News 20 Jun 16

Serbian, Croatian Leaders Sign up to Closer Ties

Serbian Prime Minister-designate Aleksandar Vucic and Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic have signed an agreement on enhancing the relationship between the two countries.

Milivoje Pantovic
BIRN
Belgrade
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and Croatian President Kolinda Grabor Kitarovic. Photo: Beta

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and Serbian Prime Minister-designate Aleksandar Vucic met at Dalj, Croatia, before signing a declaration on boosting relations between the two neighbouring countries.

After first meeting on the bridge between two countries near Dalj in Croatia they moved to Tavankut and Subotica in Serbia where they signed a declaration on improving relations and resolving open issues.

The agreement is designed to enhance protection of each other's minorities, define state borders between the two countries and help solve ongoing problems that burden the relationship between the two former Yugoslav states.

However, questions remain about the value of the agreement since Serbia has still not yet formed a new government following general elections, and Croatia’s government fell on Thursday. While Vucic is likely to become Serbia's prime minister once again, he has not yet been confirmed by the Serbian parliament.

“This meeting is a precedent since the [Croatian] President is meeting and signing an agreement with someone who is still not a prime minister,” Dejan Jovic, professor at the Faculties of Political Science in Zagreb and Belgrade, told BIRN.

“The President of Croatia doesn't have the power to implement agreements and it is still a question who will do that for both sides,” Jovic, a former chief analyst for former Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, added.

He said that the agreement would have more weight had it been signed by two prime ministers with clear mandates.

“Symbolically, it is good that the meeting took place and it sends a positive signal. Both sides needed it since Croatia’s reputation within EU has been shaken by rising nationalism and Serbia wants to remove obstacles on its EU path put there by Croatia,” Jovic noted.

Grabar Kitarovic told Serbian state television, RTS, that she hopes the agreement will enhance the relationship between two countries and not be “yet another protocol meeting.

“It is not our goal to just meet or just send some message to the international community, since they did not organize this event. It is the wish of both of us to do something concretely for relations between two countries,” Grabar Kitarovic said.

Vucic told Croatian state television, HRT, that the meeting should help solve open issues with Croatia.

“I believe we have achieved an excellent result. This agreement is dealing with serious and strategic issues for Serbia and Croatia. We should talk more to each other and show more respect. I would say that Serbs should step more 'into Croat shoes' and vice-versa”, said Vucic.

He stated that both countries have a mutual interest in longtime peace, stability and economic cooperation.

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