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News 12 Feb 18

Tension Surrounds Serbian President's Croatian Trip

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has said his planned visit to Croatia this week will go ahead – as disputes continue to flare between the two former Yugoslav republics.

Maja Zivanovic

Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, and Serbian President, Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: Beta/Emil Vas

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has announced that a planned two-day visit to Croatia will go ahead on Monday and Tuesday – despite contined acrimony between the two countries, and after Serbia's Defence Minister claimed he could even be killed there.

Although Vucic himself offered last week to put “a six-month moratorium on issues between Serbia and Croatia from the past”, Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin on February 8 said he did not believe he should go there at all.

“Our President is going where Ustasa [Croatian Fascists] will welcome him in squares, and will try to get him, like they tried to kill him in Srebrenica [in Bosnia]. I don’t think Vucic should go to Croatia,” Vulin said, according to Srna news agency.

During his visit to Srebrenica in July 2015, Vucic was pelted with stones at the 20th anniversary of the Bosnian Serb massacre in the eastern Bosnian town, which international courts have termed genocide. Although widely condemned, the attack never ended as a court case.

The announced meeting will be the first official meeting of the Serbian and Croatian presidents since 2013, when Serbia's then President, Tomislav Nikolic, met Croatia's Ivo Josipovic in Belgrade.

“I am convinced that Croats and Serbs ...  can and want to find a way that will finally lead us into a better future,” the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic said on January 30, according to Jutarnji list, a Croatian daily.

Vucic told a press conference on the same day that he had accepted the invitation – but only to help Croatia's Serbian minority. “We need to talk, to see what we can do together, to help the Serbs in Croatia,” he said.

Ahead of Vucic’s visit, meanwhile, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on February 8 said the agenda would have to include compensation for the war in Croatia in the 1990s, which immediately caused new sparks in relations.

“If I were him, I would not start this question,” Vucic told a press conference in Belgrade.

Ahead of Vucic’s visit, Serbian media have reported that two presidents could also discuss issues of rights of minorities, border issues, missing persons, an economic and judicial cooperation.

Meanwhile, the association of widows of Croatian war veterans on Friday said they will hold a protest rally on Monday, called “With truth to the future”, because of Vucic’s visit.

According to Vecernji list, while the association said that it supported dialogue and peace-building between two countries, at this moment “this is not the case”.

In January, the same association protested against a romantic comedy, The Ministry of Love, which premiered on Croatian Radio-Television, HRT. It claimed the film represented "defamation of the Homeland War", the official term used for Croatia's war of independence in the 1990s.

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