A week after the EU laid out its vision for how the Western Balkans would further integrate with the block, Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenković was at the Berlaymont on February 14 for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss Brussels’ grand strategy for the region.
“The Croatian government wants to resolve all open issues with our neighbours and help them on their way towards reforms and the EU. When we talk about Serbia, we talk about two levels of relations – current relations or past relations, the issues of war crimes, minority rights, and war reparations are always on the table and open for further discussion,” Plenković said in reference to the unresolved disputes that still exist between the two former Yugoslav republics.
“The reconciliation process is part of the whole European project, we are jointly working on that,” Plenković said. “But we have to also address the issues of the missing persons, we need to address the issues of the protection of minorities, we need to address the border issues, which are not fully settled among the number of countries within the former Yugoslavia.”
Relations between Zagreb and Belgrade have slightly improved in recent years as the two nations tried to move past the memories of the early 1990s when Yugoslavia tore itself apart as rival forms of ultra-nationalism took hold in its two most powerful republics – Serbia and Croatia.
Since Croatia joined the EU in 2013, Zagreb has tried to influence the process of negotiations between the EU and Serbia, who is a candidate country for membership. In 2016, Croatia attempted to block the beginning of negotiations with Serbia and forced the Commission to come out as an arbiter in the longstanding controversy between the two bitter historic rivals.
Despite the traditional bad blood between the two governments, Plenković and his Serb counterpart, Aleksandr Vućić, met in the Croat capital Zagreb this week in a bid to resolve certain issues that have lingered since Croatia broke away from the old Communist Yugoslavia in 1991.