Tuesday, 27 April 2021

President Zoran Milanović to Recall Ambassador to Serbia Over His Alleged Disregard For Ethnic Croats

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - Croatia's President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that he would recall Croatian Ambassador to Belgrade, Hidajet Biščević, after the ethnic Croat leader Tomislav Žigmanov criticised the diplomat for working against the Croats in Serbia.

In the meantime media outlets have reported that Ambassador Biščević did not react to the developments in which ethnic Croats received death threats, and that he also failed to even telephone those members who received threats to express sympathy with them.

Žigmanov, who is the leader of the Democratic party of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV), recently claimed that the Croatian ambassador had made a "tepid reaction" to attempts by Serbian authorities in Subotica to introduce the Bunjevci vernacular as an official language in that northern city and that the ambassador communicated with people whom Žigmanov described as persons "who are actively working on the destabilisation and dissolution of the (ethnic Croat) community."

All that prompted President Milanović to say today that he did not know whose policy Biščević "is pursuing there."

I cannot know whether all those headlines are true and I will summon him back to Zagreb for consultations, Milanović said in his address to the press at the Gašinci military range in eastern Croatia.

The Večernji List daily has reported that on 30 March, Žigmanov sent a letter to Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman to inform him that Biščević was working against the interests of the ethnic Croat community in Serbia.

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

Friday, 23 April 2021

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman Slams Removal of Croatian Flag From Ambassador's Residence in Belgrade

ZAGREB, 23 April, 2021 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Friday condemned the removal of the Croatian flag from the ambassador's official residence in Belgrade, saying that such incidents fomented an atmosphere of hate, hostility and intolerance.

"Such incidents are certainly not conducive to understanding (...) We hope and wish for the relations between Croatia and Serbia to be good because it makes sense that we should have stable relations," he told the press.

Croatian Ambassador Hido Biščević told N1 television on Thursday it was no accident that the Croatian flag was taken down from his residence and that the incident reflected "part of the atmosphere" in Serbian society, which he said continued to feed on hate speech.

Unknown persons removed the flag from the building which has video surveillance but no guards most likely on Wednesday morning, he said.

The Serbian Foreign Ministry said this was an "injudicious and isolated act," hoping that it "won't cast a shadow on efforts to set Serbia-Croatia relations on new foundations so that in future they can develop in the spirit of mutual trust and cooperation."

Grlić Radman said that because of such incidents "we can't say the relations have good prospects, we can't talk about a good future, but we must believe in a good future."

He announced that he will go to Subotica on 28 April for the laying of the cornerstone of a new Croatia House. His talks with local officials will also address an initiative, opposed by Croatian linguists, to declare the Bunjevci dialect an official language in that town in northern Serbia.

The minister reiterated that the initiative was contrary to the Croatia-Serbia agreement on the protection of national minorities.

He said that on 27 April the prime minister of the Vojvodina province, Igor Mirović, would visit Petrinja, struck by a devastating earthquake last December.

Serbia's EU path "goes also across Croatia"

The minister went on to say that Serbia's EU path "goes also across Croatia." Before Serbia joins, it is necessary to resolve the issue of the war missing, universal jurisdiction, and reparations for POWs, he said.

Serb representatives have three guaranteed seats in the Croatian parliament and Croatia wants Croats in Serbia to be represented as well, he added.

Serbia "must actively and strongly deal" with reforms, the fight against corruption, and the rule of law, he said.

Serbia was granted EU candidate status in March 2012 and began accession negotiations in January 2014.

Ambassadorial appointments

Although Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Zoran Milanović have not yet agreed on the appointment of new ambassadors and consuls, Grlić Radman said he did not think the process was blocked and that there was "only one Croatian diplomacy."

He dismissed the possibility of a quota or a 50:50 model (between the president's and government's proposals). He said "agreement must be reached" and that one could talk about the list of candidates the government had sent the president, but that the government was not in favour of quotas.

He said the candidates were "professional diplomats who have proved themselves on the job."

Milanović, on the other hand, wants it to be known who is behind which ambassador for responsibility's sake, saying that this has been the practice before.

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

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Zvonko Milas: "Serbian Croats Receiving More and More Threats"

ZAGREB, 25 March, 2021 - The head of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad on Thursday told the parliament that after the "shameful" decision of the Subotica city's authorities to give a status of an official language to the Bunjevci vernacular, local Croats in Serbia had been receiving more and more threats.

In the wake of the discussions about that wrong and shameful decision by the Subotica City Council, which were also soon followed by the propaganda film "Dara iz Jasenovca",  more and more threats were made against ethnic Croats, notably ethnic Croat leaders in Serbia, Zvonko Milas told the Sabor, while presenting the 2019 report on the implementation of the strategy pertaining to Croat communities outside Croatia.

He also warned that the Subotica decision on the Bunjevci vernacular was against the Croatia-Serbia bilateral agreement on the respective ethnic minorities and that it also led to the further fragmentation of the ethnic Croat community in Vojvodina and Serbia.

Milas said that Croatia would do its utmost to make sure that Slovenia can grant a status of ethnic minority to local Croats.

The community has more than 50,000 members, Milas said adding that Slovenia does not recognise any ethnic rights of those Croats.

For more about the Croatian Diaspora follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 31 December 2020

Arena Hospitality Group Purchases Hotel in Wider Centre of Belgrade

December the 31st, 2020 - the Croatian tourist company which is known for its numerous business ventures at home and abroad, the Arena Hospitality Group, has purchased yet another hotel in a foreign country, this time in the Serbian capital.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the large Croatian company, the Arena Hospitality Group announced recently that through its local branch located over in Serbia, it concluded the takeover of the 88 Rooms hotel in the wider centre of the Serbian capital of Belgrade. The value of the transaction stands at an enormous 45 million kuna in total.

The modern hotel is located a mere few minutes away from Belgrade's historic city centre, as its name suggests, it offers 88 rooms and suites, a restaurant, bar and conference room, as well as a well-equipped gym.

The acquisition of 88 Rooms is another milestone in the Arena Hospitality Group's strategy to expand its operations across the Central and Eastern European region. This acquisition also further enables the Arena Hospitality Group to increase the volume of the business it engages in in cities across Europe with the aim of increasing its presence in the higher category market segment in the region of Central and Eastern Europe, while striving to create added value for shareholders, Seebiz reports.

The Arena Hospitality Group's projects, in both the short and medium term, include repositioning the Brioni Hotel in the beautiful Istrian city of Pula into a luxury hotel boasting 227 rooms, with the ambition for it to become the best hotel in that category in all of Pula and its surroundings, the repositioning of Camp Stoja in Pula into a higher category camp, the conversion of a building location in the heart of Zagreb into a hotel with 113 rooms, which will include a famous restaurant and bar, wellness and spa facilities, a fitness centre, a meeting space and more, and the renovation of the Riviera Hotel in the very heart of Pula.

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Friday, 11 September 2020

Milanovic's Policy of Reconciliation Praised by German President

ZAGREB, Sept 11, 2020 - German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier supports the policy of reconciliation in Croatia pursued by Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, it was said after their meeting in Berlin on Friday. 

In his first months as head of state, President Milanovic took important steps in the process of reconciliation with the Serbs and the Serb minority in Croatia, and we are grateful to him for that, Steinmeier said.

The German president said he supported his Croatian counterpart on this brave path. This path launched by Croatia will hopefully be an inspiration for others to build bridges, he added.

The Croatian president began his two-day official visit on Thursday by meeting with representatives of Croatian associations in Germany.

Milanovic thanked his host for inviting him and for supporting him on the path of reconciliation in the region. 

I have been pursuing the policy of reconciliation for twenty years and I believe for the first time that we have interlocutors for such policy in Croatia, Milanovic said, adding that he would continue this policy in the future.

Successful Croatian presidency of the EU

The two presidents also discussed the strengthening and functioning of the European Union in the present circumstances of the coronavirus crisis.

With the aid package adopted in June, the EU demonstrated solidarity that is not even remotely possible elsewhere in the world, Steinmeier said.

He praised Croatia for a job well done during its presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of the year.

Strengthening the EU is the most important task and Croatia managed to do that with its presidency under very difficult circumstances. Now it is up to us to continue this work until the end of this year, the German president said.

One of the topics discussed was the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, and the Croatian president expressed hope that the epidemiological situation in Croatia after the summer tourist season would calm down.

I hope the Croatian counties included on the German red list will disappear from that list, Milanovic said.

Excellent bilateral relations

Both presidents said that relations between Germany and Croatia were excellent.

Germany's policy towards Croatia has always been predictable in a positive sense, meaning reliable, Milanovic said.

The two presidents also highlighted efforts in providing humanitarian aid to migrants who have been left without a roof over their heads following a fire in the Moria refugee camp in Greece.

I have heard that the Croatian government has decided to take in a certain number of displaced persons, which I consider a nice and humane gesture and I support it, Milanovic said.

Steinmeier denied claims that the EU's common policy on migrants had collapsed.

During its EU presidency, Germany will work with the European Commission on promoting the common refugee policy, he said.

Milanovic was the first statesman to be received with military honors after a months-long pause caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

During the day, the Croatian president is scheduled to meet with Wolfgang Schauble, Speaker of the Bundestag. He will end his two-day visit by meeting with Mario Ohoven, head of the German association of small and medium-sized enterprises (BVMW).

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Friday, 15 May 2020

Biscevic: EU Offers Zagreb & Belgrade Chance to Move Away from History

ZAGREB, May 14, 2020 - Zagreb and Belgrade are the "pillars of stability" and peace in this part of Europe and without their cooperation it would be hard to expect that parts of the region will come out of the state of "unfinished peace" and "frozen conflict," Croatia's new ambassador to Serbia, Hidajet Biscevic, has said.

If politicisation is removed, if the constant repeating of the media and verbal clammer is avoided and if we stick to the fundamental principle of international relations of not meddling in internal affairs, history does not need to remain a lasting source of conflict between Serbia and Croatia, he says in an interview with the Belgrade paper Danas.

Biscevic underscored that he is not idealising the European Union because "it is not a magic cloth which wipes away differences, including those of a historical nature," but underlined that the EU offers "Belgrade and Zagreb an opportunity to move away from history," and to turn to "other paradigms and values, to leave history in the past and for history to not be a stopper of today or tomorrow."

He underlined as exceptionally important the protection of national minorities in Serbia and in Croatia, stressing that in a lot of ways that is a measure of the "democratic and European capacities" of the two countries.

He pointed to the fact that the problem of the war missing continues to be "one of the most sensitive issues" in the relations between the two countries and that institutions need to help in resolving that "undoubtedly humanitarian" problem.

"I hope that in my first contacts I have properly felt that that issue has been recognised as an important component of Serbia's foreign policy agenda and in that regard I will advocate that the work in resolving that issue is accelerated," he concluded.


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.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Serbia: Zagreb Summit a Chance to Make EU Membership Prospects More Specific

ZAGREB, January 30, 2020 - EU membership is the Serbian government's strategic commitment, Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić said on Wednesday evening, expressing confidence that the Thessaloniki summit in February would be an opportunity for a constructive discussion on the prospects of integration of the Western Balkan countries into the EU and that the Zagreb summit in May would be a chance to make this agenda even more specific.

Dačić expressed hope that the Croatian presidency of the Council of the European Union would be successful in every respect and that Serbia would continue to progress in the EU accession process.

He was speaking at a reception organised by the Greek Embassy in Belgrade ahead of the ministerial conference "From Thessaloniki to Zagreb", set for February 24 in Greece's second largest city.

"Zagreb hosted an EU-Western Balkans conference back in 2000 and we believe that the EU-Western Balkans summit scheduled for May will provide an additional impulse to enlargement policy," Dačić said according to a Foreign Ministry press release.

He said he expected "strong support" from all EU member states, taking into account the commitments from the 2003 Thessaloniki agenda. "I believe the Zagreb summit in May will be an excellent opportunity to give that agenda concrete expression," he added.

Speaking of the 2003 summit, Dačić said that of all countries of the former Yugoslavia only Croatia had joined the EU since then.

Despite the fact that Serbia has undertaken radical social and government reforms to adapt to the values, principles and rules of the EU, Belgrade has opened only half of the negotiating chapters, including only two in 2019. This leads to the conclusion that progress in the European integration process is not proportionate to the results of the reform process, which is why the pace of opening chapters should be improved and adapted to the pace of reform, Dačić said.

He said that in the context of work on changing the methodology of the accession process, Belgrade expected the new methodology to be transparent and based on clear principles and rules and objective benchmarks, taking into account the results of countries that are well advanced in the accession process, such as Serbia.

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

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Institute for Development of Croatia-Serbia Relations Set up in Vinkovci

ZAGREB, January 8, 2020 - The first days of 2020 saw the founding assembly of the Institute for Development of Croatia-Serbia Relations (IROHS), a civil society organisation from Vinkovci dedicated to promoting, analysing and researching relations between the two countries, with former Social Democrat MP Damir Rimac at its helm.

"The IROHS staff believes that by understanding the past we can build a better future in this area, regardless of whether we call it the region or Central or Southeast Europe. For quite some time, too little has been said in public about technologies, education, economy, mobility, culture, sustainable development and quality that exists both in Croatia and in Serbia," said Rimac.

He said the establishment of the Institute was motivated by the need for the exchange of experience and the transfer of know-how, which, he said, both Croatia and Serbia need.

The institute aims to influence relations between the two countries in such a way to "close the book of memories and open a planner."

One of the Institute's first steps would be to send a letter to the two countries' presidents, parliaments and governments as well as all other competent institutions, calling for the establishment of cooperation between them.

The establishment of cooperation with similar civil organisations and the start of dialogue is the plan for the first half of the year while in the second half, the goal will be to implement certain projects, said Rimac.

Rimac said that Croatian exports to Serbia and imports from that country amounted to around 500 million euro in the first 11 months of 2019, with exports from Croatia to Serbia being higher than imports, resulting in a 64 million euro trade surplus.

"From the economic point of view, there are no obstacles to increasing trade between Croatia and Serbia by 100-120% in the next two to three years or for the value of exports not to exceed one billion euros, which would make the surplus in trade with CEFTA countries exceed two billion euros. Croatia could profit In that segment alone," said Rimac.

He said one of the priorities was also the establishment of cooperation in the area of preservation of cultural heritage, education and various technologies, sustainable development and disaster prevention.

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

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Appointing Ambassador to Serbia First Test of Milanović-Plenković Cooperation?

ZAGREB, January 8, 2020 - The appointment of the new Croatian ambassador to Serbia can serve as the first test of cooperation between the incumbent government led by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the newly-elected president Zoran Milanović, the Večernji List daily newspaper said on Wednesday.

Hido Biščević, a journalist and a career diplomat, has already been nominated by PM Plenković for that post and this nomination has been approved by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

However, the whole procedure of Biščević's appointment as the next Croatian ambassador to Belgrade has not yet been completed. It needs to be also approved by the country-recipient and in this case, Serbia has already shown positive response and also the relevant Croatian parliamentary committee is supposed to interview the nominee.

Upon the completion of the whole procedure, the Croatian president signs the decision on ambassadorial appointments.

It remains to be seen whether the procedure will be finalised until 18 February when Grabar-Kitarović's term ends.

Besides, decisions to approve appointments of diplomats towards the end of the term of the outgoing presidents may be ethically disputable. The Večernji List said that Grabar-Kitarović would not rush decisions.

The post of the Croatian ambassador in Belgrade is currently vacant after Ambassador Gordan Bakota was sent to his new ambassadorial duty to Germany.

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

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