Speaker of Croatian Parliament Starts Official Visit to Serbia

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ZAGREB, April 18, 2018 – Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, speaking in Belgrade on Wednesday at the start of his two-day official visit, welcomed the progress made in improving the status of the Croat minority in Serbia, announcing development of parliamentary, economic and overall bilateral cooperation and pledging full support to Serbia on its path to European Union membership.

Speaking to the press after a meeting between a delegation of the Croatian Parliament and a delegation of the Serbian Assembly, which was headed by Speaker of the Assembly Maja Gojković, Jandroković said that parliamentary cooperation would help improve relations between the two countries.

Both sides said that the visit was “historic”, and Gojković described it as “a signal of friendship”. “We haven’t had a visit from a senior Croatian official to our parliament to date. This is a signal of friendship and an important signal for the development and improvement of our relations. A new door of cooperation between our respective parliaments has been opened,” Gojković said, emphasising that both sides wanted “to improve relations and encourage relations at other levels of government as well.”

The two officials discussed several topics, including cooperation in improving the status of the Croat minority in Serbia and the Serb minority in Croatia, parliamentary and economic cooperation, and Croatia’s support to Serbia in the EU integration process.

“It is important to us to implement the agreement on the protection of the minorities and ensure the guaranteed participation of the Croat minority in Serbian institutions. We hope that in the future the Croat minority will have one representative in the Assembly and that it will be represented in other bodies as well,” Jandroković said.

Speaking of the protection and improvement of the status of the Serb minority in Croatia and the Croat minority in Serbia, Jandroković said that progress had been made after a recent visit to Croatia by Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić. In this context, he mentioned the opening of a Croatian language instruction office at the University of Novi Sad and the renovation of the house of Count Josip Jelačić, who was the Ban of Croatia in the mid-19th century, in Petrovaradin.

The two officials said that all outstanding issues could be dealt with regardless of different views, stressing the importance of dialogue. “It is important for us to talk. We are aware that we have open issues from the past and we need to address them. That is the main reason why I am here, despite critics who would like to see a different relationship between our countries,” Jandroković said, noting that the leaders of the two countries have “a great responsibility” in this regard.

Today’s talks will be followed by an exchange of visits by parliamentary working bodies, including a visit by the Croatian Parliament’s European Affairs Committee to Belgrade and reciprocal visits by the parliamentary friendship groups.

Indirectly commenting on recent tensions in the Serbian Assembly provoked by convicted war criminal Vojislav Šešelj, who made threats against the deputy of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV) Tomislav Žigmanov, Jandroković said that people from the past would not affect relations between the two countries and the two nations.

“I have told Ms Gojković that statements that could be heard in recent days, which have negative connotations for the Croat minority in Serbia, are unacceptable to us,” Jandroković said, adding that people who want to take the two countries to the past will not dictate their relations.

In this context, Jandroković stressed the importance of implementing the agreements on the protection of the minorities and ensuring the representation of the Croat minority at all levels of government in Serbia. “This, of course, depends on legislative changes in Serbia. But if there is a good will, and I hope there will be, I am confident that we will resolve this issue successfully,” he added.

Also on Wednesday, Jandroković is scheduled to meet with the Minister of European Integration Jadranka Joksimović, and attend the opening of the office of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce in Belgrade. On Thursday, he is due to meet with President Aleksandar Vučić and Prime Minister Ana Brnabić. He will conclude his visit in Subotica where he will meet with representatives of the Croat community.


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