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, 1 December 2018

Croat Minority in Serbia Welcomes Country’s Progress

ZAGREB, December 1, 2018 - The Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV), which represents the Croat minority in Serbia, welcomed on Saturday the European Parliament's good remarks for progress Serbia made in economic reforms, but at the same time it regretted that Serbia had not yet launched the processes of facing the past, which was also noted in the EP resolution adopted on Thursday.

MEPs on Thursday in Brussels adopted a resolution which acknowledges Serbia's progress in economic reforms but which also notes that it was critical to make tangible results in judicial reform, corruption suppression and freedom of the media.

“The DSHV believes it is exceptionally important that this year the European lawmakers attached more attention to key areas of human rights and freedoms,“ DSHV president Tomislav Žigmanov said in a press release.

He said that facing the past in Serbia was still causing controversies.

He also recalled that exercising ethnic minority rights and promoting their social status was one o the key prerequisites for European Union membership.

For more on the status of Croats in Serbia, click here.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Croats in Serbia Welcome EU Resolution on Minimum Standards for Minorities

ZAGREB, November 18, 2018 - The Croatian National Council (HNV) in Serbia welcomed on Saturday a European Parliament resolution on minimum standards for minorities, passed on November 13, saying that it "will contribute to enhancing protection of the Croat minority in Serbia as part of the country's EU entry talks."

The European Parliament's conclusion, which has no legal force, calls on the European Commission to start drawing up a plan to define minimum common standards for the protection of ethnic minorities that would incorporate the best practices in EU countries and be based on the principle of subsidiarity and proportionality, the media have reported, adding that the plan should result in an EU directive.

"We welcome the initiative which should primarily be implemented in countries of belated transition such as Serbia, where international agreements are still not sufficiently honoured, due to which the Croat community is not satisfied with its status. We hope that during the pre-accession process the country will have to change certain laws, as well as certain practices, and that it will be obliged to implement what it has signed with Croatia, an EU member," HNV international secretary Darko Bastovanovic told the local Croat media in Vojvodina.

He said that he was referring to an agreement on the mutual protection of the Croat and Serb minorities in Serbia and Croatia, in the part that concerns ensuring representation for members of the Croat community in Serbia's parliaments and state institutions.

Different countries treat the issue of minorities differently, he said, "and while Romania has regulated the matter by its constitution, Serbia has more than 50 laws that regulate the issue of minorities, which has resulted in major confusion."

The EP resolution was supported by 10 of the 11 Croatian members of the European Parliament while one voted against.

For more on the status of Croats in Serbia, click here.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

President Meets with Serbian Prime Minister Brnabić

ZAGREB, November 15, 2018 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović met with Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić in Berlin on Tuesday and assessed the meeting as excellent.

Grabar-Kitarović said that during an official dinner given on the occasion of an Economic Summit in Berlin on Tuesday, apart from talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, she also had the opportunity to speak with Iceland Prime Minister Katrin Jakobdottir and Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.

"Our first encounter, I have to say regardless of what anyone will say in Croatia, was excellent. Ana Brnabić is quite concerned with the future of Serbia-Croatia relations and I hope that we will continue in that direction so that we can resolve burning issues in Southeast Europe," Grabar-Kitarović said.

She added that she had discussed the project of reconstructing the railway tracks between Zagreb and Belgrade with Brnabić.

Grabar-Kitarović mentioned today's meeting with representatives of German SMEs that account for the major part of Germany's economy. "We agreed some activities. They are happy to be included in the work of my economic council and I invited them to give us some ideas on how to improve the investment climate," Grabar-Kitarović said.

The president said that she was in two-minds about the idea of a joint European army that is supported by French President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Merkel. "I don't know what that would look like considering that the majority of EU member states are also NATO members. An I'm afraid of the USA's reaction," Grabar-Kitarović said.

For more on Croatia’s relations with Serbia, click here.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Croatia Offering Tourist Facilities Used by Bosnia and Serbia for Lease

Croatia’s State Property Ministry has announced a tender for the lease of 15 tourist resorts on the Adriatic coast which were used by companies from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia during the former Yugoslavia. Now, 27 years after the collapse of Yugoslavia, the ownership issues have not yet been resolved and they are still registered as “people’s assets,” reports Jutarnji List on November 11, 2018.

Most of the tourist properties offered for lease are located in Gradac, a town near Makarska, where the former Bosnian-Herzegovinian resorts have been falling apart for decades, becoming a health hazard for both locals and tourists.

The State Property Ministry has now finally decided to solve this problem based on the new State Property Management Act. According to Article 71, “until the conclusion of an international agreement or the adoption of a special decision, the Ministry shall be authorized to offer for a multi-year lease, up to a maximum of 30 years, properties entered into land registers as owned by the Republic of Croatia or as people’s assets.”

The tender was announced according to the provisions of this law. The lease agreements with the best bidders will be concluded for the period of 30 years, and facilities must become operational and used for tourist purposes within three years. In the event that the real owner of the property is legally established during the period of 30 years, the new owner will start receiving the lease payments.

In Gradac, the list includes the former Trgovci facility (1,540 square metres, starting price 30,800 kuna a year), the Bosanka Villa (1,431 square meters, 28,620 kuna), and the Saobraćajci facility (3,500 square metres, 71,340 kuna). All these facilities are located right next to the sea and the resorts were used by the workers of the Railways of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Just 30 metres from the sea is a former tourist resort of the Union of Construction Workers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with an area of 3,793 square metres and starting price of 75,840 kuna a year, as well as two other facilities, H2O and Mostar.

Workers of the Bosnian Electric Company used to holiday in Valter Perić. Just 20 metres from the sea is the Đuro Salaj hotel on five floors. The hotel covers 6,351 square metres and the starting rent is 127,020 kuna a year. HIT Podaca is a 1,140 square-metre building just six metres from the sea. The starting annual price is 22,800 kuna.

The Bosnian Privatisation Agency has been trying to sell the Đuro Salaj and Valter Perić facilities for years, although the legal ownership issues have not been resolved. The value of Đuro Salaj is estimated at 4.2 million euro.

In Gradac, there is also a former resort of the Robna Kuća Beograd from Serbia, with an area of 3,292 square meters and the starting price of 65,840 kuna a year.

Serbian companies and towns also owned tourist resorts for their workers in Slano, Rab and Biograd. The highest lease is expected for the former Partizan holiday resort in downtown Biograd, which covers 9,314 square meters. The starting price is 186,280 kuna a year. For the former 6,859 square-metre children's resort of the Belgrade’s Vračar municipality, the bidders will have to offer at least 137,180 kuna a year.

Although the tender is certain to draw protests from the neighbouring countries, the State Property Ministry says that Croatia is a sovereign state and that the State Property Management Act was coordinated with the State Attorney's Office.

“We are solving the problem that nobody wanted to face all these years. These are facilities whose owners have not been established, and the users were from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. On the other hand, our neighbours have sold our property, and we are just putting it into operation because the properties as they are now are threatening the health and safety of locals and tourists,” says the State Property Ministry.

"I am exceptionally happy because I think this is the only possible solution at the moment. Although we constantly hear allegations from Bosnia and Herzegovina that their assets are being stolen, the facilities have been falling apart all these years and they are now dangerous for citizens,” said Gradac Mayor Matko Burić (SDP).

For more on Makarska and surrounding areas, click here.

Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Goran Penić).

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Serb Minority Representatives Warn about Rise in Hate Speech

ZAGREB, November 6, 2018 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović received on Tuesday a delegation of the Joint Council of (predominantly Serb) Municipalities (ZVO), who informed her of their view on the status of the ethnic Serb minority in Croatia, particularly the eastern parts of the country that were peacefully reintegrated into Croatia's constitutional and legal system in 1998, the Office of the Croatian President said in a press release.

"The delegation expressed concern over what they see as a rise in hate speech and expressions of intolerance against the Serbs as well as over incomplete implementation of the laws that regulate the rights of ethnic minorities," reads the press release.

The president expressed her conviction that some of the problems were caused by the unfavourable economic and demographic situation in the areas that were peacefully reintegrated, explaining that those problems affected all residents and should be solved by concerted action of the state-level and local authorities.

She underlined the importance of the permanent development of the culture of dialogue and full social integration of ethnic minorities.

"Since all unresolved issues from the recent past still affect coexistence, it is necessary to investigate all war crimes, which are not covered by the statute of limitations or amnesty, and in that process there must be no room for collective stigmatisation as responsibility is always individual," the president was quoted as saying at the meeting.

For the overall progress in coexistence, it is of the utmost importance to continue inter-state dialogue between Croatia and Serbia and keep making joint efforts in the search for all missing persons, Grabar-Kitarović said.

For more on the position of Serbs in Croatia, click here. If you are interested in reading more about relations between Croatia and Serbia, click here. More info about the political events in Croatia can be found in our dedicated section.

Monday, 5 November 2018

Veterans Outraged by Zagreb Mayor's Meeting with Serbian Politician

ZAGREB, November 5, 2018 - The Association of Zagreb war veterans who defended Vukovar sent an open letter on Monday to Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić expressing outrage and disappointment at Bandić's reception for the head of the town council of the Serbian town of Jagodina, Dragan Marković Palma, who together with Serbian paramilitary leader and war crimes indictee Željko Raznatović a.k.a. Arkan established the Party of Serb Unity in 1993.

The war veterans association criticised Bandić for receiving the Serbian politician whom they described as "a proven Chetnik" and "Arkan's errand boy". They also pointed out the fact that the reception in Zagreb on 2 November coincided with the observation of the 27th anniversary of the fall of the village of Lužac near Vukovar into the hands of Serb paramilitary forces led by Arkan in 1991.

On Sunday, the Split-Dalmatia County association of war veterans who were detained in Serb-run concentration camps described Bandić's decision to receive the Serb politician as abominable. That association said that the reception in Zagreb was an act of rubbing salt into the wounds of war victims.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Meved said on Monday that officials have to take account with whom they meet. “If indeed this is the same person, from what we can see on social media, that is absolutely unacceptable and I am personally very critical toward relations of that kind. We are aware that we have to normalise relations with Serbia. I am an advocate of cooperation, particularly in finding missing persons. We, however, have to take account with whom we meet and who those people are. If they participated in the armed aggression against Croatia, then it should be dealt with by some other authorities," Medved said.

Asked what message that meeting was sending, Medved said that he couldn't say as he wasn't familiar with the circumstances that led to the meeting or with the contents of the talks. "I was in Vukovar that day and I don't know the circumstances that led to the visit. I don't know the contents of the talks. I truly cannot comment in any greater detail. I am in contact with veterans' associations. In fact, those who have some knowledge of this event are reacting in an appropriate manner," he said.

The HVIDRA association of disabled war veterans on Monday criticised Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić for receiving Palma, whom they described as "a self-confessed Chetnik", saying that this was an affront to all veterans and victims of the Homeland War.

It is particularly incomprehensible that he came to Zagreb at the invitation of Mayor Bandić himself. "In doing so, Mayor Bandić humiliated the Croatian defenders and their families, Croatian institutions and our country, at a time of preparations to commemorate the sacrifices of Vukovar and Škabrnja," HVIDR said, calling on Bandić to apologise "to all those who sacrificed for the freedom of our country."

For more on Croatia-Serbia relations, click here.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

Croat Minority Elects Croatian National Council in Serbia

ZAGREB, November 4, 2018 - The list called "Croats Together" led by the Croat community's activist Jasna Vojnić, won on Sunday all the seats in the Croatian National Council (HNV), which is the 29-member umbrella organisation that represents the 58,000-strong Croatian community in education, media, culture and the official use of the language in Serbia.

The leaders of the Croatian minority were chosen indirectly, by 77 electors, at a session held in the Serbian National Assembly at noon on Sunday.

The electors are ethnic Croats who have gathered at least 60 certified signatures of support from their community. Of those 77 electors, 74 voted for the "Croats Together" slate led by the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV) and a few other Croat associations and prominent members from their community.

The DSHV leader Tomislav Žigmanov said after the election that the victory was ensured despite "obstructions in the organisation of the elections, spreading of defeatism and unfavourable political circumstances". Being committed to our unity we have managed to win the confidence of a large number of citizens, he added.

Jasna Vojnić said that "the new, fourth Croatian National Council will evenly develop the institutions in all communities where members of the Croat minority live." "The Council is meant to be a link with the Catholic Church, the motherland and with the majority nation as well as with all other ethnic minorities," she said.

In addition to the Croats, all other 22 ethnic minorities are also choosing their leaderships on Sunday.

The new HNV was elected indirectly because there were not enough Croatian voters to be registered in a separate voter roll which may enable them to hold direct elections. Furthermore, three more minorities elected their leadership by electors; and those are the Montenegrin, Macedonian and Russian minorities, whereas 18 ethnic minorities elected the new leaderships by direct vote.

To read more about the Croat minority in Serbia, Click here.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Croat Minority in Serbia to Elect New Leaders on Sunday

ZAGREB, November 2, 2018 - The Croat minority in Serbia on Sunday is choosing a new Croatian National Council (HNV), the 29-member umbrella organisation that represents the Croatian community in education, media, culture and the official use of the language.

The leaders of the Croatian minority will be chosen indirectly, by electors. These are ethnic Croats who have gathered at least 60 certified signatures of support from their community.

The Serbian Electoral Commission has found that 82 members of the Croatian community have gained elector status. They will meet in the Serbian National Assembly at noon on Sunday to elect the new HNV.

The new HNV will consist only of candidates from the "Croats Together" slate led by the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV) because it will be represented by 78 of the 82 electors. The remaining four electors come from the Croatian Civic Alliance and the Croatian Independent Slate.

The DSHV has gathered about 5,200 signatures of support.

Slaven Bačić, who has led the HNV in the last two terms, is not running for president of the HNV.

The new HNV is being elected indirectly, by electors, because there are not enough Croatian voters registered in the voter roll.

In addition to the Croats, all other 22 ethnic minorities will also choose their leaders on Sunday.

The status of Croats in Serbia has been in focus in recent years, and it is often influenced by the state of wider relations between Croatia and Serbia, which have hardly been fantastic lately.

If you want to know more about the status of Croats in Serbia, click here.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Serbia Accuses Croatia of Selling Its Military’s Hotel

We will not do nothing and allow Croatia put to a public auction the former Yugoslav military resort in Baška Voda, said Zoran Ristić, the president of the “Stolen Property” association from Serbia. He said that the hotel was actually Serbia’s property, reports Večernji List on Octobr 31, 2018.

In the article “Croats Are Selling Our Military Hotel”, the Večernje Novosti daily from Serbia write that “the famous military resort in Baška Voda is the first piece of real estate that the Croatian authorities have put up for sale by public tender under the new law on state property management.” The law allegedly allows for the lease of real estate “belonging to companies, institutions and banks from the former Yugoslavia, which Croatia transferred to its own ownership in 1991.”

Ristić pointed out that the former Sutjeska hotel, later renamed Croatia, was built in Baška Voda by the Hidrogradnja company from Sarajevo, and that it gave it to the Yugoslav federal ministry of defence in the late 1980s to finish the construction, with a request that company’s workers would be allowed to use it during the summer months. Later, Hidrogradnja added another floor to the hotel, which was financed by the military.

“Before the war, the then Yugoslav defence ministry, whose legal successor is Serbia’s defence ministry, entered its ownership of the hotel in the land registry in Makarska. The hotel has three floors, with 180 rooms, and 12,500 square metres of gross surface,” Ristić explained, adding that "at the outset of the war, the hotel, just like all other Serbian properties, was taken over by the Croatian state which transferred the ownership to itself.”

He said that the Croatian government announced a public invitation for purchase of the hotel on September 13, and that the deadline for applications expired on October 26, with three bids received. The highest price, of about two million euro, was offered by the Marea Alta company from Makarska, owned by Herzegovina entrepreneur Petar Ćorluka, also known as the “the king of the toilet paper” since he made his fortune as owner of the well-known Violeta brand. Other two bids were reportedly received from the Adria Coste Tourism company from Zagreb and Maros Nekretnine from Slatina.

Ristić explained that he had sent information about the case to Serbia’s Directorate for Property, which collects data on the properties of Serbian institutions and companies in Croatia.

“This hotel has not yet been subject to court proceedings and that is probably why it was the first to be offered for sale. But we are not going to just sit and do nothing,” said Ristić. The association has already contacted the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, challenging Croatia for discrimination, and is preparing for arbitration proceedings in The Hague.

Večernje Novosti claim there are around 180 cases being considered by the Croatian courts involving restitution of property owned by companies and institutions from Serbia.

For more articles on relations between Croatia and Serbia, click here.

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