Friday, 3 May 2019

Vojvodina Croats Call for Ban on Serbian Radical Party Event in Hrtkovci

ZAGREB, May 3, 2019 - The Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Croats (DSHV) on Friday requested Serbian state institutions to ban a convention the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) plans to hold on May 4 in Hrtkovci, a village in Vojvodina that is considered a symbol of the expulsion and plight of the Vojvodina Croats in the early 1990s.

Serbian media said earlier that the SRS election convention would be held in a house in Hrtkovci which SRS leader and convicted war criminal Vojislav Šešelj bought last year.

"We consider the planned SRS convention to be not only an act of political provocation but unacceptable activity that should be banned by the Serbian state institutions. As members of a wounded community we have every reason to expect it because the convention can also be interpreted as an act of mocking the innocent victims," DSHV leader Tomislav Žigmanov said in a statement.

The SRS convention is to coincide with the 27th anniversary of a rally in Hrtkovci at which the names of local Croats were read out in Šešelj's presence and they were told to leave the village.

An estimated 35,000-40,000 Vojvodina Croats had to leave their homes during the 1990s campaign of intimidation and almost none of them have returned, the DSHV said, noting that "the issue of expulsion of the Vojvodina Croats is still not being dealt with adequately – judicial bodies have not prosecuted the crimes committed, there is not a single public memorial and commemorations are not held."

The DSHV also recalled that the Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague in 2018 delivered a 10-year prison sentence to Šešelj for expulsions and deportations of the Vojvodina Croats.

Šešelj has in the meantime completed his prison term.

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

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

United Nations: On Average, Serbs Are Happier Than Croats

Finland is a very happy country, according to the United Nations' survey of happiness, while Croatia is placed in the middle of the rankings, behind Serbia, Kosovo, Slovenia and Montenegro. Finland is followed on the list of the happiest countries of the world by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands, reports Express on May 1, 2019.

The United Nations have published a report on global happiness for the last seven years. It tracks the situation in 156 countries according to six key factors contributing to the level of happiness – income, freedom, trust, life expectancy, social support and generosity. Croatia is ranked 75th, while Serbia and Montenegro are 70th and 73th.

The particularly surprising data is the fact that Serbia has seen an increase in the feeling of happiness in the last several years, while Croatia has seen a decline in most years, although it did progress slightly compared to the previous year, jumping from 82nd to 75th position. Still, this is a significant drop compared to 2016 when Croatia was 58th. While our neighbours are becoming more positive and more satisfied, Croats are becoming more dissatisfied and unhappy.

Kosovo is at the 46th position, Slovenia at 44th and Hungary at 62th, while neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina is placed three positions behind Croatia.

Citizens say the biggest problem is corruption, which hampers the feeling of happiness and satisfaction with the current situation. That is why many are leaving the country, which shows that the dissatisfaction has gone beyond the limits people can handle. "In Croatia, we live in a grotesque that resembles the Alan Ford comic, and this is ultimately unfavourable for the mental health of individuals. The recipe for happiness, apart from going abroad, includes personal effort. It is important to point out positive examples. Everyone can do something to make our surroundings better and more beautiful. We can be more kind to each other, less jealous, focus on what we can change, including voting in the elections,” explained Nebojša Buđanovac, a social worker and psychotherapist.

It seems that the feeling of happiness in neighbouring countries is not linked to the amount of money people have, because average Serbian citizen has just a third of assets compared to the average Croat. Credit Suisse says that the average Serb had about 10,700 dollars last year, while Croats had 35,900 dollars, Hungarian 37,500 dollars, and Slovenians 79,000 dollars. This includes money, shares, bonds and other financial assets.

It is interesting that residents of Bosnia and Herzegovina had 14,000 dollars, making them richer than the average Serb. The survey also states that this is an average wealth per capita, which means that the figures do not show differences in income.

According to this data, the average Serb is at the financial level which the average Croat had 15 years ago. Even though Serbia has almost twice as many inhabitants, the total financial assets of Serbia amount to just 100 billion dollars, 20 billion less than Croatia. Bosnia and Herzegovina has financial assets of only 51 billion dollars.

Translated from Express.

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

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Plenković Participates in Balkan Summit in Berlin

ZAGREB, April 30, 2019 - A Balkan summit in Berlin has ended without a concrete agreement between Serbia and Kosovo regarding blocked negotiations, but it has been agreed to continue dialogue in order to diffuse existing tensions.

Western Balkan leaders gathered in Berlin on Monday, with the goal of defusing the worsening feud between Serbia and its former province, Kosovo.

The summit was jointly organised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. In attendance were heads of state and government from Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also travelled to Berlin for the talks.

"The key messages from tonight's meeting was a 'yes' to efforts aimed at restarting negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo. In any case, the efforts Germany, France and broad European diplomatic community have made will most probably require more talks in order to unblock the situation," said Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković who attended the summit.

Plenković said there was no agreement because the positions of the two sides were too far apart.

He added that the so-called Berlin process on stability would continue in early July with a meeting in Poznan, Poland.

Plenković said that at a meeting in Berlin he had underscored Croatia’s ambitions for next year when Zagreb will take over the presidency of the European Council. "We will try to combine outstanding political topics that exist between Southeast European countries and the institutional part of drawing closer to the European Union," Plenković said.

The next meeting in this form will take place in Paris in early July.

Serbia and Kosovo's relationship has been fraught for years, with Belgrade refusing to recognise its neighbour's move to declare independence from Serbia in 2008. Some 100 countries have recognised Kosovo as a sovereign country.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Monday evening he was disappointed with the outcome of a Balkan summit in Berlin which ended with no agreement between Serbia and Kosovo regarding blocked negotiations, stressing that most participants were criticising Serbia but that the exceptions were Croatia and Slovenia.

"I have to admit that representatives of Slovenia and Croatia were fair and we have nothing to hold against them," Vučić said after the Berlin summit.

Vučić particularly criticised the representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Prime Minister Denis Zvizdić who, according to Vučić, was extremely unfair when talking about the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska.

Vučić also said that Serbia's representatives at the summit were put in an awkward position, as they were surrounded by countries that have already recognised Kosovo. He said it was good that dialogue will resume, adding however that "Serbia had no serious partner for dialogue."

Vučić also thanked the hosts of the summit German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron for the enormous effort they have invested so as to make progress in the Western Balkans.

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

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Serbian Singers Rule Croatian YouTube

For about ten days, the most popular video on YouTube's trending list for Croatia was Serbian singer Anastasia Ražnatović, the daughter of Serbian singer Svetlana Ražnatović Ceca and Željko Ražnatović Arkan, the assassinated commander of the paramilitary Serbian Volunteer Guard against whom the Hague tribunal filed an indictment in 1999, reports Index.hr on April 11, 2019.

She was replaced on the top spot by Serbian singer Saša Kovačević. Since several days ago, the first position has been held by Bosnian rappers Jala Brat and Buba Corelli, with their new song "Bebi". With the exception of Severina and Jelena Rozga, it seems that Croatian musicians simply cannot reach the top position.

What do Serbian songs and videos have, and the Croatian ones do not? “When you look at these videos, you have a feeling of watching world-class performers. The fact is that Serbian singers are investing a lot more in the production of their videos, but also in the music itself. Jala Brat and Buba Corelli have been ruling the Balkan music scene for some time, and they are absolutely following the global trends,” TV host Dalibor Petko said, adding that so-called folk songs are not the only one which are popular.

“None of the first three songs on the current list are folk songs, and I think people are mistaken in believing that all songs coming from Serbia are folk songs. Željko Joksimović and Dara Bubamara do not produce the same kind of music. Serbian music has its fans in Croatia, and this did not happen yesterday. If you look at the clubs, at least 70 per cent of the clubs play Serbian music, often in combination with Croatian performers under the common brand Balkan Party,” he explained.

Although Croatian performers often issue new songs, their numbers are not anywhere near the numbers produced by the Serbian music industry. “Serbian performers record a lot more than the Croatian ones. The key is how much the audience likes a certain song or not,” said Petko.

If we return to the 1990s, the Croatian dance music fever dominated Croatia, both in the media and in the nightclubs, but it has since been replaced by folk music. Petko said that the audience is the only reason for that change. “During the dance era, it was often said that this is terrible music and should be abolished, and then the folk music came in. The fact is that we generally do not have appropriate music for clubs, which need songs with strong rhythm.”

Listeners do not care where the music is coming from. “Today's YouTube generation is not interested in politics and who comes from where. Slovenians adore Croatian music, and there are even some Slovenian singers performing songs in Croatian in order to be more popular in Slovenia,” he explained.

“I would not agree that music can be bad. What will someone listen is a matter of personal choice and tastes should not be discussed. I am absolutely against any bans, and in today's world you always have the option to change the programme or the radio you listen or the video on YouTube,” concluded Petko.

Translated from Index.hr (reported by Antonija Senjak).

More music news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Croatia Ready to Conquer Serbia – With Wines

Exports are on the rise, and the quality of the wines has been recognised beyond the borders of Croatia, said Croatian Chamber of Commerce’s vice-president for agriculture and tourism, Dragan Kovačević. In 2018, Croatia exported 16 million euro worth of wines, of which 938,799 euro went to Serbia, an increase of 35 per cent compared to 2017, reports Agrobiz.hr on March 31, 2019.

Among the 300 top-quality wines from all over the world presented at the Wine Style wine salon in Belgrade this Saturday, there were 13 Croatian wineries – Medea, Kutjevo, Vinoplod-Šibenik, Zigante, PZ Vrbnik, Iločki Podrumi, Stina Vino, Degrassi, Dingač Skaramuča, Plavac Mali DNZ, Feravino and Pjenušci Peršurić. The participation at the Wine Style was co-financed by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, as part of the project of promoting Croatian wines in Serbian market in 2019, worth one million kuna, with 80 per cent being financed from EU funds.

“The continuous promotion is necessary to create the brand, and we want Croatia to be branded in the eyes of the world as a country which can offer high-quality wines and autochthonous varieties. The results of efforts we make to promote the Croatian wines can be seen in figures,” said Kovačević.

"This project is significant. It is our pleasure to see that the state is looking at us in a different way and that the Croatian Chamber of Commerce is investing so much effort into Croatia becoming a wine country,” said Moreno Degrassi, the owner of the Degrassi winery.

The wineries also presented their offer at a promotional wine evening held at the Writers Club restaurant. It enabled the distributors and restaurant owners to experience the potential of new vintages under the guidance of the well-known sommelier Igor Luković. "The evening is a beautiful walk through three wine regions. Croatia has launched a wine renaissance, and the state and its institutions have recognised it in the right way. People in Serbia really drink Croatian wines, especially the ones from the coastal regions, which they remember from their summer holidays,” said Luković.

"The Serbian market is interesting to us because Serbs are happy to remember the times spent on Croatian coast and readily drink our wines. This has been proven by other winemakers who have already made a great success here, and I hope that we will find our place in the Serbian market as well," said Degrassi, who exports 15% of his production to Slovenia, Belgium, Sweden and Austria.

All the wineries will also be present at the Novi Sad Wine Salon in April, and the project will also provide for a trip to Dalmatia in May, in order to get the media and wine experts and distributors better acquainted with Croatian wineries.

The Croatian Chamber of Commerce has brought together all the wine producers under the umbrella brand “Vina Croatia - Vina Mosaica” to increase the visibility of Croatia on the global wine map as a country offering diverse and high-quality wines.

Translated from Agrobiz.hr.

More news about Croatian wines can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Croatia: Democratic Stability of Serbia Exceptionally Important

ZAGREB, March 19, 2019 - Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić said in Brussels on Monday that the protests which took place over the weekend in Belgrade were Serbia's internal matter, adding that democratic stability in Southeast European countries was important for Croatia and for the European security.

"I cannot comment on what happened in Belgrade yesterday. I believe this is Serbia's internal matter, but I can say generally that democratic stability in all Southeast European countries is exceptionally important for Croatia and for the European security," said Pejčinović Burić, who is taking part in a meeting of the EU foreign ministers.

The Serbian opposition has been staging largely peaceful rallies for weeks but tensions escalated on Saturday when crowds stormed the state TV station.

The protests in Belgrade over the weekend saw demonstrators storm the headquarters of the RTS public broadcasting service, surround the Presidency building and clash with the police. They ended on Sunday evening with an ultimatum issued to the authorities to release the protesters who were arrested for invading the RTS building by 3pm on Monday.

Asked about Serbia's progress on its EU journey and whether Croatia was resolving bilateral issues concerning the policy chapter 23, Pejčinović Burić said Croatia supported the EU path of all its neighbours, but that they had to meet requirements that were the same for every country.

"What kind of progress Belgrade has made on its path to the EU will be visible in a report on Serbia. We surely support the EU path of all our neighbours but the same rules apply to all countries and everyone must meet the set benchmarks. Serbia knows very well that without meeting those requirements it can hardly make progress in that process," Pejčinović Burić said.

Before the meeting in Brussels, the EU ministers talked to Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov about North Macedonia's European journey, underlining the importance of the Treaty of Prespa, an agreement reached between Greece and North Macedonia under the United Nations' auspices, resolving a long-standing dispute over the latter's name.

Stressing the importance of the Treaty of Prespa for the stability in Southeast Europe, Pejčinović Burić expressed hope North Macedonia could receive a green light for the start of its EU entry talks in June.

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

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Prime Minister Meets with Serbian Orthodox Leader Porfirije

ZAGREB, March 19, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday received for talks the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, Porfirije Perić, the government's public relations office said in a press release, adding that the meeting was also attended by Interior Minister Davor Božinović.

According to the press release, Plenković and Metropolit Porfirije said they wanted the dialogue and partnership between representatives of the government and state institutions and representatives of churches and religious communities in Croatia to continue.

Perić advocated joint action in resolving issues important for the Serb Orthodox faithful and the Serb ethnic minority.

Plenković said the government was working to strengthen the protection of the rights of all ethnic minorities, including by allocating more funds for economic development and resolving issues that had not been dealt with for years, the press release said.

More news about the status of Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Croatian President Doesn't Want to See Serbia's Destabilisation

ZAGREB, March 18, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Monday declined to comment on the situation in Serbia, which has been shaken by anti-government protests, saying that the destabilisation of that country could destabilise the entire region.

"They are Serbia's internal affairs and I do not want to interfere. However, I don't want to see the destabilisation of the entire region, and the destabilisation of Serbia would certainly result in the destabilisation of other countries," Grabar-Kitarović told the press on the margins of an investment conference in Zagreb.

"This is not an ideal time for Southeastern Europe and we should be very careful when it comes to relations between countries, including the relationship between Croatia and Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina," the president said.

The protests in Belgrade over the weekend saw demonstrators storm the headquarters of the RTS public broadcasting service, surround the Presidency building and clash with the police. They ended on Sunday evening with an ultimatum issued to the authorities to release the protesters by 3pm on Monday who were arrested for invading the RTS building.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said in an interview with the Pink commercial television network on Sunday evening that "violence will not go unpunished anymore."

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

Monday, 11 March 2019

Croat Minority in Serbia Dissatisfied with Minority Status

ZAGREB, March 11, 2019 - Progress has been made only in four out of total 25 recommendations given in order to improve the status of the Croat minority in Serbia, which is why the delegation of the Croat community is going to convey dissatisfaction at a two-day meeting of the mixed Croatian-Serbian committee which will start in Zagreb on Tuesday.

Out of all the recommendations defined in the minutes of the seventh meeting of that committee, progress has been made in only four recommendations referring to education, according to the document the Croat representatives prepared for the meeting that will be held in Zagreb and Pakrac.

No progress at all has been made in nine recommendations, and ten recommendations are being implemented to some extent, reads the document.

The Croat community is dissatisfied with a lack of progress in key areas such as representation and proportional employment of ethnic Croats in state agencies and bodies of local authority in Serbia.

The main task of the Committee that will hold its 8th meeting in Zagreb and Pakrac is the improvement of the status and protection of the rights of respective minorities in Croatia and Serbia.

The previous meeting was held in early 2018 in Serbia.

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

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Belgrade Tourism Fair: Is Serbia a Croatian Wine and Tourist Market, or Not?

February 26, 2019 - Croatia's strange tourism relationship with the Belgrade Tourism Fair, the region's largest, continues. Wine but not tourism?

I first came across the Belgrade Tourism Fair last year.

Having launched Total Slovenia News a couple of months before and with Total Montenegro News about to go live, the prospect of finding every significant tourism business and organisation in one room for four days was too hard to resist, and I headed to the Serbian capital with great anticipation. 

I could not have found a better scenario. Montenegro had the largest stand of all, all the main Slovenian tourism regions and spas were represented, and there were even the options of preliminary meetings with other countries in the region, in case we ever managed to expand further. 

There was just one thing missing. 

Croatia. 

The Belgrade Tourism Fair is the largest in the region, now in its 41st year, but last year there was not a single tourist board there. Well, officially at least... 

belgrade-tourism-fair (4).jpg

My initial conclusion is that Croatia had decided not to exhibit in Serbia due to the regional conflict back in the 1990s, but then I was surprised to learn that Croatia had been the partner country of the Belgrade Tourism Fair as recently as 2011. The Secretary of State for Tourism at the time stated:

At the 33rd Belgrade Tourism Fair, Croatia will be especially presented as a tourist destination. The State Secretary of the Croatian Ministry of Tourism, Ivo Mujo, stated that Croatia's arrival [presentation] in Belgrade, after accepting the invitation to become a partner country of the Belgrade Fair this year, was a new dimension of cooperation.

"Serbian guests are important to us in Croatia, but this isn't a one-way process, because more and more Croatian tourists are going to Serbia. He stressed that he believes that this year's presentation of Croatia in Belgrade will bring Croatia and Serbia closer in the tourist(ic) sense."

And just seven years later, no official Croatian tourism presence whatsoever. I asked the organisers why, and they checked the list of exhibitors and said they were surprised that there were no Croatian tourism boards there. Rumours of a Croatian boycott of the fair after President Vucic's visit to Zagreb were on everyone's lips, but officially the Croatian National Tourist Board said that their interests were elsewhere:

From 2010 to 2017 the Croatian National Tourist Board (CNTB) organized a continued promotional presence of the Croatian tourism offering at the Belgrade tourism fair. While in 2011, we were also the partner country of the fair for that year. However, despite multiple successful years of intensive promotion at the fair, the interest of partners interested in utilizing the CNTB fair facilities/booth, namely tourist boards, agencies, tourism-related companies, etc. wishing to present their offering at the fair has waned over the past few years, decreasing year-in, year-out. Even though there was not enough interest to have a formal presence at the fair this past year, we would like to point out that aside from a presence at fairs, the CNTB also promotes the destination through various marketing activities in Serbia. For example, in May 2017 an online brand campaign was executed on the Serbian market, which included promotional advertising of our key product categories: sun and sea, food and wine and nautical. The campaign was promoted through a range of online portals and over 6 million ad views were achieved.

Serbia represents a neighbouring market that has a strong knowledge of Croatia as a destination as well as Croatia's tourism offering. It is also a market where most visitors arrive through individually organized trips and when looking at the number of overnights in 2017, ranks as the 18th market (with 973 thousand overnights). We still plan a continued presence on the market through other promotional campaigns and activities.

I asked the current Secretary of State for Tourism about the lack of official Croatian tourist board presence, and I received this reply:

Croatia is a very popular tourist destination in Serbia, and tourists from Serbia are our traditional guests. Last year in Croatia, guests from Serbia had 153 thousand arrivals and 973 thousand overnight stays, representing an increase of 11 per cent compared to 2016. Similarly, Serbia is a very popular destination for our people, especially when it comes to shorter or city break visits.  In this respect, we believe that positive trends in the growth of tourist traffic and accompanying promotional activities on both sides will continue in the coming years.

Reason enough to make a little effort to attract some more tourists, especially in a traditional market so close to home, where the potential was to get a tourist not for a one time visit from China, but for life. 

belgrade-tourism-fair (2).jpg

Apparently not. 

Walking around the fair, I was struck by the conversations of young people walking around, looking for their next holiday. Greece shone. So did Turkey, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Egypt. There was also plenty of more exotic destinations which attracted plenty of interest. I noted that the boys from Palestine were back after a successful Belgrade Tourism Fair in 2018. 

belgrade-tourism-fair (3).jpg

And somewhere, almost as an afterthought, the entire official Croatian representation - the Tourist Board of Zagreb (at least this fair actually existed and they didn't pay 29,000 euro for nothing) and the Tourist Board of Losinj. 

That was it. 

A little more research showed that there were a small number of other tourist boards there in a different capacity, including this presentation of Eastern Croatia

But at an influential fair on Croatia's doorstep, where Croatia was notable by its absence. 

belgrade-tourism-fair.jpg

Even our old friends, the Kings of Accidental Tourism from Hvar were not to be seen. Last year was 150 years of organised tourism in Europe, which was celebrated with great style paying tribute to the special Hvar-Belgrade bond at a party that was never supposed to make the Croatian media. But in year 151, that love seems to have waned. 

Unofficially, I can confirm that the Hvar love of Belgrade is real. I bump into more people from Hvar each time I visit the Serb capital than I do walking the streets of Jelsa. 

belgrade-tourism-fair (1).jpg

So why the lack of Croatian interest in the Belgrade fair? The simple explanation from one section of our enlightened readership is that Croatia doesn't want any Serbs to visit. 

It is an argument that one can understand from recent history, perhaps, not a great economic argument, but understandable. But then you go to the wine section of the Belgrade Tourism Fair, and seemingly the biggest stand belongs to... Croatia. 

Ably supported by the Croatian Chamber of Economy. 

The Croatian Chamber of Economy at the Belgrade Tourism Fair where Croatia had all but totally boycotted the main tourism section once again, but was out in force promoting wine. None of the numerous Croatian exhibitors could understand the lack of official Croatian tourism presence at such an important fair on Croatia's doorstep. One which had the potential to woo the next generation and get them hooked on holidays in Croatia for the next 30 years. 

But the Kings of Accidental Tourism obviously have a plan. 

Palestine 2019, anyone?  

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