Tuesday, 27 April 2021

President Zoran Milanović to Recall Ambassador to Serbia Over His Alleged Disregard For Ethnic Croats

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - Croatia's President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that he would recall Croatian Ambassador to Belgrade, Hidajet Biščević, after the ethnic Croat leader Tomislav Žigmanov criticised the diplomat for working against the Croats in Serbia.

In the meantime media outlets have reported that Ambassador Biščević did not react to the developments in which ethnic Croats received death threats, and that he also failed to even telephone those members who received threats to express sympathy with them.

Žigmanov, who is the leader of the Democratic party of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV), recently claimed that the Croatian ambassador had made a "tepid reaction" to attempts by Serbian authorities in Subotica to introduce the Bunjevci vernacular as an official language in that northern city and that the ambassador communicated with people whom Žigmanov described as persons "who are actively working on the destabilisation and dissolution of the (ethnic Croat) community."

All that prompted President Milanović to say today that he did not know whose policy Biščević "is pursuing there."

I cannot know whether all those headlines are true and I will summon him back to Zagreb for consultations, Milanović said in his address to the press at the Gašinci military range in eastern Croatia.

The Večernji List daily has reported that on 30 March, Žigmanov sent a letter to Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman to inform him that Biščević was working against the interests of the ethnic Croat community in Serbia.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 23 April 2021

Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman Slams Removal of Croatian Flag From Ambassador's Residence in Belgrade

ZAGREB, 23 April, 2021 - Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman on Friday condemned the removal of the Croatian flag from the ambassador's official residence in Belgrade, saying that such incidents fomented an atmosphere of hate, hostility and intolerance.

"Such incidents are certainly not conducive to understanding (...) We hope and wish for the relations between Croatia and Serbia to be good because it makes sense that we should have stable relations," he told the press.

Croatian Ambassador Hido Biščević told N1 television on Thursday it was no accident that the Croatian flag was taken down from his residence and that the incident reflected "part of the atmosphere" in Serbian society, which he said continued to feed on hate speech.

Unknown persons removed the flag from the building which has video surveillance but no guards most likely on Wednesday morning, he said.

The Serbian Foreign Ministry said this was an "injudicious and isolated act," hoping that it "won't cast a shadow on efforts to set Serbia-Croatia relations on new foundations so that in future they can develop in the spirit of mutual trust and cooperation."

Grlić Radman said that because of such incidents "we can't say the relations have good prospects, we can't talk about a good future, but we must believe in a good future."

He announced that he will go to Subotica on 28 April for the laying of the cornerstone of a new Croatia House. His talks with local officials will also address an initiative, opposed by Croatian linguists, to declare the Bunjevci dialect an official language in that town in northern Serbia.

The minister reiterated that the initiative was contrary to the Croatia-Serbia agreement on the protection of national minorities.

He said that on 27 April the prime minister of the Vojvodina province, Igor Mirović, would visit Petrinja, struck by a devastating earthquake last December.

Serbia's EU path "goes also across Croatia"

The minister went on to say that Serbia's EU path "goes also across Croatia." Before Serbia joins, it is necessary to resolve the issue of the war missing, universal jurisdiction, and reparations for POWs, he said.

Serb representatives have three guaranteed seats in the Croatian parliament and Croatia wants Croats in Serbia to be represented as well, he added.

Serbia "must actively and strongly deal" with reforms, the fight against corruption, and the rule of law, he said.

Serbia was granted EU candidate status in March 2012 and began accession negotiations in January 2014.

Ambassadorial appointments

Although Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and President Zoran Milanović have not yet agreed on the appointment of new ambassadors and consuls, Grlić Radman said he did not think the process was blocked and that there was "only one Croatian diplomacy."

He dismissed the possibility of a quota or a 50:50 model (between the president's and government's proposals). He said "agreement must be reached" and that one could talk about the list of candidates the government had sent the president, but that the government was not in favour of quotas.

He said the candidates were "professional diplomats who have proved themselves on the job."

Milanović, on the other hand, wants it to be known who is behind which ambassador for responsibility's sake, saying that this has been the practice before.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Zvonko Milas: "Serbian Croats Receiving More and More Threats"

ZAGREB, 25 March, 2021 - The head of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad on Thursday told the parliament that after the "shameful" decision of the Subotica city's authorities to give a status of an official language to the Bunjevci vernacular, local Croats in Serbia had been receiving more and more threats.

In the wake of the discussions about that wrong and shameful decision by the Subotica City Council, which were also soon followed by the propaganda film "Dara iz Jasenovca",  more and more threats were made against ethnic Croats, notably ethnic Croat leaders in Serbia, Zvonko Milas told the Sabor, while presenting the 2019 report on the implementation of the strategy pertaining to Croat communities outside Croatia.

He also warned that the Subotica decision on the Bunjevci vernacular was against the Croatia-Serbia bilateral agreement on the respective ethnic minorities and that it also led to the further fragmentation of the ethnic Croat community in Vojvodina and Serbia.

Milas said that Croatia would do its utmost to make sure that Slovenia can grant a status of ethnic minority to local Croats.

The community has more than 50,000 members, Milas said adding that Slovenia does not recognise any ethnic rights of those Croats.

For more about the Croatian Diaspora follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Building Bridges Between Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia

February 18, 2021 – Appropriate government bodies of the three neighbours have come together and agreed to work together to improve bridges between Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia

We say building bridges between Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. It's actually more a case of renovating and maintaining bridges between Croatia and the two neighbours to the east.

Despite what journalist Zdenko Jurilj describes as “constant political skirmishes” between the neighbours, in Vecernji List's coverage of this news, the Bosnia and Herzegovina Council of Ministers and the governments of Croatia and Serbia have reached an agreement to work together in the rebuilding, maintenance and review of bridges which connect them. According to the signed agreement, each party will share 50% of the costs without, as it says, "claiming compensation from the other party, unless otherwise agreed between them."

In other words, the cost of renovating bridges between Croatia and Bosnia will be half paid by Bosnia, half paid by Croatia, the cost of renovating bridges between Bosnia and Serbia will be half paid by Serbia, half paid by Bosnia.

According to the agreement between the three governments, equipment needed for the reconstruction and maintenance of the bridges will be exempt from customs duties. Bridge managers shall make a detailed inspection of each of the bridges at least once every five years and independent experts appointed by the bridges' trustees will inspect them each year.

There are 10 bridges between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina which will be jointly maintained. Most of them stretch between the countries across the Sava river, although a few cross over the Una, Maljevac and Korana rivers. A further 11 bridges between Serbia and Bosnia are within the agreement, making a total of 21 bridges to exist within the deal.

Although there are bridges between Croatia and Serbia (including at Ilok and Erdut in Slavonia), within the article published by Vecernji List there is no mention of an agreement to improve bridges between Croatia and Serbia. Following the optimistic and uplifting promise of the headline at the start of this news item, this fact is a rather more unfortunate metaphor on which to end it.

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Saturday, 17 October 2020

Serbia and Croatia Express Readiness to Improve Relations

ZAGREB, October 17, 2020 - Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic and Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman have expressed a readiness to intensify dialogue and improve relations between their countries for the benefit of both nations and the Croat minority in Serbia and the Serb minority in Croatia.

The Serbian president has expressed a willingness to ensure "representation of the Croats in the provincial and in local parliaments in Serbia in the way Croatia has ensured for its Serb minority," Grlic Radman told a joint press conference after bilateral talks with Vucic on Friday evening.

The meeting was held after the formal handover of the birth house of Josip Jelacic (1801-1859), the Ban (governor) of Croatia, in Petrovaradin to the Croat community in Serbia.

"We are ready, already next week when the formation of the new government begins, to make access to local administrations for members of the Croatian community in Vojvodina considerably easier," Vucic confirmed.

Grlic Radman described their meeting as "affirmative, good and substantial."

"Peace, stability and good neighbourly relations are of the utmost importance. I think there is a good will on both sides that we need to intensify the dialogue," Grlic Radman said, adding that the relationship between the two countries can be improved.

He said that efforts should be stepped up in the search for missing persons from the 1991-1995 war, adding that both countries were looking for 1,869 people in total.

"We have opened a new chapter of cooperation. We see the past through different glasses, but we live in the present and need to define the future. We are oriented towards each other," the Croatian foreign minister said.

Noting that the talks were "neither pleasant nor easy" for either of them, Vucic said that such talks are the best because regardless of the differences of views on the past, steps have been agreed that will benefit both the Croats in Serbia and the Serbs in Croatia.

"It is good for our nations for us to come closer together rather than grow apart, and there are many reasons for that. We are both much smaller than we think of ourselves," Vucic said, stressing the need to preserve peace and improve ties between the Serbs and Croats.

Agreeing with the need to intensify the search for missing persons from the war, he said that the number of Serbs unaccounted for since the war was not smaller than that of missing Croats.

"This is a civilisational and, above all, humanitarian issue, whether someone's mother will be able to light a candle on her son's grave, regardless of whether her son is a Serb or a Croat. We need to make progress, that is important for the sake of those families. We need to intensify our efforts, and that's what we also expect from the Croatian side," the Serbian president said.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Croat War Veteran Sends Incredible Gift To Injured Serb War Veteran

August 15, 2020 - Novica Kostić from Vlasotince, near Leskovac, received a touching package yesterday and expressed his heartfelt gratitude to a Croat war veteran on Facebook

Injured during the war, life has since not been easy for Novica Kostić, a veteran living in Vlasotince, near Leskovac, southern Serbia. Since the day the war stopped for him, he has been without his left foot. He's one of many that suffered life-changing injuries at the time.

Things haven't been much better of late for Novica because, although entitled, he has been waiting for a replacement prosthetic foot for seven years. The one he wore was old and worn.

Life took a turn for the better on Friday 14 August when Novica received a surprise package in the post; a new prosthetic foot, to the exact specifications he needed. Inside the package was also a touching letter.

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The old and worn prosthetic foot, pictured next to the new one sent by a Croat war veteran, posted on Facebook by Novica

Taking to Facebook later in the day, Novica detailed the contents of the package and the note. It had been sent by a Croat war veteran who, although he revealed himself to Novica, said he wished to remain anonymous.

"The letter that was inside had a very very touching content, with a lot of warmth, empathy, and solidarity,” explained Novica, who went on to detail that the Croat war veteran had not himself been wounded in the war, but had managed to find the prosthesis through a colleague.

While elements of division linger between some sections of Croatian and Serbian society, this gesture and compassion is not an isolated incident between those who actually fought against each other on the battlefield.

"What to add here, what to say, except that this can be a strong message to others, especially politicians, that if we, who shot directly at each other, can talk and accept each other, why is it a problem for them, what prevents them from doing so?” wrote Novica. “I know that everyone will look at this from their own angle, but you must admit this should be considered, especially when it comes to ordinary people, people who take everything in society, even the war, on their backs."

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