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.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Will Serbian President Vučić Give a Speech in Zagreb?

ZAGREB, November 7, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday refuted speculation that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić would deliver a speech in the Croatian parliament during a European People's Party congress, saying Vučić had the right to attend the congress because he was invited by EPP president Joseph Daul.

He was commenting on media reports that Vučić would speak in parliament because he is scheduled to speak at the EPP congress taking place in Zagreb on November 19-21.

"It's not good to say lies which others then relay. This is very important for freedom of the press and professional reporting," Plenković told reporters.

He is confident there will be no drama about Vučić’s arrival, although reporters remarked that there were protests when Vučić last visited Zagreb in February 2018. "Today we will be in Geneva together. We see each other at many international meetings."

"He and his party are an associate member of the EPP... He was invited by president Daul. If he wants to come, he'll come," Plenković said.

He said the EPP congress would be the biggest meeting of any European political group ever held in Croatia.

Plenković went on to say that the EPP Political Assembly would meet in parliament, "a body which meets every four to six weeks."

The congress will be held at the Arena sports centre, which can host the 2,000 prime ministers or party presidents from the EPP group that have been invited. "Many have confirmed their arrival. As far as I know, Mr Vučić hasn't yet."

Asked if it was right for Vucic to come to Zagreb a day after the anniversary of the fall of Vukovar in the 1990s war, Plenković said he could not see why those two events were being linked given that the date of the EPP congress was defined two years ago. "Why are we mystifying something? I appeal to all of you to stop making something that is normal not normal."

After N1 television said Vučić would speak in the Croatian parliament, Plenković's HDZ party too said Vucic would not speak at a session of the EPP Presidency and Political Assembly to be held in parliament on November 19.

Vučić is scheduled to speak at the Arena centre the next day as one of 60 speakers, according to the official mobile app of the congress.

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

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Vučić Admits Asking Grabar-Kitarović Not to Mention "Great Serbia Aggression"

ZAGREB, August 21, 2019 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has told a local Serbian media outlet that the Zagreb-based Nacional newspaper has reported correctly that he requested Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović to not keep using the collocation "the Great Serbia aggression."

"I told them: 'Folks, please do not constantly talk about the great Serbia aggression, as there is no sense'," Vucic said on Wednesday.

He went on to say that the Croatian president also forwarded her demands to him, including investing more effort in the search for people who went missing in the 1991-1995 war.

"Grabar-Kitarović particularly insisted that I should address the issue of missing people. In the coming period, I expect the first results considering this issue. It is not easy," Vučić was quoted by the broadcaster "Prva Srpska Televizija" as saying.

The Nacional weekly says in its latest issue that there was e-mail correspondence between the Croatian president and her former aide Mate Radeljić which revealed that the president said that Vucic had asked her not to use the term "Great Serbia aggression" any more.

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

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Croatian National Council: Vučić Has to Deal with Every Problem of Croats in Serbia

ZAGREB, July 24, 2019 - The Croatian National Council's (HNV) leadership believes it has raised the level of the Croatian minority's rights in Serbia, albeit by making big political efforts, through media pressure and despite a lack of understanding or passivity from local government, the HNV said on Tuesday.

The body which represents the Croatian minority in Serbia's state bodies in education, culture, information and official language use spoke about the first six months of its new makeup.

"Croats in Serbia are not part of the system. We don't have representatives in the executive authority, either state or local, unlike the Serb minority in Croatia which has deputy prefects and deputy mayors so for every, even the smallest issue, we have to... seek the intervention of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić," HNV executive board member Darko Šarić Lukendić said in Subotica.

He was speaking in the context of a standstill in the realisation of the biggest project in education in the Croatian language, the establishment of a Croatian school centre, because local government in Subotica has not adopted amendments concerning elementary schools which are a prerequisite for the Vojvodina province government to adopt a decision on the centre.

HNV president Jasna Vojnić highlighted cooperation with Croatia's prime minister and president as well as other state bodies.

More news about the status of Croats in Serbia can be found in the Diaspora section.

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Serbian President Vučić Congratulates Croatia on Its Statehood Day

ZAGREB, June 25, 2019 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić on Tuesday sent messages with best wishes to Croatia and Slovenia on the occasion of their public holidays -- Statehood Day -- observed in remembrance of the declaration of the two countries' independence in 1991 from the Socialist Yugoslav federation (SFRY).

Vučić's message sent to Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović reads that the Serbian head of state expects the intensification of dialogue on the matters of joint interest. so as to enhance the Serbia-Croatia relations.

Vučić wrote in his message to his Slovenian counterpart Borut Pahor that Serbia was committed to the development of bilateral relations.

He added that he appreciated Slovenia's support to Belgrade on its journey towards Europe, according to a press release issued by the office of Serbian president.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović says in her congratulatory message on the occasion of Croatia's Statehood Day, observed on 25 June, that the adoption of the constitutional decision on the country's sovereignty and independence and the Declaration of Independence 28 years ago placed Croatia forever on the global political map.

Extending her cordial congratulations, the president says that 25 June 1991 is one of the most important dates in Croatia's history.

The constitutional decision and the Declaration of Independence marked not only the severance of ties with the republics of the former Yugoslavia but also Croatia's exit from the complex state union, she said in the message released on Monday.

"The name of the Republic of Croatia is thus permanently inscribed on the political map of the world."

Grabar-Kitarović also paid tribute to the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman who led the Croatian people on the journey towards the establishment of its independent state and to soldiers who defended Croatia against a Great Serbian aggression.

The victory (in the 1991-1995 war) has marked the completion of our historical struggle for the sovereign and independent Croatian state, the president says adding that many successes are making Croatia more and more recognisable around the globe.

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

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Grabar-Kitarović: I Don't Regret Having Invited Vučić to Croatia

ZAGREB, June 12, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Wednesday said that she in no way regretted that she had invited Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić to Croatia and that she would invite him again.

"Knowing even today that some people object to that and how many times have people complained and attacked me because of his visit, the easiest thing to do would have been to cancel the visit. If I had thought of myself and my rating then I would have certainly done that. But how could I embark on delivering on what I promised families throughout Croatia without taking the first step regardless of what the results and consequences might have been," Grabar-Kitarović said at a launch of the book entitled "The Missing in the Homeland War 2."

She recalled that the late president Franjo Tuđman spoke with Serbia's strongman and the then president, Slobodan Milošević in an effort to resolve the war and implement peaceful reintegration because "that was the only way."

She said that the issue of the missing will not be resolved by the EU but that we have to do that on our own and that requires the other side too.

Referring to the information that Vučić brought to Zagreb during his visit which turned out to be data on persons that had already been identified, Grabar-Kitarović claimed that he believed that that was credible information.

She apologised to the families of the missing because no progress had been made and announced that the search for them would not end.

The book "The Missing in the Homeland War 2" like its predecessor presents testimonies by parents, spouses, children and siblings of 45 people who went missing during the 1990s war with the aim of encouraging institutions and the public to resolve that tragedy and also to raise awareness among those who today might be hiding documents about the fate of the missing.

The book's authors Romana Bilešić and Danijela Mikola underscored that the book portrays some truly sad stories and now a quarter of a century since they have been looking for their loved ones, families are beginning to lose all hope.

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

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