantee that that will not happen," Vučić said in reference to the 1995 Croatian military and police operation that liberated areas previously held by local Serbs who rebelled against the Croatian authorities.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Minority Leaders Push for Introducing Croatian as Official Language in Vojvodina

ZAGREB, 6 March, 2021 - The Croatian National Council (HNV) leader Jasna Vojnić has sent a proposal to Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić that the language of the ethnic Croatian minority should be recognised as an official language in the whole territory of the northern province of Vojvodina.

The HNV web portal reported on Friday evening about this initiative launched by the leadership of ethnic Croats in Serbia in response to the plans of the local authorities in the northern Vojvodina city of Subotica to approve the official use of the Bunjevački vernacular spoken by members of a local community who identify themselves as non-Croat Bunjevci.

Under the current law, local government units must grant the official use of an ethnic minority's language and script if that minority accounts for at least 15% of the local population. According to the 2011 census, 13,553 citizens, or 9.57% of Subotica residents, identify themselves as Bunjevci.

Despite the fact that the size of the Bunjevci community did not reach the 15% share in the population requirement and despite the fact that this vernacular does not have a status of a language according to linguistic standards, Subotica Mayor Stevan Bakić of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) moved a proposal to amend the city's statute to introduce the Bunjevac dialect and script as an official language.

The HNV leader Vojnić says that being encouraged by this example of such positive discrimination which is applied in the case of the Bunjevci community, the Croatian community "is looking forward to future initiatives of local office-holders to help minorities to exercise similar rights in settlements where ethnic Croats live."

In this context she recalls that in the city of Sombor, Croats make up 8.39% of the local population, and  in the municipalities of Apatin and Bač 10.42% and 8.39% respectively. Therefore, following the precedent of the positive discrimination towards Subotica non-Croat Bunjevci, Vojnić expects Serbia's authorities to apply such positive discrimination rules in the whole of Vojvodina towards ethnic Croats.

Another ethnic Croat leader Tomislav Žigmanov recently warned that the relevant Slavic or comparative linguistics literature does not call the Bunjevac dialect a language.

Croatia's Ambassador to Serbia, Hidajet Biščević, has said in an interview with Hrvatska Riječ that the initiative fort the recognition of the Bunjevci vernacular as an official language is legally unfounded and that it also contains undesirable negative political and social consequences for the interests of the Croat ethnic minority in Serbia.

The diplomat also said that the initiative is contrary to the agreement between Croatia and Serbia on the mutual protection of ethnic minorities.

In the meantime Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry sent a protest note through its embassy.

"The Bunjevci dialect is not a language. It belongs to the new Stokavian-Ikavian dialect, it is one of the dialects of the Croatian language. The Bunjevci people in Hungary are also a sub-ethnic group who call their language Croatian," Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said at  news conference last Thursday, explaining the reasons for the protest note.

Around 16,000 Bunjevci who deny their Croatian origins live in the north of the Bačka region. They are represented by the Bunjevci National Council, whose leaders are close to the  Vučić's SNS party.

The remaining majority of the Bunjevci, including the leadership of the Vojvodina Croats, formally identify themselves as Bunjevci Croats.

In the 2011 census, nearly 58,000 people in Serbia identified themselves as Croats.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Serbia and Croatia Express Readiness to Improve Relations

ZAGREB, October 17, 2020 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman have expressed a readiness to intensify dialogue and improve relations between their countries for the benefit of both nations and the Croat minority in Serbia and the Serb minority in Croatia.

The Serbian president has expressed a willingness to ensure "representation of the Croats in the provincial and in local parliaments in Serbia in the way Croatia has ensured for its Serb minority," Grlic Radman told a joint press conference after bilateral talks with Vucic on Friday evening.

The meeting was held after the formal handover of the birth house of Josip Jelacic (1801-1859), the Ban (governor) of Croatia, in Petrovaradin to the Croat community in Serbia.

"We are ready, already next week when the formation of the new government begins, to make access to local administrations for members of the Croatian community in Vojvodina considerably easier," Vucic confirmed.

Grlic Radman described their meeting as "affirmative, good and substantial."

"Peace, stability and good neighbourly relations are of the utmost importance. I think there is a good will on both sides that we need to intensify the dialogue," Grlic Radman said, adding that the relationship between the two countries can be improved.

He said that efforts should be stepped up in the search for missing persons from the 1991-1995 war, adding that both countries were looking for 1,869 people in total.

"We have opened a new chapter of cooperation. We see the past through different glasses, but we live in the present and need to define the future. We are oriented towards each other," the Croatian foreign minister said.

Noting that the talks were "neither pleasant nor easy" for either of them, Vucic said that such talks are the best because regardless of the differences of views on the past, steps have been agreed that will benefit both the Croats in Serbia and the Serbs in Croatia.

"It is good for our nations for us to come closer together rather than grow apart, and there are many reasons for that. We are both much smaller than we think of ourselves," Vucic said, stressing the need to preserve peace and improve ties between the Serbs and Croats.

Agreeing with the need to intensify the search for missing persons from the war, he said that the number of Serbs unaccounted for since the war was not smaller than that of missing Croats.

"This is a civilisational and, above all, humanitarian issue, whether someone's mother will be able to light a candle on her son's grave, regardless of whether her son is a Serb or a Croat. We need to make progress, that is important for the sake of those families. We need to intensify our efforts, and that's what we also expect from the Croatian side," the Serbian president said.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Vučić Accepts Credentials from New Croatian Ambassador to Serbia

ZAGREB, May 12, 2020 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Tuesday accepted the credentials of the new Croatian Ambassador, Hidajet Biščević, saying that he expects the two countries to overcome problems originating in their different understanding of the past, and to commit to developing good neighbourly relations.

Vučić emphasised that he would continue to promote the region's stability, pursuing a policy of peace and cooperation, the Office of the President of Serbia stated in a press release.

Welcoming the new ambassador, the Serbian president expressed hope that Biščević would "contribute to more stable and substantive relations between the two countries with his considerable diplomatic experience".

Biščević emphasised that he was ready to contribute, on the basis of European values, to the promotion of relations between Serbia and Croatia, which, he said, were "very important for regional stability and the progress of the region."

Considering the fact that Serbia's goal is EU membership, Vucic stated that he welcomed the fact that Croatia had kept the topic of enlargement on the agenda during its presidency of the Council of the EU, which resulted in the recent virtual EU-Western Balkans summit.

Biščević said that Croatia had shown special responsibility towards the Western Balkans and support for the region's European journey during its presidency.

Vučić and Biščević agreed that both countries should prioritise economic cooperation.

The Croatian ambassador said that he had prepared proposals for cooperation projects in the areas of infrastructure and energy, such as the restoration of navigation along the Sava and Danube rivers, while Vučić said that the proposals would be examined and implemented when possible.

Vučić and Biščević expressed hope that the work of joint commissions for solving outstanding issues, including the issue of missing persons, would resume as soon as the epidemiological situation allows it.

Vučić also said that Serbia would continue to improve the status of the Croat community in Serbia, and that he was in talks with Croatia's state leadership about the status of Croatian Serbs.

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

Friday, 8 November 2019

Vučić Hasn't Decided Yet about Participating in EPP Congress in Zagreb

ZAGREB, November 8, 2019 - Serbian President and Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) leader Aleksandar Vučić said on Thursday he had not decided yet whether to go to Zagreb to a European People's Party Congress, saying there was hysteria in a part of the Croatian public about it.

Speaking for Serbia's TV Pink in Geneva, where he was attending a meeting on the Western Balkans, Vučić said he still could not confirm his participation in the congress because his associates were "strategically planning it" and that he would consult them on a decision next week.

Vučić said "this hysteria in a part of (the Croatian) public" about his possible participation in the EPP congress appeared among those "who have never been in favour of regional cooperation and good Serbia-Croatia relations."

"I can't talk about (Croatian PM) Plenković, (Croatian President) Grabar-Kitarović and other normal people in Croatia, but some have a constant need and desire for Serbia to be humiliated and as weak as possible."

The SNS is an associated EPP member without voting rights.

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

Page 1 of 9

Search