Interview By Foreign Minister Mrkic For “Politika”: Josipovic conveyed his most cordial greetings for Nikolic
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Ivan MrkicSerbia and Croatia have appointed their coordinators, Vera Mavric and Joska Klisovic, who will be analyzing, once a month, what has been done by the Inter-State Commission towards the settlement of outstanding issues.

I have talked with President Ivo Josipovic about the missing persons, and he was particularly interested in refugees, that is, how this matter should be settled. He also asked me if I felt that we would come to the point where we should withdraw the Memorial and Counter Memorial before the International Court of Justice, reveals for Politika Ivan Mrkic, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia, the details of his talk with the Croatian President.

Q: You have said that you arrived in Zagreb without the blessing of President Tomislav Nikolic. Have you passed any messages from President Nikolic to President Josipovic?

A: No, I haven't. A sufficient message is the fact that I am in Zagreb. There is a platform for my visit to Zagreb, as well as the tasks with which I came here and I have been working on fulfilling as many of these tasks as possible. I have been very well received and met cordially by the Croatian side.

Q: Has President Josipovic mentioned the possibility of meeting with President Nikolic?

A: He has very clearly stated his readiness to meet President Nikolic.

Q: This means a change of position, because things have not stood that way until recently. He has asked President Nikolic to renounce his chetnik past, first, hasn't he?

A: He said nothing of the sort. He conveyed his most cordial greetings for President Nikolic. He was very constructive in wishing that the relations between our two countries be improved. He supported Serbia in every way. He said that the EU should give us a date and that we had deserved it. That was his position in relation to Serbia. All that is going on between the two Governments is a kind of preparatory work on the meeting between the two Presidents that will simply follow once we have created sufficient conditions. There is no opposition to the top-level meeting, particularly not on our part, at any moment.

Q: What have you specifically been told by President Josipovic? So far, refugee associations have had many objections to the attitude adopted by the Croatian authorities towards them, because they have been prevented from exercising many of their rights.

A: After the adoption of the Constitutional Law, the position of minorities in Croatia has improved. However, there is still a lot to be done. They have a law limiting the right of Serb returnees to use their own properties unless they permanently reside in the reconstructed homes. We hold that the view that no one should be obligated to live there permanently, but should have freedom to use their property as they please. These are difficult legal issues. Therefore, we have agreed that our Justice Ministers should meet as soon as possible to determine the international legal basis of Croatian blames on the one hand, and of our own claims, on the other. We will make an effort to diminish the differences in our positions little by little, so as not to discuss the dispute, but to try and solve it. Needless to say, we will not make any concessions that will depart from what is right and just, and constitutes an international standard.

Q: Have the judgments of acquittal handed down first to Croatian Generals Gotovina and Markac, and then to General Perisic, helped soften the positions on mutual charges brought before the ICJ?

A: They have brought charges and the logical sequence is that they should be the ones to drop them. I am sure that we will then follow suit and drop our counter charges. The more we work on developing a cooperative relationship between us, the more mature and reasonable we will become, avoiding to insist on the dispute, since we have different views on the past. By putting the charges in the foreground, do we intend to spell out all our differences or do we want to cooperate? This is a matter of political decision. As far as I understand, Croats are willing to drop their charges. We are not nervous. We have simply reacted to what Croatia has done. If Croatia drops its charges, we will do the same.

Q: When will inter-state commissions, charged with settling outstanding issues, start to work, and how will they operate?

A: We have already designated coordinators at the level of Governments, who will meet periodically with chair persons of all commissions. On behalf of Serbia, Vera Mavric, State Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and my Deputy, will be the coordinator, while on the Croatian side, coordination will be entrusted to Josko Klisovic, Vesna Pusic's Deputy. They will, most probably, meet once a month with commission chair persons and ask them about their results. There will be six commissions that will be tasked with the borders and refugees. Many Serbian companies have large property claims there, including problems related to refugees who are entitled to pensions under Croatian schemes and they have not received them for years.... A commission has also been formed to deal with missing persons, which is one of the gravest and most unfortunate problems.

Q: You have also indicated some joint cross-border projects, haven't you?

A: We already have 18 cross-border projects realized at the local level through EU funds. These projects are related to infrastructure, environmental protection and many other areas. We have now agreed to apply for two new projects.

Q: What have you discussed with the President of the Croatian Parliament Josip Leka?

A: We are intent on developing parliamentary diplomacy, because it is more relaxed when it comes to expression and raising even the most unpleasant issues. We have concluded that friendship groups existing in the two Parliaments should get in touch as soon as possible and that Serbian Parliamentary Speaker Nebojsa Stefanovic and Mr. Leka should meet as well. It is likely that they will meet immediately after Croatia joins the EU.

I Report to the State Leadership

Q: Do you report back to the SNS leader Aleksandar Vucic like the other Ministers, taking into account that you have been appointed at the recommendation of the SNS party?

A: My Ministry is making daily reports to the state leadership, so they are informed about our actions. We do not prepare any special reports. My job, by definition, implies that I am in daily contact with the President of the Republic, Prime Minister and my other Cabinet colleagues, so there is no need for making any additional reports.

Q: Mr. Vucic has recently indicated that there might be a Cabinet shake-up and your name was mentioned in that context. Are you afraid that you might be "reshuffled" too?

A: I am entirely at the disposal of the state leadership.
Tags: Ivan Mrkic