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.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Croatia Dismisses as Unacceptable Vučić's Justification of Armed Rebellion

ZAGREB, August 25, 2019 - Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry says that the statement by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić that the armed rebellion of local Serbs against Croatia's authorities in the early 1990s aimed at undermining the Constitutional and legal order was justified is absolutely unacceptable.

The ministry calls on Serbia to abandon the rhetoric that is detrimental to the bilateral relations as well as to stop manipulating the facts and start enhancing the status of the ethnic Croat minority.

Ministry warns about Serbia's attempts to downplay its responsibility for aggression against Croatia

"The Republic of Croatia refutes any attempt of downplaying Serbia's responsibility for causing the armed conflict and aggression against Croatia's state territory, which were the results of the Great Serbia policy of Slobodan Milošević," the ministry underscores in a press release it issued on Sunday.

Zagreb recalls that many relevant resolutions of the UN Security Council and General Assembly, verdicts of the Hague-based UN-tribunal for war crimes in former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as well as the judgement of the International Court of Justice in the case of Croatia's genocide lawsuit against Serbia and Serbia's counter-suit, clearly speak about Serbia's responsibility for these developments in the 1990s.

Furthermore, these continuous attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of a neighbouring country is something that makes a distinction between the policies led by Serbia and Croatia.

"Contrary to such Serbian attempts, Croatia is interested in the stability of its neighbourhood and is open to transfer its own experiences to its neighbouring countries during their journey to the European Union."

"We do not allow the disrespect for the fact that Croatia is a sovereign and independent country, created following the democratically expressed will of its people (to have its state) and defended during the imposed war," the ministry says reiterating Zagreb's commitment to developing harmonious good-neighbourly relations with all neighbours.

Croatia provides its minorities with the highest level of protection of their rights and is building a tolerant and inclusive society based on the rule of law and trust among citizens.

"Croatia calls on Serbia to enhance the status of the Croat national minority in the Republic of Serbia, in accordance with the obligations it has assumed, instead of manipulating the facts, and to abandon the rhetoric aimed at reviving the defeated projects detrimental to the relations between the two neighbouring countries."

Following the recent incidents in two cafes near Knin in which guests were assaulted while watching a TV broadcast of the Belgrade-based Zrvena Zvezda's football match, Vučić told Serbian media on Saturday that "it is understandable" that 30 years ago the largest part of local Serbs launched a rebellion against Croatia's authorities.

Vučić described those incidents as "awful" and promised Serbia's help to its people in Croatia.

The 21 August assault against guests in a cafe in the village of Uzdolje near Knin is qualified by the Šibenik county law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities as an act of causing riot, the Šibenik police said on Saturday. The perpetrators, who are facing criminal charges for their riotous behaviour, have not yet been identified. The offence carries a prison sentence from six months to five years. As far as a similar incident in the Đevirske village is concerned, misdemeanour charges have been filed against five people and one person is charged with a criminal offence.

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

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Vučić Admits Asking Grabar-Kitarović Not to Mention "Great Serbia Aggression"

ZAGREB, August 21, 2019 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić has told a local Serbian media outlet that the Zagreb-based Nacional newspaper has reported correctly that he requested Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović to not keep using the collocation "the Great Serbia aggression."

"I told them: 'Folks, please do not constantly talk about the great Serbia aggression, as there is no sense'," Vucic said on Wednesday.

He went on to say that the Croatian president also forwarded her demands to him, including investing more effort in the search for people who went missing in the 1991-1995 war.

"Grabar-Kitarović particularly insisted that I should address the issue of missing people. In the coming period, I expect the first results considering this issue. It is not easy," Vučić was quoted by the broadcaster "Prva Srpska Televizija" as saying.

The Nacional weekly says in its latest issue that there was e-mail correspondence between the Croatian president and her former aide Mate Radeljić which revealed that the president said that Vucic had asked her not to use the term "Great Serbia aggression" any more.

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

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Croatia Taking Precautionary Measures Due to African Swine Fever in Serbia

ZAGREB, August 14, 2019 - Following the confirmation made by Serbia of the occurrence of African swine fever in some of pig farms in that country, Croatia's Agriculture Ministry on Wednesday called on pig farmers to strictly comply with preventive measures against this viral disease of pigs and wild boars.

The purpose of preventive measures is to detect at early stages any transmission of the virus so as to fend off the outbreak of this disease in Croatia.

The ministry cites a list of measures which pig farmers are supposed to take. Members of the general public in Croatia are urged to buy pork in registered shops.

The virus causes a haemorrhagic fever with high mortality rates in domestic pigs; some isolates can cause death of animals as quickly as a week after infection. It does not cause disease in humans.

Serbia's agriculture ministry on Tuesday confirmed that African swine fever had been detected in three villages in the Mladenovac area.

In the meantime, Bosnia and Herzegovina imposed a ban on the import of pigs and pork from Serbia.

More agriculture news can be found in the Business section.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Was Tesla Serb or Croat? The Ridiculous and Very Balkan Diplomatic Row

August 13, 2019 - A diplomatic row has erupted between Croatia and Serbia over the use of Nikola Tesla. What would the great man have made of it all?

I want to take you back in time to a hotel room in New York in 1943. Lying on his deathbed at the age of 86 was one of the greatest geniuses ever to walk this planet. Although he did not achieve as much as he himself had hoped for the betterment of humanity, Nikola Tesla changed the world immensely and made it a better place. 

After a lifetime of achievement, he perhaps reflected on his successes and arguably thought back to his family, homeland and childhood. He was  certainly proud of where he came from, as he wrote in 1936:

"Thank you very much for your much appreciated greetings and honors, I am equally proud of my Serb origin and my Croat homeland. Long live all Yugoslavs." 

Perhaps Tesla reflected how he might be remembered in the future. Some 75 years later, history has treated him kindly, and he is a global figure. A new revolutionary electric vehicle brand bears his name, and a local, new generation genius called Mate Rimac is becoming a global superstar with his electric vehicle and battery technology.

But how is he remembered and discussed in his homeland? 

nikola-tesla-ethnicity (1).jpg


I was told once that the best way to start an argument in Split is to drop into a bar and ask everything there who were the top 5 Hajduk players of all time and the leave. On a regional level, there is only one question - was Nikola Tesla a Serb or Croat?

As Tesla's sentence above suggests, he probably considered himself both - an ethnic Serb growing up in his Croatian homeland. His father was a Serb Orthodox priest, his mother the daughter of a Serb Orthodox priest. 

It seems quite clear-cut to me, but nothing is that simple in the Balkans. 

When Tesla was born in 1857, the village of Smiljan was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in what was known as the Croatian Military Frontier, a district of the Military Frontier. 

Today that village lies in modern Croatia. And although the country Tesla was born in was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it is interesting to note that he was "equally proud of my Serb origin and my Croat homeland."

I don't think that anyone would disagree with the following statement. Nikola Tesla was an ethnic Serb who was born in the village of Smiljan, which is located today in Croatia. 

And if you can accept that statement, then the logical next step (if you can briefly put nationalism and dick posturing to one side) is to conclude that Tesla has a story to tell in both Serbia and Croatia. 


It is a fact that Serbia has done MUCH better promoting its Tesla heritage so far, naming Belgrade Airport after the world's most famous Serb, even dedicating a science day to his birthday. 

By contrast, Croatia has done little with the Nikola Tesla gift on its territory, and the exhibition in Smiljan is an embarrassment compared to what it could offer. 


There are signs that this is changing, however, and Zagreb was chosen as the opening location for the Nikola Tesla Mind from the Future exhibition which will tour the places which had the biggest influence on Tesla during his life - Budapest, Prague, Paris, New York, as well as Dubai. 

But not Belgrade, for although Tesla was a proud Serb and lived, studied and worked in Gospic, Maribor, Graz, Budapest and Prague, he only actually spent 31 hours and one visit in Belgrade. 

And while Croatia might want to lay claim to the Tesla heritage, at such times it is conveniently forgotten that his house was twice destroyed in the 1940s and 1990s. 

A diplomatic row has broken out between Croatia and Serbia over the great inventor has announced its plans to celebrate Croatian innovation at Dubai Expo 2020, celebrating Croatian innovators, including Tesla. It is something I applaud, as I have long been saying that It is Time for Croatia to Claim Its Nikola Tesla Heritage.

Serbia is not amused.

"With his scientific contributions and inventions, Nikola Tesla belongs to the world but as regards his ethnic background, he belongs to the Serb people. No tragicomic attempts to falsify that simple truth can change that," the Serbian Culture and Information Ministry said in a statement. 

Nobody is trying to say anything but that Tesla was an ethnic Serb, but by the same token it is hard to deny that he was born in Smiljan, which lies not in Serbia but in Croatia. And Telsa himself spoke of being "equally proud of my Serb origin and my Croat homeland."

Or are we saying that Tesla himself was wrong to refer to his "Croatian homeland"?

Or that we cannot refer to anyone as American apart from the original indigenous tribes?

Tesla was known for having a mind for the future, and the future was where his focus always was. So why don't we honour the great man and do the same?

Rather than indulge the keyboard warriors, why not do what Tesla would have done and look to the future. There will be 21 million electric vehicles on Europe's roads by 2030, and more than 75% of Croatia's tourists arrive by road. As I outlined in my recent blueprint for resetting tourism here in Branding Croatia: 5 Gifts and Trends to Focus On, Smiljan has a big role to play, 

Instead of fighting, why not work with EU funding cross-border funding programmes to celebrate Nikola Tesla and the innovation of this region. Build a Theatre of Dreams at Smiljan to stimulate the next generation, as well as similar projects in Serbia. South-East Europe, a hub of innovation and invention, symbolised by the great Nikola Tesla, whose presence was felt throughout the region. 

Do you think that idea would have made that dying old man in a New York hotel room 86 years ago a little prouder than the ridiculous situation we have at present?

Page 5 of 40