ZAGREB, January 30, 2018 – Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović has invited Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to visit Croatia in mid-February, her office said in a press release on Tuesday.
It is time for Vucic to visit Croatia, the president said in a special address.
“In good faith that both sides have a desire to overcome disputes and events which have kept us hostage to the past and to move forward to enable progress for our peoples and states, I have invited President Aleksandar Vučić to an official visit to the Republic of Croatia in mid-February. With this invitation I want to open a new page in our relationship,” she said, adding that her “constitutional obligations include the promotion and protection of… state and national interests.”
“One of our key interests is the development of good relations with our neighbouring countries. For this reason I am dedicated to advocating a policy of sincere dialogue and to resolving open issues in a positive atmosphere. In our relations with our neighbouring countries from the former state, there are open issues mostly related to borders and other matters related to the dissolution and succession of the former state, but there are also issues that emerge from our joint history,” Grabar-Kitarović said.
Grabar-Kitarović said those issues “particularly burden our relations” with Serbia. “One hundred years have passed since the end of the First World War, unfortunately marking a century since the beginning of mutual controversy and conflict.”
“Our views on many historical themes, especially those imposed by the 20th century, are not only different, they are often contradictory. I am convinced that both Croats and Serbs, as two old European peoples, with more than a thousand years of history and in many ways intertwined destinies, can and will finally find a path to a better future,” the president said. “Let us show everyone that a century has been enough time for us all to learn our lesson and to find the strength to turn the page for a new start and a better relationship. This is what I want and I am convinced that this is what Croats and all Croatian citizens also want.”
She said the “path leading to this is through dialogue, agreements and concrete co-operation in solving problems and creating new developmental perspectives through a common European future.”
“First and foremost, we have to resolve the fate of all missing persons from the Homeland War. This is not only a test of our humanity, it is also the foundation of true peace, from which we can begin to improve our relationship. Every mother has the right to find her child and her loved ones. It is our responsibility and obligation as leaders to do everything to help them,” said Grabar-Kitarović.
“Our permanent task is to protect and improve the position of national minorities, both of the Croatian minority in the Republic of Serbia and of the Serbian minority in the Republic of Croatia. The border issue is also an important issue which I believe we can address with dialogue. If we do not succeed in this way then it will be resolved through the international judiciary and on the basis of international law,” she added.
Politicians should “follow the example of our businessmen who have continuously year after year improved their cooperation and increased their investments”, she said. “This shows how connected our two countries are. I am convinced that the vast majority of our citizens are primarily interested in a better life and new job opportunities. That is why we must do more to further open this area for Croatian and Serbian businessmen to invest and cooperate.”
Grabar-Kitarović said security cooperation and combating terrorism were important for both countries. “Croatian-Serbian cooperation is of utmost importance for the wider area of South East Europe and must be a guarantee of lasting peace and stability. I therefore believe that it is time for a visit at the Presidential level.”
“If this visit contributes to understanding the destiny of at least one of our missing defenders or civilians, I will consider the visit a success,” Grabar-Kitarović said.
Speaking for Belgrade’s Kurir newspaper earlier this month, Vučić said he was always ready to visit Zagreb. “I’m always willing to talk with Grabar-Kitarović. Personally, I respect her. We have never crossed the lines of decency and taste in exchanging arguments. I’m open for talks, for openly telling each other what we have to say,” he was quoted as saying.
Vučić was supposed to visit Zagreb late last year but the visit was cancelled because, according to official sources, at that time the prerequisites for it “did not exist.”