As Balkans leaders meet, Croatia’s chauvinism saves Serbia from EU serfdom

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BELGRADE, Serbia – The ongoing diplomatic war between Belgrade and Zagreb may only worsen as Serbia ostensibly progresses towards EU membership, because there are already signals from Croatia that the country could seriously bury Serbia’s European path. However, with a growing plurality of Serbs opposed to EU membership under any conditions, Croatia’s attempts at thwarting the EU integration process has had the unintended effect of lining up with the aspirations of a great number of Serbians themselves. 

Zagreb has not withdrawn its ambassador from Belgrade, as it was first announced after Serbia introduced counter-measures to ban the  Croatian Minister of Defense, from entering Serbia and Serbia’s Alexander Vulin and declared Croatia’s minister Damir Krsticevic, as persona non grata, because the Croatian government is demanding that their response to Serbia’s counter-measures should be much tougher.

Namely, there are suggestions that the “case of Vulin” will be raised in the future, when Serbia negotiates with the EU, with  Zagreb preventing the opening of new chapters – by laying out requirements about the Danube borders, the missing people, Croatian minorities in Serbia, prosecuting war crimes … “Softer” approach advocates are asking Croatia not to hinder Serbia in negotiations with the EU, but insists that all criteria, primarily good neighbors in the region, be respected.

That is why yesterday’s meeting with the President of Serbia and Croatia, Aleksandar Vucic and Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, was great anticipated on sidelines of the meeting of the Brdo-Brioni process in Skopje. Presidents of Slovenia Borut Pahor, of Montenegro Filip Vujanovic and Albania Ilir Meta also gathered at the “Alexander Palas” Hotel. President of  BiH Bakir Izetbegovic and President of the Provisional Kosovo Institutions, Hasim Thaçi, also attended. Brussels was represented in Brussels by European Council President Donald Tusk and Boyko Borisov, the Bulgarian Prime Minister who heads the EU.

The interactions of the president of Serbia and Croatia, due to the current tensions, were very cold and completely official, without much in the way of words. The messages sent by Croatia’s Grabar Kitarović yesterday from Skopje were warmer:

“We need two to tango, we want good relations with Serbia, but before that we need to make concrete steps forward. The invitation to visit Belgrade stands, no one canceled the meeting. Croatia should continue to advocate the membership of all the countries of Southeast Europe, but it should be based on the fulfillment of absolutely all criteria, including the solution of open bilateral issues and good neighborly relations.”

Despite this, and at the same time however, a growing number of Macedonians are becoming increasingly concerned over what impact EU entry will have on Macedonians struggling local economy. The pattern of the EU is generally a type of old-style colonialism, where EU periphery states serve as markets for EU core products.

Fort Russ News has learned that in recent days the presidents have not talked, and the Croatian president’s desire is to tame tensions and continue the dialogue. Upon returning to Zagreb, Grabar Kitarović will talk with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and then a decision will be taken on whether to follow new measures.

”Serbia’s decision to proclaim Minister Krsticevic as a persona non grata is bad and we will discuss further relations with Serbia with the President” – Plenkovic said, and the head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Marija Pejcinovic Burić, joined his criticism of Belgrade.

Serbia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs,  Ivica Dacic, said he does not believe that Croatia would be able to block chapters in the negotiations between Serbia and the EU, since no country has any understanding of such relations.

”Some of us on the Balkans still think we should fight, and majority of our people are leaving  looking for a better life. I am not too optimistic, but I will do my best to make life better, because we in the region are just lying to ourselves that we are strong and big,” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in Skopje last night, he added that he himself, but also the state of Serbia, will struggle to “try to find a solution to the problems that are burdening us”. He also said that it is ”important to talk about the future, regardless of the bitterness that was expressed at that meeting.”

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Speaking to the participants of the meeting, behind closed doors, Vučić resented that instead of helping, he was encountering problems:

”If there was no German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who knows what would happen to the region.”

He criticized Hasim Thaci for arresting the director of the Kosovo and Metohija Office, Marko Djuric, but also because they did not do anything about the ZSO. At Thaci’s note “We are working on the statute now,” Vučić asked: ”And why didn’t you work on it for five years ?!”

Hasim Thaci presides over the illegal breakaway state of Kosovo, which is not internationally recognized in full, nor by the UN. Officially, it is still part of the Republic of Serbia. The US maintains a military base in Kosovo at Camp Bondsteel in order to enforce the illegal division of the Balkan state. Vucic has received both criticism and praise from those in support of Serbian sovereignty, in his approach towards the Kosovo issue.

”The symbol of my world is Jasenovac, and the symbol of the world of Andrej Plenković is Blajburg. I’m anti-fascist.” This was how Defense Minister Aleksandar Vulin reacted yesterday to Plenković’s statement that Serbia’s decision to declare Croatia’s Defense Minister Damir Krstičević unwanted is not a reciprocity, but it is about two worlds – ”a world of respect and dignity, and policies of inappropriate offensive statements and provocations.”

By a ‘world of respect and dignity’, Krstičević implies a world in which the historically documented war crimes committed by a Croatian state in whatever iteration in both WWII and again in the 1990’s, are not raised, not discussed, and not used as the basis for any future talk about reparations, recognition of the anti-Serb genocide, and so forth. 

The Serbian government’s decision to proclaim the Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic as undesirable in Serbia country as a countermeasure for their ban on Aleksandar Vulin entering Croatia was commented by Russian Ambassador Alexander Chepurin, thereby representing Moscow’s official view.

”The cowboy tactic of illegal sanctions and ban seems to spread like a disease. In diplomacy, such moves do not leave the possibility of choice, provoking inevitable countermeasures. All this leads to even greater chaos in international relations and in the region”, said the Russian ambassador.


with text from  Translated and edited by Marija Katic
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