Serbian and Croatian presidents "did not talk about past"

Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic says she and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic "did not talk about the past."

Source: B92, Tanjug

She made the remark after their meeting in Zagreb on Monday.

Speaking to the media, Grabar-Kitarovic said she was satisfied with the meeting, that according to her, had been under preparation "for months."

"I wanted this meeting to happen under different circumstances, a different climate, but after the escalation of the verbal war I decided to end that, and invite Vucic as soon as possible," she said, apparently referring to the recent diplomatic flareup over an exhibition organized at the UN in New York about the Croatian WW2 death camp Jasenovac.

Grabar-Kitarovic then thanked Vucic for responding to the invitation to improve the burdened relations between Serbia and Croatia, especially due to the past which, she said, they "did not mention for now."

"Our obligation as presidents is to meet, to talk, to solve that which separates us, to find a way to the future, and a future for the entire region of Southeastern Europe," said the Croatian president.

Aleksandar Vucic thanked the Croatian president for her cordial welcome.

"It was not an easy move for you, either, especially given the atmosphere created in Zagreb, throughout Croatia. I congratulate you on the courage, I am confident that people will be able to understand all our political moves," Vucic said.

He added that he had come to Zagreb "to talk, to try to solve problems."

"Serbia and Croatia will have to - whether everyone in Serbia and Croatia wants it or not - have much better relations in the future. We will have to look into the future with different eyes, to think about whether our words will affect the other side, and vice versa," said the president of Serbia and added that the two Balkan countries "will have relations like Sweden and Norway."

Vucic said he spoke with Grabar-Kitarovic about the border, and added that the two countries have different positions on this issue.

"Croatia is citing land records, Serbia is citing the law. We will try to resolve this completely bilaterally in the next two years, if not, we will go before judiciary organs," Vucic emphasized.

The two presidents also discussed missing persons, and Vucic announced that he would talk with representatives of relevant Croatian associations next week.


He said they also spoke today about ethnic minorities, economic cooperation, the European path of Serbia, and added that he was "grateful to Croatia for its support."

"We spoke about regional issues, in some places we have undivided interests, and that is one of the reasons why I think that Serbs and Croats will have to talk seriously. We have moved toward solving some concrete things, and the results are felt by Serbs living in Croatia and Croats living in Serbia," he added.

When it comes to the positions "completely diverging," Vucic said it concerned "Alojzije Stepinac and Jasenovac."

"It's a terribly painful question and I would not open it further," Vucic said and thanked the Grabar-Kitarovic for organizing a meeting with (Croatian Catholic) Cardinal Josip Bozanic.

Kitarovic said that they touched on many open questions: "On many we did not agree, on some we came closer, and on some I believe that we will come closer. The most important thing is that we agreed to continue to talk."

She pointed out that they discussed the issue of the missing persons, "which should be solved as soon as possible."

"There are many problems, many years have passed, but I am encouraged by Mr. Vucic's willingness to speak directly with representatives of associations of the missing," Kitarovic said, adding that she would herself meet with these associations in Croatia, but also in Serbia.

Another item on the agenda today were ethnic minorities, Grabar-Kitarovic stressed - that is, the position of Serbs in Croatia and vice versa, and "a step forward was made in that field."

"Croatia's main demand for minorities is their political representation at the state and provincial level," said the president of Croatia, adding that she hopes that Vucic will "talk to the authorities in Serbia."

"The third issue that we discussed are judicial questions. We agreed that the governments will continue to talk within the framework of interstate commissions and relevant bodies," she said.

The issue of the border between the two countries was also discussed. "Our recommendation is to continue the bilateral talks in the next two years, in a friendly spirit... Croatia supports Serbia in the EU and we are ready to support it in every sense on its path to the EU," Grabar-Kitarovic said.

Yet another topic were "concrete project - such as how to use EU funds to improve the position and the lives of citizens," she said.

Grabar-Kitarovic mentioned the reconstruction of the Zagreb-Vinkovci-Tovarnik-Sid-Belgrade railroad as an example - "because it is very important for Croatia."


Zagreb on Monday (Tanjug)
Zagreb on Monday (Tanjug)

The president of Serbia was officially welcomed in Zagreb in front of the seat of the Croatian president earlier in the day, in a ceremony that included the sounding of the two countries' national anthems. This was be followed by a face-to-face meeting with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic.

B92's reporter in Zagreb today noticed that the word "courage" was embroidered on the sleeves of the coat Grabar-Kitarovic wore during the ceremony.

According to a press release from the Serbian presidency ahead of Vucic's trip, the meeting will be followed by bilateral talks between official delegations of Serbia and Croatia.

Afterwards, the Serbian president will go to the Croatian government, where he will have another face-to-face conversation, this time with Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, and will later meet with Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandrokovic.

Later in the afternoon, the two presidents are expected to address a Croatian-Serbian business forum at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce.

Vucic and Grabar-Kitarovic with then meet with participants of the Serb National Council (SNV) Academy and attend the presentation of the project, "The Future of Serbs in Croatia," to be held at the Serbian Orthodox Church's Metropolitanate of Zagreb and Ljubljana.

Vucic will on Tuesday visit the town of Vrginmost, and later in the day in Zagreb speak at a gathering organized by the Serb National Council.

The Croatian website is reporting on Monday that snipers and plainclothes police officers have been deployed in Zagreb in order to provide security to Vucic, and that the city has been decorated with Serbian flags.

According to this, a protest of widows of Croatian war veterans who oppose the visit will be organized in Zagreb today.


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