News 12 Feb 18

Vucic Hands Files on Missing Serbs to Croatia

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic handed over files on Serbs who went missing in wartime to his Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, as both pledged to resolve disputes that have heightened tensions.

Filip Rudic

On his first presidential visit to Zagreb on Monday, Aleksandar Vucic gave Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic about a dozen packages of files on missing Serbs from the Croatian municipality of Dvor, as they jointly pledged to resolve the issue of missing persons from the 1990s war.

The two presidents also vowed to resolve their continuing border dispute and to fix bilateral relations, which have remained tense amid repeated rows between Zagreb and Belgrade.

“I think Serbia and Croatia will have to have much better relations in the future, regardless of whether everyone in the political [establishment] wants to or not,” Vucic told media after their meeting.

Asked whether Belgrade will also give Zagreb documents from the Vukovar hospital, where Croatians went missing amid a massacre in November 1991, and from Serbian prisoner-of-war camps in order to help locate missing Croatians, Vucic said that every assistance will be provided.

Grabar-Kitarovic also said they had agreed to do everything possible to help resolve the issue of missing persons “as soon as possible”.

“Of course there are many problems in that regard, since a lot of time has passed since the war,” she said.

Serbia and Croatia also agreed to form commissions to try to resolve their border dispute in two years, and if they fail, they will launch an arbitration process.

Belgrade and Zagreb are in dispute over their 136-kilometre border along the Danube. Serbia claims that the Danube should be the natural border between the two countries, while Croatia wants the border to be along the boundaries of the cadastral municipalities located along the river.

Vucic also said that all Serbian officials will “have an obligation” not to insult Croatian officials for the next 100 days, regardless of what their Croatian counterparts do.

“Some could say that was our job anyway. True, but it was hardly the case on both sides,” Vucic said.

At the start of their joint press conference, Grabar-Kitarovic said that the recent tensions made her invite Vucic to Zagreb sooner than she wanted, and that she was happy that he accepted.

Vucic and Grabar-Kitarovic also discussed the issue of minority rights in both countries, and said that progress has been made.

After meeting the Croatian president, Vucic met Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, who said on Twitter that they talked about "war reparations" and "missing persons", among other things.

Vucic will also meet Cardinal Josip Bozanic, head of Croatia’s Catholic Church, which is in a dispute with the Serbian Orthodox Church over the beatification of Croatia’s WWII Archbishop Alojzije Stepinac.

Vucic’s visit to Zagreb was organized after a period of tension and sharp rhetorical exchange between Serbia and Croatia.

Several hundred Croatian right-wingers protested in Zagreb against Vucic’s visit.

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