Sunday, 10 February 2019

Police Arrests Three Attackers on Serbian Water Polo Players

ZAGREB, February 10, 2019 - Police in the southern coastal city of Split have arrested three young men on suspicion of attacking three Serbian water polo players on the city's waterfront promenade on Saturday. Two attackers are still on the run, local police said on Sunday morning.

The police said that a club jersey that had been taken from one of the players had been found with one of the men that were brought in on Sunday morning.

The three players are members of Belgrade's Red Star Water Polo Club who had arrived in Split for a game against the local side Mornar BS, which was scheduled for 8.30pm on Saturday. The match was cancelled because of the incident.

The three players were sitting in a cafe on the Riva promenade early on Saturday afternoon when they were approached by five youths who objected to their wearing their club jerseys. The youths first demanded that they take them off and then attacked them. Two of the players, aged 25 and 26, were hit in the back, but managed to run away, while a third escaped by jumping into the sea.

Police soon arrived at the scene, the 29-year-old man was pulled from the sea and taken to the hotel where the Belgrade team were staying. He was later taken to a hospital where he was found to have suffered slight injuries to the head, temple and nose.

The Croatian government strongly condemns this attack by hooligans, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has discussed the incident with Interior Minister Davor Božinović and Split Mayor Andro Krstulović Opara, government spokesman Marko Milić told Hina.

The attack was earlier condemned by the Croatian Water Polo Federation, the Croatian Olympic Committee and many athletes and politicians.

Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić told the RTS public broadcaster on Saturday evening that his ministry would present a protest note to Croatia over the attack in Split. He said that the incident was the result of an ongoing chauvinist anti-Serbian campaign in Croatia, adding that Belgrade would formally demand that the perpetrators be brought to justice.

The Serbian Water Polo Federation and the Red Star Water Polo Club have announced that they will seek increased security measures for their clubs and national water polo team during Euro Cup matches in Croatia.

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

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Serbian Water Polo Players Attacked in Split

ZAGREB, February 9, 2019 - Three Serbian water polo players were attacked on the waterfront promenade in the southern Croatian city of Split on Saturday afternoon. Two of the players managed to run away while one escaped by jumping into the sea.

Police were alerted at 1.40 pm that five youths had attacked three players of Belgrade's Red Star Water Polo Club on the Riva promenade, Hina was told.

"One of the water polo players jumped into the sea, while the other two escaped. By the time we arrived at the scene, the attackers had fled too. We offered medical assistance to the young man who jumped into the sea, but he refused. He doesn't have visible injuries for now. We took him to the hotel and conducted an interview there. We also interviewed the other two who had managed to escape. An investigation is under way," police spokeswoman Željka Radošević told Hina.

According to unofficial sources, the attackers were apparently provoked by the fact that the three players wore their team's jerseys.

The Belgrade team play the local side Mornar BS this evening.

More news on the water polo in Croatia and the region can be found in the Sports section.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Serbia’s Jugobanka Loses Suit against Croatia

ZAGREB, February 1, 2019 - Zagreb's Commercial Court has turned down a motion by Belgrade's Jugobanka, which is in official receivership and which asked for nearly 21 million euro and 2.6 million Swiss francs from Croatia, arguing that it was a debt stemming from loans which were used between 1985 and 1989 by the Croatian companies 3. Maj, Varteks and Duhan, and that the loans were being repaid to the Paris Club by Serbia, instead of Croatia.

The lawsuit, filed in 2009, says that Jugobanka bases is claim on Annex 6 from the succession treaty to the former Yugoslavia, i.e. provisions on the servicing of loans and other liabilities from agreements with the governments of the Paris Club member states.

Responding to the lawsuit, the Croatian State Prosecutor's Office said Croatia had not undertaken the obligation to repay loans contracted by Jugobanka Udružena Banka Beograd branches nor the obligation to repay debts contracted by Jugobanka d.d Beograd as the Croatian branch.

Croatia said it had not undertaken those obligations either in bilateral agreements with the German and Swiss governments.

The fact that the end users of loans for which Jugobanka Udružena Banka Beograd borrowed abroad were based in Croatia does not mean that Croatia was obliged to pay to Paris Club member states the amounts which said bank had borrowed, Zagreb's Commercial Court says in the explanation of its ruling, which can be appealed.

Croatia's obligation to those states stems only from the international agreements Croatia signed with Germany and Switzerland, the explanation says.

More news on Croatia banks can be found in the Business section.

Monday, 28 January 2019

Croatian Culture Minister Meets with Serbian Counterpart

ZAGREB, January 28, 2019 - Croatian Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek on Monday met with her Serbian counterpart Vladan Vukosavljević, who was taking part in a commemorative event at the invitation of the Serb National Council, and the two ministers talked about cultural cooperation and restitution of Croatian cultural objects, the ministry said in a press release.

The two ministers concurred that the long-standing process of restitution of Croatian cultural assets is nearing a completion.

From 2001 to 2018, more than 29,885 moveable cultural objects were returned to museums, churches, monasteries and archives while the remaining artefacts yet to be returned mostly belong to the Krk and Šibenik Serb Orthodox monasteries, the ministry said.

The talks also focused on a Croatian-Serbian combined government committee for minorities which is scheduled to convene its eighth meeting in Zagreb in February.

The ministers commended the good cooperation within the framework of the Southeast European Advisory Board with emphasis on cooperation in strengthening a culture for sustainable development, the importance of museums in society, their role in protecting and promoting cultural wealth and of their role in promoting cultural and social diversity.

The next meeting of southeast European cultural ministers is schedule for April in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia.

The ministers assessed that good cooperation existed within the framework of China+16 initiative.

The two ministers commended bilateral cooperation involving the exchange of visiting theatre companies as well as developing cultural and literary cooperation between Croatian and Serbia.

The ministers also discussed the preparation of a cultural cooperation programme based on a bilateral agreement and possible exchange of certain modern art exhibitions, the ministry concluded.

More news on the cultural policy in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Vučić Calls for Better Relations between Croatia and Serbia

ZAGREB, January 25, 2019 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Friday that Croatia and Serbia should have much better relations if they wanted to survive, adding that the entire region should stop thinking about the past and look forward.

"What I am not happy about are political relations in the region," Vučić told Hina and the Croatian public broadcaster HRT on the margins of the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos.

"There are always countless problems there, too much thinking about the past and too little about the future, but I guess it's the characteristic of all of us and that's what we'll have to change," the Serbian president said.

Vučić earlier attended a panel on the Western Balkans together with Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and had an opportunity to talk to him informally.

He said that economic relations were much better than the political situation in the region. "I think that the Serbs and Croats as nations, not just the Serbian and Croatian states, regardless of their emotions which are not always good, must have much better relations if they both want to survive," Vučić said.

He said that both countries had "terrible demographics" as many people were emigrating. "If we are to survive, we will have to work together, get closer to each other, and that will happen," Vučić said.

He added that the Croats and Serbs would find ways of cooperating once they started thinking less about "stabbing one another in the back" and became more focused on the future. "I absolutely believe in this," he stressed.

Vučić said that relations with Priština were a burning issue for Belgrade, and that the imposition by Kosovo of customs duties on imports from Serbia was against all European rules. He said that all important European and world stakeholders had told him in Davos that they were against Kosovo's move.

Speaking of other problems in the region, Vučić mentioned the latest initiative by the Bosniak SDA party in Bosnia and Herzegovina for assessment of the constitutionality of the name of Republika Srpska, the country's Serb entity.

Its name "is a Dayton category, it's a constitutional category of Bosnia and Herzegovina. They cannot do that and expect support from the world," the Serbian president said.

The announcement by the SDA that it will formally ask the Constitutional Court to assess whether the name of the Bosnian Serb entity is constitutional has met with strong reactions in the country and condemnation from the international community. SDA leader Bakir Izetbegović said on Thursday that it was a legitimate initiative the aim of which was to eliminate evident discrimination against non-Serbs living in Republika Srpska.

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

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Croats in Serbia Encouraged by Messages from Croatia's Leaders

ZAGREB, January 24, 2019 - The leader of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV), Tomislav Žigmanov, said that the messages and promises by the prime minister and president of Croatia during his visit to Zagreb this week were encouraging and stimulating for Croats in Serbia, Croatian-language media in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina said on Thursday.

Žigmanov said his delegation was encouraged by the readiness of the Croatian leadership to support, both politically and financially, their major projects.

He said that they had discussed several projects of great importance for the Croatian minority in Serbia, including the opening of the birth house of Ban Jelačić in Petrovaradin, an educational and recreational centre on the Croatian Adriatic coast, office space for the Hrvatska Riječ publishing house in Subotica, and the opening of regional offices of the Croatian National Council.

He said they had also talked about Croatian-Serbian relations and concluded that they were stagnating.

"These relations are currently almost at a standstill. We are suffering the consequences of that, but we cannot make them better," Žigmanov said, adding that expectations for 2019 are not optimistic because of an expected early election in Serbia and the ongoing instability over Kosovo.

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

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Government to Increase Funding for Croats in Serbia

ZAGREB, January 23, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that his government is ready to increase funding for specific projects that are important for the position of Croats in Serbia, a government press release said.

Plenković met in Zagreb with the head of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV) and member of the Serbian parliament, Tomislav Žigmanov, and the newly-elected president of the Croatian National Council in Serbia, Jasna Vojnić.

Plenković "expressed the readiness of the Croatian government to increase allocations in the coming period for specific projects that are important for the position of the 58,000-strong Croatian community in Serbia and for the protection of Croatian cultural identity," the press release said.

Žigmanov and Vojnić spoke of the dialogue they had begun at the start of last year with senior Serbian officials. They cited the importance of achieving better opportunities for education in the Croatian language and Latin alphabet and the appropriate representation of the Croatian minority in the National Assembly and regional and local legislatures. They also called for including the Croatian community in EU-funded cross-border projects, the press release said.

Žigmanov, said during a visit to Zagreb on Tuesday that the Croats in Serbia were "a wounded community" and needed Croatia's assistance in achieving their priorities. "The Croatian community in Serbia is poorly developed institutionally. We are a wounded community, a community that has the lowest GDP in Europe. We are the poorest Croats in the world, we live in a very unfavourable social environment where over 50 percent of people have a highly negative opinion of Croats, where tensions between the two countries reached the highest-level last year," Žigmanov told a press conference after meeting with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

He said that the Croatian community was considerably less developed than other minorities in Serbia and had much less money at its disposal. This makes the position of the Croats in Serbia more complex and diminishes their prospects, he added. "We expect to see how Croatia can help us with our priorities," Žigmanov said, noting that the Croatian community in Serbia still could not achieve certain things without the Croatian government's help.

Thanking the Croatian government for what it had done so far, Žigmanov said that the Croats in Serbia had "a vision and the energy" to carry through development projects, but needed assistance.

Speaking of the Croatian minority's basic political demand to have guaranteed representation in the Serbian parliament, Žigmanov said that this was the most complex issue and that it was still far from resolution. "We will see if and when it will be achieved, but we are not giving up on it."

Asked what would happen in Serbia if Croatian children did not stand up for the Serbian national anthem, as had been the case in Vukovar when Serb children remained seated at a sporting event during the playing of the Croatian anthem, Žigmanov would not speculate about it, saying he wanted to help relax Croatian-Serbian relations. "Such comparisons are very difficult to make. What is important is that we do not manifest such deficits of loyalty and have not had such experiences," he said.

"We, of course, are not happy when ethnically-motivated incidents happen, but what we have seen to exist as a practice in Croatia and not in Serbia is that there are condemnations and appropriate penalties and that attention is drawn to unlawful acts," Žigmanov said, noting that the situation in Croatia was generally much better than in Serbia.

"A convicted war criminal, Vojislav Šeselj, has threatened to commit a war crime against me, and none of the government officials has reacted to that, nor have any steps been taken by prosecutors or any other institution," he said.

Žigmanov said that the citizens of Croatia could be satisfied with the situation in their country, which he described as institutionally developed and well-functioning.

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

Friday, 18 January 2019

Foreign Minister Rejects High Treason Allegations

ZAGREB, January 18, 2019 - Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić on Friday dismissed the accusations of high treason and favouring Serbia's interests levelled against her by the political secretary of the opposition MOST party, Nikola Grmoja, saying MOST had done nothing to prevent Serbia from opening EU accession negotiations on Chapter 23 while it was part of the government.

Speaking at an extraordinary press conference, the minister recalled the establishment of a commission following the implementation of transitional benchmarks in chapters 23 and 24 as part of Serbia's European Union accession negotiations.

"The commission was established in 2016 under a decision of the then caretaker government and the commission was tasked solely with following the implementation of transitional benchmarks in negotiation chapters 23 and 24. The fact is that MOST was in power at that time. Why didn't the justice minister, the one in charge of monitoring the implementation of Chapter 23, block the closure of that chapter, which he absolutely could have done and had the right to do?" said Pejčinović Burić.

Pejčinović Burić said Croatia "is closely and systematically following" Serbia's compliance with all commitments and that chapters 23 and 24 were "key for Serbia's overall progress in the accession process."

She said it was in Croatia's interest to push for the rights of Croats in Serbia, resolving the issue of persons gone missing in the 1990s war as well as jurisdiction. "Serbia hasn't closed even one chapter in more than five years," she added.

Serbia opened chapters 23 (Judiciary and Fundamental Rights) and 24 (Justice, Freedom and Security) in summer 2016, but they will be closed only at the end of the negotiation process, after the benchmarks have been met. At the time, MOST was a ruling coalition partner of the HDZ party in the Tihomir Orešković cabinet and the minister of justice was MOST's Ante Šprlje.

Grmoja said in parliament on Wednesday that Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovič was "working for Serbia's interests." "Serbia has opened new chapters in negotiations with the EU and Croatia has done nothing about it, even though Serbia is not meeting the benchmarks undertaken from Chapter 23," he said, adding that Pejčinović Burić "is breaching a government decision and not convening the commission, while our former camp inmates are bringing suits against Serbia alone, without any help."

Last December, Serbia opened negotiations on chapters 17 (Economic and Monetary Union) and 18 (Statistics).

The minister also commented on today's press conference by Hrast MP Hrvoje Zekanović and Croatian member of the European Parliament Ruža Tomašić, who called for an unreserved blockade of Serbia's EU entry talks until outstanding issues between Croatia and Serbia have been dealt with.

Pejčinović Burić said she was not surprised by Zekanović's request but was by Tomašić's. "If she's that unfamiliar with the accession negotiations process and the functioning of the European Union, then we can really wonder what she has done in Strasbourg and Brussels for more than five years."

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

Friday, 18 January 2019

Parties Call for Blockade of Serbia-EU Membership Talks

ZAGREB, January 18, 2019 - The sole parliamentary deputy of the HRAST party, Hrvoje Zekanović, and the leader of the Croatian Conservative Party, Ruža Tomašić, who is a Croatian member of the European Parliament, on Friday called on Croatia's leadership to block the ongoing Serbia-EU membership talks, until Serbia started solving the outstanding issues in its relations with Croatia.

Zekanović suggested that one of the conditions for Serbia's entry to the Union should be Belgrade's recognition that Croatia was exposed to "Serbo-Chetnik" aggression and that Belgrade should pay war damages to Croatia.

Accusing Prime Minister Andrej Plenković of a lenient attitude toward that eastern neighbour, Zekanović said his party would insist on this topic of the blockade of Serbia's accession negotiations until Plenković began behaving like a sovereigntist.

The HRAST MP said that the Croatian government had to insist that the international community made Serbia's admission to the EU conditional on solving its outstanding issues with Croatia.

MEP Tomašić said that it was not still explained to sufficient extent to the international community what happened during the 1991-1995 Homeland War. A part of MEPs still think that it was a civil war, she warned.

Zekanović condemned an incident in Vukovar when a student of the Serb descent was attacked this past Wednesday. According to media outlets' reports, the student was assaulted by a few masked assailants while he was staying at a bus station in Vukovar. Local Serb representatives were quoted by the media as saying that the incident was a consequence of the policies run by Mayor Ivan Penava, who recently raised the question if Croatia should keep silent about some Serb students in a Vukovar school who refused to stand for the Croatian anthem.

Zekanović said he condemned any form of violence.

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

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Croatian Defence Minister Reported for War Crimes in Serbia

ZAGREB, January 12, 2019 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević on Saturday commented on a complaint filed against him Serbia for war crimes, saying his war past was completely clean but that he was a thorn in the side of many because he was strengthening the victorious Croatian army.

Speaking to reporters in Split, Krstičević said the journey of the 4th guard brigade was one of "pride, honour, heroism." "The Red Berets did everything they should in the Homeland War. I'm extremely happy to have commanded the 4th Brigade."

Belgrade's Politika newspaper said today that Serbian lawyer Dušan Bratić had pressed charges against Krstičević and others on suspicion that they killed 81 Serb civilians in 1995. The paper said Krstičević was the commander of the Croatian army's 4th brigade and that it participated in the shelling of columns of Serb refugees in Bravnice near Jajce, Bosnia and Herzegovina on 12 and 13 September 1995.

Asked if he thought he would have movement trouble because of the charges, Krstičević said: "Why? Because of which complaint? I don't consider that a complaint. I'm a free man and I honourably defended the homeland. I'm extremely proud of that and one should know that Croatia was subjected to a brutal aggression and I proudly commanded the 4th brigade."

Krstičević said many "want to smear" that brigade and him as its commander. "I repeat, I'm completely clean and innocent."

Asked if he had been at the location near Jajce mentioned in the criminal complaint, he said "it is known where the 4th guard brigade was, and it was liberating Croatia." He said the brigade was not in Bravnice on 12 and 13 September 1995.

The minister said he had no idea why someone was bringing this up, "evidently with the objective to destabilise myself personally (and) this government." He added that he had no reason to defend himself.

Asked if there was a way to respond to the criminal complaint, he said: "The state should respond. As for my response, I'm here, doing my job."

More news on the defence minister can be found in the Politics section.

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