news 13 Sep 13

Croatian-Serbian ‘Friendship Group’ Formed in Rijeka

The Croatian-Serbian Friendship Association is intended to improve relations between the two ethnic groups in the country amid an upsurge of tensions this year.

Boris Pavelic
BIRN
Zagreb

The association was launched on Thursday at the Serbian consulate in the Croatian coastal city of Rijeka in an attempt to “turn negative signs into positive”, according to its president, Nikola Ivanis.

 “The association aims to improve the cooperation between the two nations, develop economic, cultural and tourist cooperation and to establish better relations between people,” Ivanis explained.

Rijeka, Croatia’s third-largest city, which was not directly harmed during the war from 1991 to 1995, is known for its tolerance towards minorities.

Many Serbs moved to Rijeka and the surrounding area during the war from other parts of the country which were hit by violence.

Despite improving political relations between Croatia and Serbia at a government level, relations between the Croat majority and the Serb minority in Croatia have been strained since the beginning of this year by a dispute over the introduction of bilingual Latin and Cyrillic script into official use in the wartime flashpoint city of Vukovar.

The row has seen a series of mass demonstrations and unrest in the city itself this month.

The issue motivated Croatian President Ivo Josipovic to state recently that a wider discussion about minority issues in Croatia is needed.

“Otherwise, the problem could come back in a much more difficult form,” Josipovic warned.

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