President Grabar Kitarović Arrives in Belgrade for Inauguration of Serbian Counterpart

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The President will attend the official inauguration ceremonies for new Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović arrived in Serbia on Friday to participate in the inauguration of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. At Nikola Tesla Airport, the President was welcomed with state honours by Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Zorana Mihajlović. Croatian Ambassador to Serbia Gordan Markotić also attended the official welcoming ceremony, reports Jutarnji List on June 23, 2017.

This is her first visit to Belgrade and second to Serbia since assuming office in February 2015. After arriving, the President gave a statement to the media on her forthcoming meeting with Vučić. “We will talk about security, but also about other things. The issues that stand before us are an opportunity to improve the situation not only in Southeast Europe. We must make a substantial step forward. We need to solve the issues of missing persons, archives and the universal jurisdiction for war crimes, but above all, we have to look towards the future pragmatically. Serbia is a candidate for EU membership. We want to see Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania in the EU, and we will help them, but also insist that they have to fulfil everything which Croatia was required to fulfil. We must work together, using all our services and even armed forces,” said Grabar Kitarović.

Security co-operation is needed because of potential terrorist and other threats. “What I can say is that we need intelligence cooperation, not just related to terrorism issues that have become a problem today. You never know who, when and where will be a victim of a terrorist attack because that is the point of terrorism. There are also problems of smuggling people, drugs and weapons. We must ensure that no one poses a threat to order in any of the states.”

The President also discussed the issue of political representation of the Croatian minority in Serbia. “Croats do have a representative in the Serbian parliament, but he has been elected as a member of a party, and not as a minority representative, which is a significant difference from Croatia where you have three guaranteed MPs of the Serbian national minority, regardless of the number of votes.”

A few days ago, the President said she had found, in her own words, “a good interlocutor” in Vučić. Relationships with his predecessor Tomislav Nikolić were not good, but Vučić has recently also given several anti-Croatian statements. “I am afraid there will be more statements of the kind. I will point out to Vučić that defamation of one or the other side will not help any country make a step forward. We are aware of the past, but we want to turn towards the future. Tomislav Nikolić did not recognise the existence of the Croatian minority in Serbia. But the biggest obstacle to our relationship was a statement he gave in front of witnesses that Greater Serbian borders were a legitimate political programme. I cannot talk with someone who does not recognise Bosnia and Herzegovina and half of Croatia,” said Grabar-Kitarović.

At the beginning of her stay, she met with Slavko Bačić, president of the Croatian National Council, and Tomislav Žigmanov, the president of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV) and an MP. “Representatives of the Croatian community want to continue to be an active part of Croatia’s foreign policy when it comes to relations with Serbia. We will focus on the most critical issues that determine the position of the Croatian community in Serbia,” said Žigmanov.


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