Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Serbian PM Wants Plenković to Visit Serbia

ZAGREB, May 22, 2019 - Relations between Serbia and Croatia are important for regional stability and that is why their dialogue should be promoted and efforts should be stepped up to solve outstanding issues, and a visit by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković would encourage cooperation and dialogue, it was said at talks between Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and Croatian Ambassador Gordan Bakota in Belgrade on Tuesday.

Brnabić and Bakota discussed the situation in the region and relations between the two countries, with the Serbian prime minister stressing the importance of those relations for regional stability and calling for closer cooperation, according to a press release from the Serbian government.

The Croatian ambassador said that the integration of the Western Balkans with the European Union was crucial for the prosperity of all countries in the region, adding that it would be an important topic during Croatia's presidency of the EU in the first half of 2020.

Bakota informed Brnabić of Croatia's plan to organise, during its EU presidency, an EU-Western Balkans summit, at which the EU membership prospects of Western Balkan countries and EU enlargement would be an important topic.

The two officials also stressed the importance of advancing relations in the area of minority rights so that all citizens are treated equally, regardless of their ethnic background.

They said that a major step forward in that regard, which was in the interest of both countries, could be made in the field of cross-border cooperation, using IPA funds.

Brnabić said that upgrading rail connectivity was in the interest of both countries and that in terms of infrastructure projects, Serbia's focus in 2020 would be on the railway sector.

The two officials also discussed the cooperation between the two countries' chambers of commerce and plans to organise a bilateral business summit in 2019.

Prime Minister Brnabić and Ambassador Bakota agreed that a visit by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to Serbia in the coming period would send a good signal in terms of the further promotion of cooperation and dialogue between the two countries, the Serbian government said.

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

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Josip Jelačić's House in Petrovaradin to Serve as Croat Community Centre

ZAGREB, May 18, 2019 - The Croat community in Serbia is in possession of a part of the house where Ban (Viceroy) Josip Jelačić, who served as the governor of Croatia from 1848 to 1859, was born, after the Serbian government donated 600,000 euro for its purchase, but it still does not serve as the community centre of ethnic Croats, which will be its purpose, a conference said in Petrovaradin, a section of Novi Sad, on Friday.

"So far the Croats of Petrovaradin have not had any space to meet and show and promote their culture. We will have at our disposal the basement, the ground floor and one apartment in the house, with a total area of 300 square metres," Croat National Council (HNV) vice-president Darko Vuković told the Croatian-language media in Vojvodina.

The house needs thorough renovation, he said, adding that the Croat community expected help from the Town of Novi Sad and the governments of Serbia and its northern province of Vojvodina.

Vuković said the local Croat community wanted the house to become "an attractive cultural centre with tourism potential, where guests will be received, cultural events held, and where business people from Serbia and Croatia will meet. The property will also be used for Croatian consular services and serve as the HNV office."

The purpose of the Petrovaradin conference was to present information on how similar, well-established cultural centres in Croatia and Vojvodina operate.

The Croat minority in Vojvodina had been asking for years to be given the house of Viceroy Jelačić, built in 1745, so that it could turn it into a memorial centre and the seat of the local Croat minority.

Progress in that regard was made after Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's visit to Zagreb in February 2018, when the status of the property was defined during talks on the status of the Croat minority in Serbia.

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

Monday, 6 May 2019

Teams of Croat and Serb Minorities to Play a Football Match

ZAGREB, May 6, 2019ina) - The football teams of the Serb minority in Croatia and the Croat minority in Serbia will play a match in Tavankut, near Subotica, in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina on June 15, organisers announced.

The match has been organised by the Croat National Council of Serbia, the Joint Council of Municipalities and the Serb National Council of Croatia with the support of the national football federations of Croatia and Serbia.

"The football match will be an opportunity for the political representatives of Croats from Serbia and Serbs from Croatia to meet and use their cooperation in sports to improve relations between the two countries. In that way they believe they will show that both ethnic minorities want to be a true bridge of cooperation and make their contribution to the further advancement of relations between Serbia and Croatia," leaders of the Croat minority in Serbia said in a statement.

Milorad Pupovac, a member of the Croatian parliament and leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), is expected to attend the event.

The match takes place three years after the two sides played for the first time in Vukovar, when the team representing the Croats from Vojvodina triumphed 4:0.

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

Saturday, 4 May 2019

President: It is Devastating that Serbia Allows Radicals' Assembly in Hrtkovci

ZAGREB, May 4, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has written on her Twitter account that it is devastating that the Serbian authorities allow persecutors of the Vojvodina Croats to gather again in 2019 in the town of Hrtkovci after they conducted expulsions of local Croats in early May in 1992.

"It is devastating that in 2019 the Serbian authorities allow the gathering of those same persons in Hrtkovci, the byword for the suffering of the Croats in Vojvodina," the president said on Saturday afternoon in her comment in reference to the Hrtkovci convention of the Serb Radical Party (SRS) which on Saturday re-elected its leader, Vojislav Šešelj, whom the Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (MICT) in The Hague sentenced to 10 years in jail for expulsions and deportations of the Croats from Vojvodina and Serbia.

The SRS held its convention in Hrtkovci today and on 6 May 27 years ago leaders and supporters of that party held a rally in that Vojvodina village at which Šešelj read out the names of "undesirable" local Croats. In the following days, about 700 residents left the village due to pressure and threats.

There were no official reactions from Serbian authorities to demands that today's SRS gathering be banned.

The SRS leader and ICTY convict Šešelj said today during his party's meeting in Hrtkovci that the Radicals' ideology remained unchanged, and he persisted in denying persecution of Croats from Hrtkovci. He also demanded that Serbia should introduce a penalty of life imprisonment for all those who say that war atrocities in Srebrenica amount to genocide.

Šešelj said Croats were not deported but that they willingly left after they swapped their properties. "I did not commit a crime and I will prove it. All Croats who left Hrtkovci had swapped their property and that is not deportation, especially not a war crime," said Šešelj.

Last year, the Appeals Chamber of the MICT, the successor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), sentenced Šešelj to ten years' imprisonment for crimes against humanity over the inflammatory speech in Hrtkovci which it found resulted in the deportation, persecution, displacement and other inhumane acts against Vojvodina Croats. When that final ruling was handed down, Šešelj did not have to go to jail because the time he spent in detention in The Hague was credited to the sentence.

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

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.

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