News 13 Feb 18

War Questions ‘Suppressed’ During Vucic’s Croatia Visit: MPs

Croatian opposition MPs criticised officials in Zagreb for telling journalists not to ask visiting Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic questions about his nationalist rhetoric during the 1990s wars.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Vucic and Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic at a press conference on Monday. Photo: BETAPHOTO/HINA/Daniel KASAP/MO.

Some Croatian opposition MPs on Tuesday criticised officials for telling reporters not to quiz Aleksandar Vucic about his controversial rhetoric during the 1990s wars during a press conference that followed his meeting with Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic.

The most vocal was Bojan Glavasevic, an MP from the opposition Social Democratic Party, SDP, who cited media reports that journalists were specifically instructed by the Croatian presidential office not to ask Vucic about a statement he made in the Croatian town of Glina in March 1995.

In Glina, which at the time was under the control of rebel Croatian Serbs, Vucic spoke at a public meeting and said: “Never will again the Ustasa [Croatian WWII fascist movement] state come here.”

The four-minute speech is widely seen in Croatia as nationalistic.

“The fact that the Croatian president just banned journalists from asking Vucic about his war-mongering speeches was a humiliation and spat in the face of every victim of the war,” Glavasevic said in parliament on Tuesday.

He claimed that “Croatia was humiliated” by Vucic’s visit, as he did not come as a friend or have “any good intentions towards Croatia”.

Aleksandar Vucic in Glina in 1995.

Glavasevic’s father, radio journalist Sinisa Glavasevic, was killed in November 1991, after the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar was taken by the Yugoslav People’s Army and Serbian paramilitaries.

When it was first announced that Vucic was coming to Zagreb, Glavasevic raised the issue of how Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party had invited Veselin Sljivancanin, a former Yugoslav People’s Army officer convicted by the Hague Tribunal of responsibility for the 1991 Vukovar massacre, to be a speaker at party events.

“This [Vucic] is the man who is still today a friend with Veselin Sljivancanin, the legally-proven butcher of Vukovar,” Glavasevic said in his speech on Tuesday.

“There is a way to reconciliation, but Vucic and Grabar-Kitarovic can’t lead us on that path. Only good people can lead us on this path,” he added.

Miro Bulj, an opposition MP from the Bridge of the Independent Lists, MOST, also criticised Vucic’s visit, saying that he told Vucic to go to Glina as he was passing through the corridors of parliament on Monday.

Vucic is visiting the Serb community in the town of Vrginmost in central Croatia on Tuesday. Bulj said that he “should go to Glina and apologise to the people of Serb ethnicity”.

He noted that Vucic was a member of the hardline nationalist Serbian Radical Party during the 1990s wars in the former Yugoslavia.

In an opinion article for Politico on Tuesday, Vucic briefly mentioned his wartime past without going into specifics.

“As a young man at the time, I did not see what could be gained from collaborating across the divide. But I know now that my country paid a high price for nationalist excesses,” he wrote.

The article argued for greater economic cooperation between Balkan states, urging them to “focus on what binds us together”.

“The issues that unite us are stronger than those that divide us,” Vucic wrote.

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