Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Croatia: Democratic Stability of Serbia Exceptionally Important

ZAGREB, March 19, 2019 - Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić said in Brussels on Monday that the protests which took place over the weekend in Belgrade were Serbia's internal matter, adding that democratic stability in Southeast European countries was important for Croatia and for the European security.

"I cannot comment on what happened in Belgrade yesterday. I believe this is Serbia's internal matter, but I can say generally that democratic stability in all Southeast European countries is exceptionally important for Croatia and for the European security," said Pejčinović Burić, who is taking part in a meeting of the EU foreign ministers.

The Serbian opposition has been staging largely peaceful rallies for weeks but tensions escalated on Saturday when crowds stormed the state TV station.

The protests in Belgrade over the weekend saw demonstrators storm the headquarters of the RTS public broadcasting service, surround the Presidency building and clash with the police. They ended on Sunday evening with an ultimatum issued to the authorities to release the protesters who were arrested for invading the RTS building by 3pm on Monday.

Asked about Serbia's progress on its EU journey and whether Croatia was resolving bilateral issues concerning the policy chapter 23, Pejčinović Burić said Croatia supported the EU path of all its neighbours, but that they had to meet requirements that were the same for every country.

"What kind of progress Belgrade has made on its path to the EU will be visible in a report on Serbia. We surely support the EU path of all our neighbours but the same rules apply to all countries and everyone must meet the set benchmarks. Serbia knows very well that without meeting those requirements it can hardly make progress in that process," Pejčinović Burić said.

Before the meeting in Brussels, the EU ministers talked to Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov about North Macedonia's European journey, underlining the importance of the Treaty of Prespa, an agreement reached between Greece and North Macedonia under the United Nations' auspices, resolving a long-standing dispute over the latter's name.

Stressing the importance of the Treaty of Prespa for the stability in Southeast Europe, Pejčinović Burić expressed hope North Macedonia could receive a green light for the start of its EU entry talks in June.

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

Sunday, 17 February 2019

President Rejects Allegations She Changed Speeches to Appease Vučić

ZAGREB, February 17, 2019 - The Office of President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Saturday denied the claim by her former domestic policy adviser Mate Radeljić that she had promised to Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic that she would not use the terms "Greater Serbia aggression" and "the Srebrenica genocide" in her public speeches.

"There is no need to again answer questions about which there is no doubt whatsoever. What happened in the 1990s was aggression on Croatia in the name of Greater Serbia policy, and an international tribunal has qualified the crimes committed in Srebrenica as genocide and no one with good intentions questions that," spokeswoman for the President's Office Ivana Crnić said.

Radeljić told the RTL commercial television channel that the Croatian president had promised to her Serbian counterpart that she would not use the terms "Greater Serbian aggression" and "the Srebrenica genocide".

RTL asked Radeljić who the president was referring to when she said at a press conference earlier on Saturday that she was wrong about the "For the Homeland Ready" salute because one of her advisers had told her that it was a historical Croatian greeting. "It turns out that the president was some sort of a puppet of her advisers. I don't know who she was referring to and it would have been nice if she had said who she meant," Radeljić said.

Radeljić then wondered if any of her advisers told her after Vučić's visit to Croatia last year to give an instruction that the two terms should not be used in any of her public speeches.

"She personally told me after Aleksandar Vučić's visit that she did not want the term Greater Serbia aggression or the Srebrenica genocide to be used in public speeches because she had promised that to Aleksandar Vučić. Let her deny this now and blame it on her advisers," Radeljić said.

Radeljić claimed that Grabar-Kitarović had not used the two terms in any of her speeches after the Serbian president's visit. However, some media have found that this is not true and that the Croatian president used the term "Greater Serbia aggression".

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

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Serbian President Wants Croats to Ride in His New Military Helicopters

ZAGREB, February 16, 2019 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Friday that Croats would be the first ones he would "take for a ride" in new Mi-35 military helicopters to be delivered to Serbia by Russia, an ironic comment on what he considers to be Croatia's hostile attitude towards Serbia and himself.

This year Russia is expected to deliver Mi-35 attack helicopters to Serbia, which some media outlets in Croatia have called Vučić's devil's chariots.

"You should see how beautiful the helicopters are... I will take you, Croats, first for a ride," he told Croatian reporters covering an international security conference in Munich.

Commenting on Croatian media's alleged dislike of him, Vučić said, "You love campaigning against Serbia and me personally."

"You can't wait for me to be toppled, but that won't happen," he said in an allusion to Croatian Radio and Television reports about anti-government protests in Belgrade which Serbian officials have described as unprofessional and a call for violence.

He reiterated that a recent attack on players of Belgrade's Red Star water polo team in the Croatian coastal city of Split was "horrible", insisting that something like that could never have happened to Croatian athletes in Serbia.

Summing up the results of his meeting with his Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović in Zagreb a year ago, he said that Belgrade had fulfilled 23 of 26 demands by the Croat community in Serbia.

"I would like to be able to say the same for the Serb community in Croatia, but I'm afraid that that's not the case," he said.

That Croats and Serbs can indeed cooperate well is evidenced by the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vucic said, referring to cooperation between Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik and Bosnian Croat leader Dragan Čović.

"Serbs and Croats will have to cooperate in order to survive," he concluded.

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

Friday, 25 January 2019

Vučić Calls for Better Relations between Croatia and Serbia

ZAGREB, January 25, 2019 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Friday that Croatia and Serbia should have much better relations if they wanted to survive, adding that the entire region should stop thinking about the past and look forward.

"What I am not happy about are political relations in the region," Vučić told Hina and the Croatian public broadcaster HRT on the margins of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

"There are always countless problems there, too much thinking about the past and too little about the future, but I guess it's the characteristic of all of us and that's what we'll have to change," the Serbian president said.

Vučić earlier attended a panel on the Western Balkans together with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and had an opportunity to talk to him informally.

He said that economic relations were much better than the political situation in the region. "I think that the Serbs and Croats as nations, not just the Serbian and Croatian states, regardless of their emotions which are not always good, must have much better relations if they both want to survive," Vučić said.

He said that both countries had "terrible demographics" as many people were emigrating. "If we are to survive, we will have to work together, get closer to each other, and that will happen," Vučić said.

He added that the Croats and Serbs would find ways of cooperating once they started thinking less about "stabbing one another in the back" and became more focused on the future. "I absolutely believe in this," he stressed.

Vučić said that relations with Priština were a burning issue for Belgrade, and that the imposition by Kosovo of customs duties on imports from Serbia was against all European rules. He said that all important European and world stakeholders had told him in Davos that they were against Kosovo's move.

Speaking of other problems in the region, Vučić mentioned the latest initiative by the Bosniak SDA party in Bosnia and Herzegovina for assessment of the constitutionality of the name of Republika Srpska, the country's Serb entity.

Its name "is a Dayton category, it's a constitutional category of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They cannot do that and expect support from the world," the Serbian president said.

The announcement by the SDA that it will formally ask the Constitutional Court to assess whether the name of the Bosnian Serb entity is constitutional has met with strong reactions in the country and condemnation from the international community. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegović said on Thursday that it was a legitimate initiative the aim of which was to eliminate evident discrimination against non-Serbs living in Republika Srpska.

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

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Croat Minority in Serbia Praises Serbian President Vučić

ZAGREB, December 23, 2018 - The leader of the Croat minority in Serbia, Tomislav Žigmanov, has praised Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić as a reliable partner in addressing problems faced by the Croat community in the country, Croatian-language media in the northern province of Vojvodina said on Saturday.

The community centre and a bridge in the Croat-majority village of Monostor are being reconstructed, a Croatian language instruction office has been opened at the University of Novi Sad, the network of Croatian-language schools has been expanded, and the process of granting the use of the house in Petrovaradin where Ban Josip Jelačić, the governor of Croatia in the mid-19th century, was born, to the Croat community is under way, Žigmanov told reporters during a visit to Tavankut where he inspected the reconstruction of the local Croat community centre.

"We appreciate President Aleksandar Vučić as more than a reliable partner in addressing problems faced by the Croat community in Serbia, which we raised in February this year," Žigmanov said, adding that this would help relax overall Croatian-Serbian relations. "I am certain that the improvement of the position of Croats in Serbia will be looked favourably upon by the government in Zagreb," he stressed.

Bogdan Laban, the mayor of Subotica and a member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, said that about 40,000 euro had been allocated, with the support of the central and regional government, for the reconstruction of the community centre in Tavankut.

"We take care of all our ethnic minorities, including the Croat community with whom we have excellent relations. We take account of their needs and that will continue in the future," Laban said.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and her Serbian counterpart Vučić met in Tavankut in June 2016.

More news on the status of the Croat minority in Serbia can be found in our Diaspora section.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Serbian President Talks with Serb Minority MP Attacked in Zagreb

ZAGREB, September 29, 2018 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said that he would not want to "add fuel to the flames of poor relations between Serbs and Croats" and that efforts should be made to improve these relations in the future.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

President Disappointed with Serbia’s Statements about Croatia

ZAGREB, September 29, 2018 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday that she had invested her "political capital" in the improvement of relations between Croatia and Serbia, warning that "inflammatory statements" from Belgrade could cause irreparable damage to the two neighbouring countries' relations.

Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Officials Respond to Serbian President’s “Provocations”

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.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Croat Minority Praises Serbian President

ZAGREB, August 25, 2018 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has proven to be a credible, proactive and responsible person as regards demands of the ethnic Croat community brought to his attention on February 20 after his official visit to Zagreb, the leader of the Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Croats (DSHV) party and member of parliament Tomislav Žigmanov told Hina, noting that not all of the assumed obligations had been fulfilled.

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Croatia Reacts to Serbian President’s Comparison with Nazism

ZAGREB, August 7, 2018 - Croatia's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday responded to recent statements from Serbia, saying comparison with the Nazi regime was a "twisted argument" because it was former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević's regime, with the help of the Yugoslav army and some Croatian and Bosnian Serbs, that was responsible for the return of ethnic cleansing in Europe after WWII.

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