Croats Split on Value of Serbian Minister’s Visit

By Sven Milekic

Croatian political analysts differ on the lasting signficance of Wednesday’s visit to Zagreb of Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic.


Political analysts in Croatia are divided over whether Wednesday’s visit of the Serbian Foreign Minister will make a real difference to relations between Croatia and Serbia.


Zagreb University Professor Dejan Jovic told BIRN that the visit of Ivica Dacic was at least a friendly gesture.


The visit of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic at time of the new President’s inauguration and Dacic’s own visit were “a form of pressure on Croatia to ‘return the favour’ in a same way. I see these two gestures as friendly towards Croatia”, Jovic commented. “Whenever there are elections in Croatia, Serbia becomes a hot topic,” he noted.


With parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of the year and pressure being put on Serbia by some Croats in the European Parliament, major steps forward in relations between two countries should not be expected, he added.


Davor Gjenero, a well-known political analyst, also saw Dacic’s visit as “positive” in general terms.


“It is good that there are talks at ministerial level and that there is communication,” he said.


“It is important to see that Serbia has become aware that it will have to alter some laws in the pre-accession process,” Gjenero added, refering to Serbia’s controversial law on crimes, which gives Serbian police and courts powers to arrest and try suspects for war crimes committed anywhere in former Yugoslavia.


“It is important that a general agreement on forming a single list of all missing persons [from the independence war in Croatia in the 1990s],” he continued.


Gjenero said the statement of Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic, that “it is time to stop dividing missing persons in terms of ethnicity”, was especially important, as both countries needed to stop manipulating this issue for their own domestic political purposes.


However, long-time political analyst Zarko Puhovski said he saw far less significance in the Serbian minister’s visit.


“Everything that was said can be described as ‘recycling of old phrases’, except Dacic’s statement on relations with Russia,” Puhovski told BIRN.


Asked about Serbia’s close ties to Russia, Dacic stated that while Serbia had good relations with Russia, the US also had economic ties to the country. Asked further, whether “Serbia holds Russia in its heart”, Dacic responded: “Russia holds Serbia in its heart”.


Puhovski also criticised concentration on the issue of the Croatian war veteran Veljko Maric, who is serving as prison sentence in Serbia for war crimes committed in Croatia in 1991.


“It is interesting that both sides, Croatian and Serbian, talk about this man solely as a ‘Croatian defender’ [a positive term in Croatia for war veterans] and not as an indisputable war criminal,” he concluded.


After holding talks with Pusic, Dacic singled out the topic of the border dispute between two countries on the Danube, saying it could be resolved by international arbitration.


Dacic mentioned several other issues from the 1990s war as requiring prompt resolution: return of cultural heritage, the status of refugees from Croatia in Serbia, and the return of property and unpaid pensions to Croatian Serbs.


Dacic held single shorter meetings with Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, the speaker of parliament, Josip Leko and the Croatian Serb leader, Milorad Pupovac.



Balkan Insight






April 2016