Relations between Croatia and Serbia Crucial for Wider Region

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A conferences marked 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Relations between Croatia and Serbia are key for relations in the Balkans and affect the relations across the region, said on Friday the last Foreign Minister of the former Yugoslavia Budimir Lončar, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, reports Večernji List on November 26, 2016.

Belgrade and Zagreb “are entering a new phase in relations which means acceptance and mutual respect for integrity and sovereignty”, said Lončar at a conference organized by the Igman Initiative. The participants of the conference said that lasting reconciliation and overcoming the legacy of the past were prerequisites for solving bilateral problems between Belgrade and Zagreb, adding that cooperation between Serbia and Croatia depended on political options which are in power in both countries.

This co-operation has often been achieved under international pressure from the European Union, and the participants of the conference agreed that the key issues included the solving of the fate of missing persons from the wars in the 1990s.

Lončar said that the former Yugoslavia was “for a long time, the basis of stability in the southeastern part of Europe” and was “recognized as a factor which offered dialogue and the search for alternatives to the Cold War”. “When Tito died, Yugoslavia found itself at crossroads”, said Lončar at the conference.

Illustrating the importance of Serbia and Croatia for the situation in the region, Lončar said that the relations between the two countries were crucial for the development of relations in the wider area, adding that economic relations between the two countries were of great importance since trade between them amounts to “about a billion dollars”.

Secretary General of the Regional Cooperation Council and former Foreign Minister of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia Goran Svilanović said that “sometimes things move due to personal decisions”. “The development of relations requires personal courage of people, but also the support of governments and nations”, said Svilanović, adding that 2016 was a difficult year. He said that 2017 would bring progress “because there is willingness for dialogue”. “We need to live in reality and agree that we see some events differently”, said Svilanović.

Head of Department for Regional Initiatives at the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pavle Janković said that cooperation between Belgrade and Zagreb from 1 July 2013 “is not just bilateral”, but part of the relationship with the European Union, given that Croatia became a member. “There are a number of obstacles, such as the issue of missing persons, inadequate prosecution of people who committed crimes, property issues, the status of national minorities, state borders… We are all aware of these problems and it is important to identify chances for change”, said Janković and suggested that the prerequisite for solving bilateral problems was “lasting reconciliation and overcoming the legacy of the past”.

The organizer of the conference was the Igman Initiative, founded in late 2000 as a movement which includes more than 140 non-governmental organizations from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro.


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