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.

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.

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