The President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić visited his Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Tuesday. A ban on journalists asking him questions about his nationalist past triggered protests. Commentators say Croatia would be better advised to exploit the fact that Croatia is trying to present itself as pro-European right now.
Charm offensive a welcome opportunity for Zagreb
Croatia should make the most of the fact that Vučić is trying to sweet-talk the EU, journalist Sandra Veljković writes in Večernji list:
“Has Vučić's Croatia visit helped him improve his diplomatic and political image? Even if it has, we should keep a clear head and use this to our advantage. ... In situations such as this, when one side is trying to make a particularly good impression and is presenting itself to the the world as a potential cooperation partner, and when Serbia's accession to the EU also depends on Croatia, it gives our country the possibility to realise its goals. ... We'll never have a better opportunity to confront Serbia - which is under observation by the EU and the US - with unanswered questions”
Vučić attempting a difficult balancing act
The Serbian defence minister announced before Vučić's departure that Zagreb was full of Ustaša fighters and that the visit was pointless. With municipal elections in Belgrade slated for March, Vučić needs to adopt a European stance during his visit to Zagreb while at the same time bearing in mind the voters at home, writes Danas:
“Our life is continually influenced by any disruption in the relations between Serbia and Croatia. Since in addition Vučić is allowing the public to be stirred up by his bawling defence minister, who is unqualified for military service, it's clear that he is willing to pay a high price for an election victory in Belgrade. And there are doubts about whether we have the strength to become a democratic and free society. ... A successful outcome for Vučić's visit to Zagreb must not at the same time represent a defeat for his party.”
No apology to be expected from Vučić
It is unrealistic to expect the president of Serbia to apologise for war crimes, Večernji list writes:
“Those in Croatia who really believe that an apology will ever be forthcoming or for whom such an apology would mean anything are a minority. Moreover hardly anyone would believe that it was genuine and not just a technical, enforced or 'politically correct' apology. An apology must be sincere in order to carry any weight. And let's be realistic, no one would interpret an apology from Vučić in such a way, because there's a continuity to his policies and his attitude towards Croatia and the Croatians.”
Who should compensate whom?
Those who are expecting war reparation payments from Serbia will wait in vain, Novi list believes:
“In the 23 years since the end of the war reparations have never been seriously discussed with the Serbian leadership. ... One reason was the laziness of the Croatian political caste, which was more concerned about getting rich and driving around in limousines than the public interest. ... The second reason - and this will ruffle many feathers - is that members of the Croatian Armed Forces destroyed, looted and burned, meaning that if talks had ever gotten underway it would have been necessary to calculate fairly who is owed what. So if negotiations on reparations ever begin no one should be surprised if the other side starts making demands too.”