ZAGREB, April 22, 2018 – Croatia wants cooperation with Serbia and it has reached out, but messages such as those by Serbian Defence Minister Aleksandar Vulin are harming bilateral relations, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Sunday.
Mr Vulin is not a person who has been contributing to calming tensions, quite the contrary, Plenković told the press after a commemoration for the victims of the Ustasha concentration camp in Jasenovac.
Vulin had announced his visit to the Jasenovac region on Sunday and said that “it is only the Serbian Army’s supreme commander Aleksandar Vučić who can decide on my travel to Croatia and this cannot be decided by Croatian ministers.” After that, the Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Ministry issued a statement saying that Serbian Defence Minister Vulin, who has announced his arrival in Jasenovac for Sunday, is not welcome in Croatia for the time being, condemning his statement. Such a statement given by Vulin has made him persona non grata until further notice, the Croatian ministry said in its explanation.
“The message that we sent yesterday was a necessary message, a message that expresses Croatia’s position and resoluteness that it will not tolerate such moves,” Plenković said. He added that Croatia clearly condemns Ustasha crimes committed between 1941 and 1945, but that it was also turning to the future and it wanted to build new dialogue and new relations with Serbia which was the aggressor in Croatia between 1991 and 1995.
“And we cannot do that if there are continuous attempts to make statements that are not helping, but on the contrary they are insulting for Croatia and harmful for bilateral relations,” the Croatian prime minister said.
Asked whether he expected reciprocal measures from Serbia, Plenković said Serbia can do whatever it thinks is necessary. “What we are doing, we are preserving the dignity of the Croatian state and our own dignity,” Plenković said adding that Croatia wanted to reduce tensions and create room for dialogue.
Plenković said this was the purpose of Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković’s visit to Belgrade last week, but the visit was cut short following an incident caused by convicted war criminal Vojislav Šešelj. Zagreb believes that the authorities in Belgrade were not clear enough in condemning Šešelj’s actions.
On the other hand, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić was recently received in Zagreb with maximum security measures and respect, Plenković said.
Asked if in his opinion Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović should travel to Belgrade for a return visit, Plenković said this question should be directed at the president.
Plenković also said that, as far as Croatia was concerned, the latest incident did not block cooperation with Serbia. “We are talking to those who are prepared for a normal, civilised dialogue, with mutual respect,” Plenković said.