Serbian President Boris Tadic has announced that he will not attend the inauguration ceremony of the newly elected Croatian President, Ivo Josipovic, if Kosovo President Fatmir Sejdiju is attends too.
Tadic believes that his presence at the ceremony, which is scheduled for 18 February, would mean that Serbia is indirectly recognising Kosovo’s independence.
“This, however, is a political event – the inauguration of the Croatian president, and I am ready to go there under the condition that the issue of Serbia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity is not brought into question,” Tadic said.
Serbia and Croatia have not yet settled various open issues related to the 1990 conflicts, including missing Croat combatants allegedly held captive in Serbia during the war, the extradition to Croatia of persons suspected of war crimes in Croatia, and the return of Serbian refugees to Croatia.
After years of waiting for Croatia to withdraw its genocide suit against Serbia, Serbia took steps on 4 January to force Croatia’s hand by filing a countersuit, additionally fueling tensions between the two countries.
Relations between the two countries reached another critical juncture after outgoing Croatian President Stjepan Mesic on 7 January decreased by one year a jail sentence of a convicted war criminal, who took part in the executions of ethnic Serb civilians in the Pakracka Poljana region of western Slavonia in late 1991. The move was one of a dozen or so presidential pardons. A day after, Mesic visited Kosovo on an official visit.
Tadic acknowledged that there has been a “visible decline” in Serbia-Croatia relations in the last few months, but said he believes that “Serbia and Croats can improve relations”. He said any such improvement ”must be proven not only with words, but also with deeds”.
Earlier this week, Josipovic said that relations between Croatia and Serbia are a strategic priority for him, adding that the Croatian genocide lawsuit against Serbia could be withdrawn if an agreement were to be reached on the various outstanding issues related to the wars.