Serbian President Boris Tadic and his Croatian counterpart, Ivo Josipovic, have announced a new phase in relations between the two neighbouring countries following their first meeting as presidents on Wednesday.
Tadic and Josipovic discussed open issues between the two countries and the development of good neighbourly relations.
“The goal of both countries is to belong to the European family of nations, which includes the introduction of European values and reforms in both countries,” Tadic said.
On Wednesday at noon, Tadic arrived on the Croatian island of Krk in the northern Adriatic Sea where Josipovic welcomed him and the two headed to Opatija by boat.
The meeting came as a surprise as it had been announced earlier that the first official meeting between the two presidents would be held on Saturday in Brussels at a conference on US-EU relations. Tadic and Josipovic are scheduled to attend and to take part in the discussion on the Balkans in 2010.
Relations between the two countries have been increasingly tense since Croatia recognised Kosovo’s declaration of independence in March 2008, although newly elected Josipovic has voiced his desire to improve relations with Serbia on several occasions. A number of open issues continue to negatively affect bilateral relations.
The two agreed that an out-of-court settlement could be the solution to the genocide lawsuits the two countries have filed against each other before the International Court of Justice.
“An out-of-court settlement does not mean giving up trials against those who committed crimes. Those people shall be brought to face justice,” Tadic stressed.
Croatia filed a genocide lawsuit against Serbia at the International Court of Justice in 1999, and after it declined requests to withdraw the suit, Belgrade filed a countersuit on January 4, 2010.
Croatia’s Josipovic agreed with Tadic and added that “the lawsuit will no longer make sense if we agree on the issues stipulated in it.”
The two also stressed that the integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, BiH, must not be questioned and that “everything agreed upon between the three nations in BiH is acceptable for Croatia and Serbia,” as Tadic put it.
In January, the outgoing Croatian President Stjepan Mesic said he would intervene militarily if Milorad Dodik, the leader of the Bosnian Serb dominated Republika Srpska region, made a move to secede from Bosnia.
The Croatian president also told Tadic that his country’s prime minister would give the Serbian government its translations of European legislation, which are worth €8 million. The legislation was not given to Serbia earlier as the country refused to attend a regional summit in Slovenia last Saturday, co-organised by Croatia, because the Kosovo prime minister was due to attend.
The two countries have also not yet settled a number of open issues related to the conflicts of the 1990s, 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.
Speaking about that, the two said that all open issues would be solved in the spirit of European partnership, with Tadic stressing that stereotypes and prejudices must be eliminated in relations between Serbia and Croatia.