Monday, 21 October 2019

“For Progress in Relations with Croatia, Serbia needs Statesman Like Willy Brandt”

ZAGREB, October 21, 2019 - The chairman of the Croatian parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Miro Kovač of the ruling HDZ party, said on Sunday that for progress to be made in its relations with Croatia, Serbia needed a statesman like former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize almost 50 years ago.

On October 20, 1971, 25 years after World War II, Brandt was awarded for concrete initiatives designed to defuse tensions in relations between West Germany and the Soviet Union and Poland because he extended a hand of reconciliation between the peoples that had been enemies for a long time, Kovač wrote on social networks.

Even though a quarter of a century has passed since the aggression on Croatia and the Homeland War, war-related issues, such as the search for people gone missing and the payment of compensation to former inmates of Serb-run concentration camps, have still not been resolved, Kovac wrote.

The HDZ official believes that if issues stemming from Serbia's legacy from the 1990s war are not efficiently resolved, it will continue affecting relations between Croatia and Serbia for decades to come as well as affect the coexistence of the Croat majority and the Serb minority in Croatia, notably Vukovar.

"That's what history teaches us. If things from the past are not resolved, they always resurface somehow. For progress to be made in relations between Croatia and Serbia, we need as a partner a reputable statesman in Serbia, someone like Willy Brandt," Kovač said.

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

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Concert Held in Belgrade for Croatia's Independence Day

ZAGREB, October 8, 2019 - The Dubrovnik Piano Trio on Monday held a concert in Belgrade's Church of St. Anthony of Padua to mark Croatia's Independence Day, and the event was also attended by Croatian Embassy staff headed by Ambassador Gordan Bakota and Zagreb City Assembly chair Drago Prgomet.

Bakota said the event provided an opportunity to recall Croatia's path from a country fighting for its independence to a country that was a member of all international organisations and would soon be chairing the EU.

Warning against both national and social populism, Prgomet called for building a state that would provide equal opportunities to all, regardless of their political affiliation, ethnicity or religion.

"I believe that we will continue to build (Croatia) as a country which is tolerant and open to all who accept it as independent - both those who live in it and its neighbours," said Prgomet, who earlier in the day visited Subotica and Tavankut in the Serbian province of Vojvodina, which have sizeable Croat communities.

Bakota and Prgomet said they would like the Belgrade city authorities to soon fulfil their promise and provide premises for the Croatian Cultural Centre, which exists as an association but does not have premises where to hold cultural events such as the concert by the Dubrovnik Piano Trio.

More news about Croats in Serbia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

Rijeka and Serbia’s Vojvodina Sign Cooperation Agreement

ZAGREB, October 5, 2019 - The Chamber of Commerce of the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina and the County Chamber of Commerce of the northern Croatian coastal city of Rijeka signed a cooperation agreement in Novi Sad on Friday, Vojvodina television said.

The agreement was signed at the 52nd International Tourism Fair by the president of the Chamber of Commerce of Vojvodina, Boško Vučurević, and the president of the County Chamber of Commerce of Rijeka, Vidoje Vujić.

"The agreement aims to improve cooperation in the economic area, with emphasis on food, wine and health tourism," Vučurević said, adding that the two chambers would intensify their cooperation in the coming period.

He announced joint efforts by the chambers of commerce of Vojvodina and Rijeka and the Hungarian association of towns to boost health and spa tourism.

Vujić said that Rijeka would be the European Capital of Culture in 2020 and Novi Sad in 2021.

"Novi Sad and Rijeka are twin cities. We have intense cooperation with many scientists, every year we exchange several business delegations, and we think the time has come for the two chambers to provide greater logistical support and pave the way for cooperation. The closer the cooperation between businesses, the better it will be for science, culture, education and everyone else," Vujić said.

He particularly highlighted the potential of hunting tourism and agriculture and the need to preserve villages and develop rural areas, citing traditional farms in Vojvodina as an example of good practice.

More Rijeka news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Croatian President Denies Having a Meeting with Serbian FM in New York

ZAGREB, September 24, 2019 - The Croatian President's Office on Tuesday denied media reports that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had held a bilateral meeting with Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić on the margins of the UN General Assembly session in New York, saying that "a courtesy encounter and greeting in the corridor" could not be called a bilateral meeting.

According to a statement by the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dačić had several brief meetings with senior officials from the region and the world ahead of the 74th UN General Assembly session in New York, including one with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

Grabar-Kitarović's Office said that she had had many bilateral meetings with statesmen, including US Vice President Mike Pence and Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, as well as with representatives of Google and the World Jewish Organisation, but not with Dačić. "To describe a courtesy encounter and greeting in the corridor as a bilateral meeting would be impolite and incorrect," her office said in a statement.

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

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Serbia-Kosovo Territorial Exchange Would Open up Pandora's Box in SE Europe

ZAGREB, September 24, 2019 - An exchange of territory between Serbia and Kosovo would open up Pandora's box in Southeast Europe, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović told UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York on Monday.

The Croatian president was in New York for the 74th UN General Assembly which she will address on Tuesday.

On Monday, the Croatian president met with UN Secretary-General Guterres and discussed with him the situation in Southeast Europe, notably Bosnia and Herzegovina, relations between Belgrade and Kosovo, and what Croatia "as the leader in the region will do to help further stabilise the situation and help solve outstanding issues."

"I mentioned the exchange of territory and said that it would be a very bad idea that would open up Pandora's box and lead to various demands for territorial swaps in the entire territory of former Yugoslavia," she said.

The Serbian state leadership earlier mentioned the possibility of exchanging the northern, Serb majority part of Kosovo for the Albanian majority south of Serbia, as a way for the two countries to get closer to resolving their dispute. That idea is strongly opposed by France and Germany while the United States and recently Austria said that they could accept such a solution.

Grabar-Kitarović criticised the proposal for a territorial swap at a bilateral meeting with Kosovo President Hashim Thaci, whose position on the matter has changed.

Grabar-Kitarović added that Guterres also wanted to know what Croatia would be doing during its chairmanship of the European Union and "how we will make use of it, for ourselves as well as for our neighbourhood."

On the first day of her stay in New York, Grabar-Kitarović attended the opening of a UN summit on climate change, announcing that her address at the General Assembly would include the topic of pollution and warming up of the Adriatic Sea.

The Croatian president also took part in a summit on religious freedoms. "The thing that should be said and that is often misunderstood is that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world and that every day 11 Christians are killed worldwide because of their religion," she said.

"So, let us not think just about other religions for the sake of political correctness, let us think equally about all religions, including our own," she said.

Grabar-Kitarović also singled out a meeting with a Google vice-president with whom she agreed "on further cooperation regarding the Three Seas Initiative and the digitisation of the entire region", notably Croatia, its islands and other parts of the country.

This would enable distance learning and remote work, which would enable people to stay in Croatia, strengthen jobs and help increase salaries, she said.

More news about Croatia and the United Nations can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Holy See Very Important for Future Relations between Serbs and Croats, Says Vučić

ZAGREB, September 12, 2019 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said after an audience with Pope Francis in the Vatican on Thursday that the role of the Holy See in talks on future relations between Serbs and Croats was very important, stressing that as Serbia's president he would like the pope to visit Serbia but that his visit was a matter to be decided by the Serb Orthodox Church.

"It is clear to everyone that we are divided by history and by the past, that we have completely opposite views of past events... I fear that if we fail to be responsible and continue to talk about the past, we will strengthen all the others and weaken ourselves," Vučić said, adding "We must respect one another more."

"The role of the Holy See in talks between Serbs and Croats is very important," Vučić told Serbian reporters after talks with Pope Francis, noting that one of the topics of the talks was the need to improve relations between Serbs and Croats.

He would not reveal more details about the talks or about the official positions of Zagreb and Belgrade.

Vučić said he also talked with the pope about the status of the Roman Catholic community in Serbia, which accounts for about 5.1% of the population, and particularly underlined the status of the Belgrade Archdiocese and the respect enjoyed by Belgrade Archbishop Stanislav Hočevar.

Vučić said the Vatican wanted a peaceful solution between Kosovo and Serbia and would maintain its position in that regard since the Holy See had not recognised Kosovo's independence.

Commenting on the possibility of the pope visiting Serbia, Vučić said: "I would love it if the Pope visited Serbia, but that is a matter for our church to decide".

Vučić conveyed to the pope greetings from the head of the Serb Orthodox Church, Patriarch Irinej, and noted that he would convey his to the Serb Orthodox dignitary.

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

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Croatia Protests Against Serbia Servicemen's Attempt to Enter Croatia

ZAGREB, September 10, 2019 - Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry on Monday summoned Serbia's ambassador to convey protest at an attempt by Serbian servicemen to enter Croatia in an illegal manner and without an official notification, while the ambassador Mira Nikolić rejected the protest note.

Serbia's ambassador Nikolić was summoned to the Croatian Foreign Ministry today after in the early hours of 7 September a van carrying 11 Serbian military personnel, who had army uniforms in the vehicle, was stopped at the Bajakovo border crossing. The Serbian servicemen tried to enter Croatia without notifying Croatia's authorities and therefore the Serbian army delegation was denied entry into the country.

During today's meeting, the Croatian side informed Serbia's ambassador that it condemned this attempted illegal crossing into Croatia without any notification and without being given a consent from Croatia.

Although the Serbian diplomat refused to take in the protest note, the ministry informed her that the event at the Bajakovo border crossing was an act of provocation with an aim of causing incidents.

The ministry also expresses strong condemnation of the fact that Serbia's official institutions were involved in the incident, the Croatian ministry says in a press release.

It criticises responses made by the Serbian leadership after the incident, branding their conduct as inappropriate and a part of the ongoing pattern of public discourse in Serbia directed against Croatia, a neighbouring country that is a member of NATO and the European Union.

"This is yet another evidence of Serbia's inability to deal with its past and its responsibility for the wars in the 1990s," the Croatian ministry underscores.

On Saturday afternoon Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that a group of Serbian army personnel had attempted to enter Croatia at the Bajakovo border crossing unannounced and in violation of international law, with the aim of causing an incident, but were prevented by the Croatian border police.

He said that an unannounced entry of members of a foreign army into the territory of another state was against international law. "This is unacceptable to the Croatian state and we strongly condemned this act," the prime minister said.

Serbia's attempts to provoke incidents with its neighbours in order to divert attention from the difficult situation at home again show how retrograde and irresponsible its policy is, the Croatian President's Office said in a statement on Saturday evening.

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

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Serbian Army Personnel Tries to Enter Croatia

ZAGREB, September 8, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in Zagreb on Saturday that a group of Serbian army personnel had attempted to enter Croatia at the Bajakovo border crossing in the morning, unannounced and in violation of international law, with the aim of causing an incident, but were prevented by the Croatian border police.

"This morning, around 6.30, Croatian police stopped 11 Serbian army personnel from entering Croatia at the Bajakovo border crossing. Their visit was not announced or agreed and their aim was to visit Jasenovac in Serbian army uniforms. Their attempted visit obviously was not of a commemorative nature, as it should have been, to pay tribute to the victims (of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp), but was obviously planned as an act of provocation with the aim of causing an incident," Plenković told reporters at the government headquarters.

He said that an unannounced entry of members of a foreign army into the territory of another state was against international law. "This is unacceptable to the Croatian state and we strongly condemned this act," the prime minister said.

"Croatian citizens should know that the Croatian government and all its institutions protect our legal order and do not allow such provocations. The Croatian state institutions effectively exposed this attempt by the Serbian army to provoke an incident," Plenković said.

Asked if the Croatian government had contacted the authorities in Serbia about this incident, Plenković said it would have been normal if the Serbian authorities had announced their visit to Jasenovac.

Asked to comment on Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin's statement that Croatia should apologise and that it was "the follower of Pavelić's fascist ideology," Plenković ironically said that "these Vulin's eleven" should honour the rules and refrain from provocations and violations of international law. "Everything else is a classic exercise of petty politicking and raising tensions between Croatia and Serbia. We have heard this story from them many times and have never fallen for it. We are pursuing a serious policy as a member of the EU and NATO."

"We respect the rights of ethnic minorities in Croatia, including the Serb minority, and we expect the same from Serbia. We want Serbia to treat Croatia and the Croats in Serbia with respect," he added.

Asked what Serbia wanted to achieve with this provocation, Plenković said that the question should be addressed to the government in Belgrade.

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

Friday, 30 August 2019

Politicians' Statements After Knin Attacks Detrimental to Croats in Serbia

ZAGREB, August 30, 2019 - The leader of Croats in Serbia, Tomislav Žigmanov, said on Thursday the "inappropriate" statements by Croatian and Serbian officials after last week's attacks on ethnic Serbs in Croatia were straining relations between the two countries and detrimental to Croats in Serbia.

"Ethnically motivated violence against members of the Serb community in the vicinity of Knin prompted inappropriate statements on both sides and they weren't in the function of defusing tensions and finding solutions," the president of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina said on Twitter.

Žigmanov said those statements increased the fear in the Croat minority in Serbia, causing them to withdraw, feel unsafe and unwilling to participate in public life.

He said such a state of affairs suited some politicians in both countries because they thought this is a way to mobilise voters.

According to him, football fans have contributed to the tense climate. "Tanks and tractors appear ahead of games. That certainly won't calm down the once again strained relations between Serbia and Croatia."

He once again condemned last week's attacks on ethnic Serbs near Knin.

More news about the status of Croats in Serbia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Red Star Fans Wheel out Tank Ahead of Match in Belgrade, Move Shocks Croats

ZAGREB, August 27, 2019 - The Belgrade-based football club Red Star (Crvena Zvezda) has allowed the parking of a tank outside the club's stadium ahead of Tuesday night's Champions League qualifying playoff against Swiss team Young Boys, an action that caused indignation among the Croats.

The dpa news agency has reported that the fans of this Serbian club have parked a decommissioned tank in front of their stadium ahead of Tuesday night's Champions League qualifying playoff "in a gesture one fan described as 'entirely normal'.

The news agency recalls that the Soviet-made T-55 tank is one of over a thousand that served for decades with the now-defunct Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), including during Croatia's war of independence in the 1990s.

"The tank, fully decommissioned, welded shut and freshly painted in camouflage colours and adorned with the club's trademark red and white emblem, was parked in front of the northern entrance of the Rajko Mitić Stadium on Monday," says the dpa.

"The northern side of the stadium is usually reserved for Red Star supporters, who in the past have often been involved in violent incidents and expressed strong nationalist views.

"The Red Star machine is being prepared," the RSB fan Web site said ahead of the second-leg of the playoff, currently 2-2 on aggregate.

The web portal of the Croatian daily newspaper Večernji List comments on these developments with writing "Provocation! A tank from Vukovar parked in the centre of Begrade".

Vukovar was ravaged in the late 1991 when the JNA-supported Serb paramilitary and rebel forces occupied that eastern Croatian city. The town was reintegrated into Croatia in 1998.

The dpa says that a club spokesman could not be reached for comment.

Red Star fans dismissed the idea that parking a tank in front of the stadium was provocative, and dozens of them posed in front of it for photos.

"This is not a provocation... This is entirely normal... The war ended 25 years ago," said Nenad, a fan from the northern town of Zrenjanin. "This is the symbol ever since I've been a Red Star fan," he was quoted as saying.

Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanović suggested there was no problem, pointing out that there were no ordnance or explosive devices inside the machine.

"This is something that resembles a tank. It has tracks and a mock turret... The prosecution said there are no reasons for police action," he told reporters.

The Belgrade-based Blic tabloid reported that the club perceived the tank as "cultural heritage".

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

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