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.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Croatia and Serbian Intelligence Services Trade Accusations

ZAGREB, December 1, 2019 - The Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) on Saturday responded to a statement by the Serbian Security Service (BIA) saying that it had reported a Croatian and a Serbian national on the suspicion that they had been spying for Croatian security and political structures, including SOA.

SOA said the report in question "is a trumped-up report aimed at diverting the attention of the domestic and international public from serious scandals in Serbia, of which two are recent - suspected corruption and illegal trade in weapons between Serbia and foreign countries and the release of a video showing a Russian intelligence officer, a member of GRU, handing over money to a Serbian Army officer."

"We are worried about the fact that Serbian security institutions, in an attempt to cover up suspected breaches of international law and downplay the work of its political, security and military bodies for the benefit of third countries, have been constantly behaving aggressively towards the Republic of Croatia and its citizens as well as towards NATO allies," SOA says in a statement published on its website.

"Particularly worrying is the fact that the Republic of Serbia is systematically using its security services to hamper efforts to shed light on the fate of people abducted or gone missing during the Homeland War and to cover up war crimes committed against Croat civilians and soldiers during the Great Serbian aggression on the Republic of Croatia, which includes, among other things, accusations of espionage on behalf of the Republic of Croatia," SOA says, adding that it would continue to work, in cooperation with other Croatian institutions, on protecting national security and the interests of Croatia and its citizens, including the search for people gone missing in the Homeland War.

BIA said on Friday that it had reported two persons on the suspicion that they had been spying for Croatian security and political structures.

The two persons, who were reported to the prosecutorial authorities in Sremska Mitrovica, are Croatian national Nikola Kajkić and Serbian national Dražen Letić, BIA said in a statement.

The suspects, BIA says, conveyed information to Croatian intelligence circles and undertook other activities to aid the work of Croatian intelligence structures in order to jeopardise Serbia's national security and its international political and economic interests.

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

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Croatia Requests Explanation for Disappearance of Yugoslav Succession Funds

ZAGREB, November 14, 2019 - After media reports that Croatia asks Serbia to give it back 148.5 million dollars, which is a part of the total succession fund after the break-up of the Yugoslav Federation (SFRY) and which Belgrade reportedly unlawfully spent, Foreign Affairs State Secretary said on Wednesday that Croatia demanded the explanations of how the funds went missing.

The State Secretary Andrea Metelko Zgombić told reporters that Croatia would insist on the compensation of those funds.

The Zagreb-based Večernji List daily reported on Wednesday morning that at the time of its disintegration the then Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) had 645.55 million dollars deposited in foreign currency accounts in banks outside the federation.

According to the model for the distribution of this sum in the succession process, Croatia is entitled to 23% of that amount, which means that Croatia should get 148.5 million dollars.

However, at the start of the negotiations on the distribution of that part of the succession sum, Serbia informed the other countries-successors that only 56 million dollars had been left on those accounts, declining to give any explanation where the rest of the money had ended up, the daily said.

According to the daily, Croatia possesses evidence and documents showing that Serbia used that money to pay the foreign debts of its companies in the 1990s.

During the fifth meeting of the Standing Joint Committee for monitoring the effective implementation of the succession agreement, which was held in Zagreb on Wednesday, Croatia raised the issue of those funds.

"Croatia will insist that the explanation should be given of how that money disappeared and also on the mechanisms for compensation to be provided by the country which is found to have used those funds unlawfully," said Metelko Zgombić.

The Agreement on Succession Issues regarding the former SFRY was signed in Vienna in 2001, and entered into force in June 2004.

The document reads that the foreign currency accounts of the SFRY in mixed banks had 645.55 million dollars.

Metelko Zgombić said that all sides in the negotiations showed "understanding" and were willing to sit at the table to discuss this matter.

Since the entry into force of the agreement, the Standing Joint Committee of senior representatives of each successor State, held only five meetings.

The Croatian official admitted on Wednesday evening that the implementation of the agreement was going on at a slow pace, since each decision of the Joint Committee must be adopted unanimously.

More news about Croatia and the former Yugoslavia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Serbian Film About Jasenovac Causing Tensions

ZAGREB, November 12, 2019 - The letter sent by a US official to Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek, which was published by the Serbian Kurir newspaper and concerned the shooting of a film about Jasenovac, was not an official request forwarded to the Croatian government but the diplomat's private e-mail correspondence, the Croatian Culture Ministry said on Monday.

Minister Obuljen Koržinek has already explained that the ministry is not the address to which the film director should forward his requests about the film shooting, the ministry said.

The pro-government tabloid Kurir recently ran a copy of an email which the State Department envoy for Holocaust issues, Thomas K. Yazdgerdi, had sent to Minister Obuljen Koržinek in March this year, asking her to support the film project "Dara from Jasenovac", the filming of which has already begun with the support of the Serbian government.

"The letter a copy of which was run by the Serbian media is not an official request by the U.S. Administration to the Croatian government. It is private e-correspondence of the U.S. diplomat who paid several visits to Croatia in connection with the culture of remembrance and the Holocaust," the Croatian ministry said in its response to Hina's query.

Minister Obuljen Koržinek said she explained to Mr. Yazdgerdi that her ministry was not the address to send requests regarding the shooting of the film. The filmmaker should probably contact the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) for such requests, if the crew needs permissions to film scenes at locations in Croatia, the minister said.

Furthermore, the right address to obtain information and facts about the past of Jasenovac is the public institute that runs the Jasenovac Memorial Site (JUSP Jasenovac). Jasenovac was the WW2 concentration camp run by the Ustasha regime from 1941 to 1945.

"According to information available to us, neither the director nor the producer have ever contacted HAVC or JUSP Jasenovac, and the film will be shot only in Serbia," the ministry said.

Considering frequent attempts in the Serbian public to manipulate the topic of Jasenovac and the number of the victims as well as attempts to deny crimes committed against Croats during the (1991-1995) Homeland War and continuous attempts to link the democratic Croatia and the 1941-1945 Independent State of Croatia (NDH), Minister Obuljen Koržinek conveyed her doubts to the U.S. special envoy for Holocaust issues regarding the film project.

"Following recent media comments in Serbia and also a part of the Croatian media scene, it is evident that this is one more attempt to abuse the topic of Jasenovac, which should always be condemned," reads the statement issued by the ministry.

The film crew said on November 2 that the project was expected to be finished by the end of the year and that the premiere was planned for May 2020 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Jasenovac concentration camp.

The film was financially supported by the Serbian government and the Serbian Film Centre with 2.3 million euro.

More news about Jasenovac can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 8 November 2019

Croatia Protests over Monument to Serbian General Who Led Attack on Vukovar

ZAGREB, November 8, 2019 - Croatia on Friday protested to Serbian authorities over a monument commemorating a Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) general who led the attack on Vukovar in 1991 and called on Belgrade to stop glorifying war crimes.

The memorial plaque to Mladen Bratić, commander of JNA and Serbian para-miltiary forces during the attack on Vukovar, was unveiled in a Serbian army complex in the northern city of Novi Sad on Friday.

Bratić was killed on 2 November 1991 at Borovo Naselje, a suburb of the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar which was occupied by Serbian forces on 18 November after killing over 2,000 people there.

In a diplomatic note presented to the Serbian Embassy in Zagreb, the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs condemned this act and called on Serbian authorities to stop playing down and glorifying war crimes.

"Serbia is once again called upon to focus on the process of facing its own past and its role in the war it initiated in the 1990s," the Croatian ministry said. Such decisions and moves by Serbian authorities go against Croatia's efforts to build good neighbourly relations, it added.

Following criticism of Serbia's plan to unveil a memorial plaque for Yugoslav Army Major General Mladen Bratić, Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić on Friday in Geneva said that Croatia has streets named after Mile Budak, a writer who served as a minister in the NDH governments.

The unveiling of a memorial plaque in the Serbian army complex in Novi Sad to Bratić has come across criticism in Croatia but also in civil society activists in Serbia. The plaque has been described as "unacceptable and incomprehensible," and "mocking the victims of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide committed in the 1990s."

"Reporters from Serbia asked me how it can be that Croatian reporters can ask that of me when there are streets named after Mile Budak in Croatia," Vučić said. Budak was a minister in the Nazi-style Ustasha regime in Croatia from 1941 to 1945 and he is also known for his literary work.

Croatia's Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced that Croatia would send Serbia a protest note regarding the plaque honouring Bratić.

Earlier in the day Croatia's Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Gordan Grlić Radman condemned Serbia's actions.

"Unveiling a memorial plaque to a war criminal, certainly doesn't contribute to stabilisation and good-neighbourly relations. That direction in Serbia's foreign policy is unacceptable and incomprehensible," Grlić Radman told reporters in Rijeka.

A coalition of non-government organisations in Vojvodina known as Civic Vojvodina described the unveiling of the plaque as "a mockery of the victims of war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide in the 1990s." the "021.rs" web portal reported on Thursday.

Civic Vojvodina condemned the planned unveiling, saying in a press release that Bratić "commanded the attacks on and destruction of Vukovar, which was one of the most shameful military operations in the history of modern warfare, leaving an indelible stain on (northern Serbian province of) Vojvodina's capital."

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.

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