Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs needs to stop deceiving the public

07. May 2021.
If the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Republic of Croatia sincerely cares about the promotion of relations and regional stability it needs to stop deceiving the public and feeding falsehoods and stereotypes about Serbs and Serbia.

Building good-neighbourly relations between states implies, first of all, the ability to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric and then also from actions that a neighbour could recognize as a provocation, or, even worse, an act of hostility. In that sense, the Croatian diplomacy has made a twofold departure from benevolent and friendly restraint.

The Republic of Croatia, as a NATO member and one of the KFOR contributor countries, has the opportunity and the right to participate in the international military forces in Kosovo and Metohija within the prescribed international legal framework, however, given the difficult and traumatic history of Serbia-Croatia relations, a friend and a well-meaning neighbour should not deploy additional contingents of its troops with enthusiasm and passion in the territory that the neighbour perceives as an integral part of its state.

If we take into account the fact that the Croatian diplomacy has been working with great zeal to create a Croatian-Albanian axis and the markedly affective interethnic relations, it is understandable that Serbs in Kosovo and Metohija, but also the rest of Serbia, do not see Croatian militarization of our southern province as a contribution to peace and security, but as a threat.

Furthermore, the deviation from the benevolent and friendly tone noticeable in the latest statement of the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs is worrying, and we wonder what message and example that ministry wishes to send to its own citizens by using an inappropriate, almost profane language.

If we are to talk about the position of the Croatian national minority in Serbia using the language of argumentation, we will remind that last year Serbia bought Ban Jelacic's house and handed it over to the Croatian National Council, to which the Serbian Government also provided quality premises in the very centre of Belgrade.

In the field of the right to education and fostering cultural identity, we contributed to the preservation of the Croatian class in primary school in Backi Breg, expanding the profiles in Croatian language schools, establishing the lectorate in Croatian, supported the "Jelačić" Association from Petrovaradin, reconstruction of the House of Culture in Tavankut, etc.

When it comes to the political representation of Croats in the institutions and authorities of the Republic of Serbia, parallels with Croatia cannot be made, because neither in number nor in percentage can comparisons be made between the Serb minority in Croatia and the Croat in Serbia, but Serbia is open to, in cooperation with the Croatian National Council, make well-intentioned and friendly steps in order to make concessions to Croats in that area as well.

In light of the recent threats to Serbs in Borovo and the chanting of "Kill a Serb" and "Oh, Croatia, mother, we will slaughter Serbs", we must emphasize something like that is inconceivable in Serbia and that anyone who dared to threaten our fellow citizens of Croatian nationality in a similar way was most drastically sanctioned.

We also emphasize that Serbia's attitude towards national minorities has been continuously praised by the OSCE and other relevant international factors, so that all mystifications about the alleged endangerment of Croats in Serbia are a malicious and false political construct.

On the other hand, we will remind you that this time again, that two and a half decades after the end of the war, the Serb people in Croatia in practice do not have access to the rights guaranteed by the Erdut Agreement and the laws of the Republic of Croatia, and the attitude of the majority people towards Serbs in Croatia is still predominantly negative, which is why Serbs continue to be marginalized, discriminated against and often stigmatized and treated as second-class citizens.

We will also remind you of the fact that there is an aggressive resistance to the use of the Serbian language and script in parts of Croatia, as well as that the right to foster the Serbian national and cultural identity is a forbidden topic in many areas where Serbs live. The attitude towards the Cyrillic script, Serbian language, culture and tradition is still, to put it mildly, discriminatory in parts of Croatia, and there are no indications that sincere and consistent work is being done to create a social climate in which Serbs can feel like equal citizens.

However, the most problematic thing in the statement of the Croatian Ministry are not untruths about the position of Croats in Serbia and keeping silent about the truth about the position of Serbs in Croatia, but that it is an attempt to feed stereotypes about Serbs and Serbia from an important state institution, which is not only not a friendly and good-neighbourly demeanour, but borders on hate speech.

Serbia is very interested in resolving the issue of missing persons, as the Zagreb authorities are well-aware, since Serbs account for a significant percentage of those gone missing during the conflicts in Croatia, so there are no grounds to claim that readiness to overcome this painful issue is not mutual. The Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs is therefore knocking on an open door, while there is a sincere readiness on the part of our side to also discuss other issues that burden our bilateral relations.

However, to accuse Serbia of alleged "camps", coming from a country that is still burdened by the criminal legacy of the NDH and in which there is no readiness to face that part of its own history, is not appropriate, to put it mildly, much like it is inappropriate to elaborate on the topic of a "greater Serbia politics", at the time when Croatia is deploying its army on the territory of Serbia.

Croatian diplomacy should be a leader in the process of reconciliation and promotion of Serbia-Croatia relations and not a leader in their deterioration and one feeding the anti-Serbian stereotypes that distance us from any possibility to teach at least new generations that it is possible to have productive, harmonious and civilized relations with neighbours.