Monday, 18 July 2022

Vukovar 1991 Association of Lawyers Calls on Vučić to Allow Visit to Stajićevo

ZAGREB, 18 July 2022 - The Vukovar 1991 association of lawyers on Monday called on Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to fulfill his promise and make it possible for the association and former Croatian camp inmates to make the agreed visit to the former Stajićevo prisoner of war camp.

In a press release, the association recalls that six years ago, on 16 July 2016, through the mediation of German lawmaker Josip Juratović and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the then Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić received an official delegation of the lawyers' association Vukovar 1991, which consisted of Zoran Šangut and Pero Kovačević.

At the meeting, they discussed the non-prosecution of war crimes committed in camps in Serbia (Stajićevo, Begejci, Sremska Mitrovica, Niš and Belgrade) against Croatian inmates, and a visit to Stajićevo, the installation of a memorial plaque at the site of the former camp, lighting candles and laying wreaths.

Vučić promised us at the meeting that he would allow a visit to the site of the former Stajićevo camp, the installation of a memorial plaque, lighting candles and laying wreaths in October 2016, the association's deputy head, Pero Kovačević, said in the press release.

He pointed out he had agreed all the details of the official protocol for that visit with Vučić's advisor Veran Matić, but that Vučić had cancelled it when the date of the visit was decided.

Kovačević said that with today's letter, they remind Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić of the unfulfilled promise, calling on him to allow an official visit to Stajićevo, the installation of a memorial plaque, laying wreaths and lighting candles in commemoration of the killed Croatian camp inmates in that and other camps in Serbia.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 18 July 2022

Plenković: Vučić Will Pay a Visit When the Time is Right

ZAGREB, 18 July 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's visit to Croatia cannot be private because of political implications and that it will come about when the time is right.

Vučić has expressed a wish to visit the Jasenovac memorial centre privately, but has been denied clearance from the Croatian authorities to visit the site of the WWII concentration camp.

"We have learned unofficially that he wishes to pay a visit on Sunday, but without a formal announcement that should precede any visit, especially of this nature. No matter how discreet he may want it to be, it's not a private visit. It's a matter that has its political implications," Plenković told reporters after a meeting of the leadership of his HDZ party.

"We have said that it is not the right moment, nor is the methodology right. When the time comes and the conditions have been met, we can talk about it," he added.

He described the reaction from Belgrade, not just from the government but the media as well, as "hysterical," adding that Croatia is "inclusive and tolerant" and is not trying to score political points on this issue.

"The visit will come about when the time comes. A policy of fait accompli is unacceptable anywhere, including Croatia. At this point we concluded that this visit does not suit us," the Croatian prime minister said.

Earlier on Monday, Vučić said he had tried but failed to arrange with Zagreb a visit to Jasenovac three times, once in 2021 and twice in 2022. He said he was rejected because of the "internal political situation" in Croatia, with the explanation that his visit was not welcome.

"I know of his initiative from late February, March. We said that the time was not right for such a visit. After that there have been no contacts or discussions on this subject," Plenković said.

He added that at the end of February Construction Minister Darko Horvat was arrested on corruption charges, his father died, and the USKOK anti-corruption office were interested in Deputy PM Boris Milošević and Labour and Pension System Minister Josip Aladrović.

"We sent a message that it was not a good time for such a visit. As for September 2021, I tried to check it with my aides and we do not remember that. We will check it again," Plenković said.

He said that any visit that might have political consequences should be carefully arranged.

"It is important that we treat each other with respect and show that we are states. States communicate like people," Plenković said, adding that anyone wishing to visit someone should announce their visit.

He said that the matter would be discussed later on "when passions have cooled" and "constructive communication is established."

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 6 June 2022

Agreements for Croatia-Serbia Cross-Border Cooperation Granted

ZAGREB, 6 June 2022 - Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak presented the first grant agreements within the Croatia-Serbia cross border cooperation programme for 2022, with a total value of HRK 3 million.

"For the first time, we are implementing a programme to strengthen Croats abroad, in this case, cross-border cooperation between Croatia and Serbia and have secured HRK 3 million from the state budget for 20 various projects for that," Minister Tramišak said.

She added that 65 projects applied worth more than HRK 10 million.

Tramišak recalled that during the pre-accession period and especially since it joined the EU, Croatia has implemented various European territorial cooperation programmes with neighbouring countries.

"In the new period 2021 - 2027, we will have Croatia - Serbia cross-border programmes with more than €42 million available," she underscored. Tramišak said that the condition for cross-border cooperation requires at least one partner each from Croatia and Serbia.

Žigmanov: Three key steps by Croatia towards Croats in Vojvodina

President of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina and Member of Serbian Parliament, Tomislav Žigmanov underscored that in the past few years three key steps were made in relations between Croatia towards Croats in Vojvodina.

Žigmanov noted that about 80% of Croats in Serbia live in Vojvodina in fact, adding that the first step was political support for Croats followed by more interest by the media in Croatia regarding how Croats in Vojvodina live.

The second step was when material and financial resources were increased, Žigmanov said, adding that two-thirds of that was earmarked for cultural institutions.

The third key step was cross-border cooperation between Croatia and Serbia which will be a great help to Croats in Serbia, who are the poorest Croats in the world.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 30 March 2022

Croatian Ambassador to Serbia Criticised in Croatian Parliament

ZAGREB, 30 March 2022 - Croatia's Ambassador to Serbia, Hidajet Bišćević, was severely criticised on Wednesday by MPs Miro Bulj (Bridge) and Marijan Pavliček (Croatian Sovereignists).

"Ambassador Bišćević's behaviour is scandalous, more than scandalous," Bulj said in Parliament, accusing the ambassador of "harassing Croatian political representatives, obviously on the foreign minister's and the prime minister's orders."

Pavliček accused Bišćević of "working on the further fragmentation of the Croatian community" in Serbia and attacking its leaders, notably Tomislav Žigmanov, the head of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV).

"He is harassing a man who stood up against the regime of Aleksandar Vučić," Bulj said, criticising the Croatian government for leaving the Croats in Vojvodina on their own and without a single representative in the Serbian National Assembly.

Bulj said that Bišćević was "demonising" Žigmanov because "he is not sucking up to Vučić", and because he joined a coalition of parties from Vojvodina for Sunday's general election.

"It seems he would have been more acceptable had he sided with Vučić's party and the Chetnik movement," Bulj said.

Both Bulj and Pavliček noted that unlike the Croats in Serbia, the Serb minority in Croatia has three guaranteed seats in the national parliament, about 40 guaranteed mayoral positions and about 10 deputy county prefect positions.

"There are about 58,000 Croats in Serbia today. Their number in the last 30 years has been halved in a country where there was no war and where the Croats did not rise up in an armed rebellion", Pavliček said, adding that "the Croats are second-class citizens in Serbia today."

Pavliček said that three weeks ago all the heads of Croatian-language primary schools in Vojvodina had been summoned by the police for interviews over "discrimination against children," because all children attending Croatian-language classes had received free textbooks, unlike children attending classes in Serbian.

"Croatian diplomacy did not react to this," Pavliček said, blaming it for the poor status of the Croats in Vojvodina.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 7 February 2022

Ambassador Says Serbia, Croatia Need to Intensify Political Cooperation

7 February 2022 - Political cooperation between Serbia and Croatia needs to be stronger, Croatian Ambassador in Belgrade Hidajet Biščević said in an interview with a Belgrade newspaper on Monday, stressing that economic cooperation and trade were good and that cultural cooperation was increasingly good.

"I have to be honest and say that our political cooperation needs to be stepped up... there have been, for a long time, no meetings at the highest level, too often daily events, statements and incidents set us back. At the same time, that has almost no effect on our economic cooperation and trade, while cultural cooperation has been increasingly more relaxed," Biščević told the Monday issue of the Kurir tabloid.

The ambassador said that a large portion of ordinary citizens, on both sides, ignore old stereotypes and that new generations are coming for which, "despite the parallel histories", "new windows are slowly opening in many ways."

Asked to comment on his statement that "the legacy of the past is too big and has lasted too long", Biščević suggested that "time and patience" as well as "turning to a culture of cooperation instead of insisting on old stereotypes" are necessary.

Asked to comment on announcements in Croatia that Zagreb would block Serbia's accession to the EU, the ambassador categorically dismissed the claims as incorrect.

"I have said on many occasions here that Serbia's EU membership is Croatia's key strategic interest, for us to be part of the European family, share the same values and standards, regulate our relations in the European spirit of tolerance, respect for differences and non-interference in each other's internal affairs, and for the European context to serve as a platform for us to overcome the past," Biščević said.

He added that Croatia setting conditions, slowing down or delaying "the realisation of that clearly stated strategic interest" would be a paradox.

He stressed EU entry talks were not about setting conditions or blockades but about "respect for the negotiating rules."

"The EU has clear fundamental negotiating rules and conditions - those who do not accept them block themselves and shifting responsibility to a member state is of no help," he said.

Commenting on the case of Matej Periš, a young man from Split who went missing in Belgrade in the night between 30 and 31 December 2021, the ambassador said that there were a lot of unknowns in that case, but noted that Serbian police were doing their job professionally and with commitment and that they had been cooperating with Croatian police on the case.

Monday, 4 October 2021

Eighth-Graders in Serbia Taught That Croatian Language Does Not Exist

ZAGREB, 4 Oct 2021 - The political leadership of Croats in Serbia on Monday condemned the denial of the Croatian language in grammar books for eighth-graders, noting that examples like this one show why negative sentiments among young people in Serbia about Croats should not be surprising.

The Croatian language in Serbia does not exist, Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Croats (DSHV) head Tomislav Žigmanov said, adding that "this is just the tip of the iceberg of the social context affecting the status of Croats in Serbia."

According to the local Croat-language weekly "Hrvatska riječ", a grammar book for eighth- graders by a group of authors says that the Serbian, Slovenian, Macedonian, and Bulgarian languages are South Slavic languages while "Croats, Bosniaks and some Montenegrins call the Serbian language Croatian, Bosnian, Bosniak or Montenegrin."

The textbook was approved by the Serbian Institute for the Promotion of Education, the weekly says, noting that it had contacted the competent institutions in that regard.

"As regards language as a linguistic and political category, our position is that it is up to the authors of the textbook to provide an explanation. The matter is covered sufficiently in textbooks and there are also experts on the Serbian language at the Institute who check textbooks," the Committee for the Standardisation of the Serbian Language said in its reply to the weekly, among other things.

"The Serbian education system denies our language. We should therefore not be surprised by the views of children who are taught from such books," the DSHV said in a Twitter post, with Žigmanov citing as an example of the negativity associated with Croats the declaration of the Bunjevci ikavian dialect as an official, non-Croatian language in Subotica in May this year.

The Subotica Town Council earlier this year amended the town statute to declare the Bunjevci dialect one of the four official languages in that town, along with Serbian, Croatian and Hungarian. The demand for declaring its speech an official language in Subotica was made by the Bunjevci community, which denies its belonging to the Croatian people.

"It is a paradox that Croatian, an official EU language, is being denied in Serbia and that the status of an official language is awarded to the so-called Bunjevci language, which is not recognized anywhere else in the world and cannot be recognized in the full sense of that word," Žigmanov said.

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Saturday, 7 August 2021

Jandroković: Attack in Subotica Prompted by Serbian President’s Rhetoric

ZAGREB, 7 Aug, 2021 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Saturday the rhetoric used by the president of Serbia and Serbian officials was the reason for a recent physical and verbal attack on Croats in Subotica.

Asked if the attack could be the result of the two countries' policies, Jandroković said the situation in the two countries could not be compared.

"The celebration of Operation Storm in Croatia is dignified. We celebrate our victory in the Homeland War without disparaging anyone. We have a good cooperation with representatives of all ethnic minorities, including the Serbs, and the rhetoric used by Serbia's president and senior officials is probably to blame for some people feeling the urge to physically or verbally threaten members of the Croat people," Jandroković told the N1 broadcaster when asked about an attack on five Croatian nationals in Subotica which local police said was due to a row over a parking space.

The Croat National Council said on Friday that five Croatian nationals were physically and verbally assaulted and their relative was lightly injured when an unidentified man attacked them in Subotica but local police denied it.

Jandroković also said that Serbia should face the truth and accept responsibility for the events of the 1990s.

"That is a precondition for better cooperation. We must all be forward-looking, there is no use in turning to the past," he said.

Speaking of wildfires that have been raging for days in Greece and Turkey, Jandroković called for developing international solidarity.

"We received help from them when the region of Banija was hit by (last year's) earthquake," he said, adding that Croatia was currently able to provide assistance to Greece and Turkey.

Jandroković once again called for compliance with epidemiological restrictions, expressing hope the tourist season would last not only until the end of August but the end of September.

The parliament speaker was today in Imotski, where he attended a ceremony marking 120 years of fire-fighting in the Imotska Krajina region and the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Imotski Voluntary Fire Department.

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