The presidents of Serbia and Croatia are sounding a conciliatory tone following their first meeting, and are even floating the idea of dropping genocide lawsuits filed before the International Court of Justice.
Serbia President Tomislav Nikolic, speaking to reporters following the October 16th meeting, said the lawsuits should be stopped for the sake of peaceful relations. Neither side would be satisfied should the issue be played out in court, he said.
“The lawsuits should be dropped,” he said. “I look to the future and it is important that Serbia and Croatia establish peace for all times, if possible.”
He also added: “Good friends resolve their disputes without courts. Both President [Ivo] Josipovic and I, governments and citizens, all want to live peacefully and better.”
Josipovic said that the Croatian government had yet to deliver a final decision on whether it would drop its genocide lawsuit against Serbia before the international court in The Hague.
“As far as the Croatian side is concerned, some things are expected before the final decision. If the lawsuit remains, we must say that we had more difficult situations between our states and peoples and we must live with that,” Josipovic said, acknowledging that the genocide charges could encumber relations between the two countries.
“Many historical facts would then be presented before the court, which would not be good to hear,” Josipovic said.
Milan Antonijevic, director at Belgrade-based YUCOM Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said the two presidents’ meeting is a significant step toward reconciliation as well as toward resolving the issue.
“Each bilateral meeting on this level leads to better bilateral relations, even the dropping of the lawsuits, which would be a logical and expected upcoming step,” Antonijevic told SETimes.
He said that Josipovic’s visit is important for Serbia’s EU future since it shows its readiness for resolving issues from the past.
Davor Gjenero, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, told SETimes that relations between Serbia and Croatia might be on the right track. He said he believes there is a possibility that Croatia will drop its genocide lawsuit.
“Serbia has made a good choice when it stopped mentioning its countersuit against Croatia as an equal argument. A countersuit filed by Serbia is not a document of equal validity and significance. The Croatian lawsuit has been processed before the judges in the Hague, and they decided the court was competent to hear the case,” Gjenero said.
Gjenero said Croatia believes that, in the long term, Serbia’s EU membership will lead to the realisation of Croatia’s political and economic interests and that only standardisation of economic, social, and political life in the Balkans can guarantee the region’s stability.
Andjelko Milardovic, founder of the Institute of European and Globalisation Studies in Zagreb, said it is still important to Josipovic to find out the fate of 1,680 Croatians missing from the 1990s conflict.
“If the issues are to be solved in a civilised manner, then those who have the information — and I believe that Serbian side does have information about this — should put it out on the table. Croatia should not waver until this is figured out. There are also internal tensions, because families want to know,” Milardovic told SETimes.
During his stay in Belgrade, Josipovic delivered a speech in the Serbian parliament. He said relations between Serbia and Croatia are important for all of Southeast Europe and promised assistance to Serbia and other countries of the region on their paths toward the EU.
“Croatia will help Serbia and all its neighbours as much as they ask and as much as we can,” he said.
Josipovic also met Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic, Croatian and Serbian businessmen, and representatives of the Association of Missing and Displaced Persons during his visit to Serbia.
How optimistic are you that Serbia and Croatia will resolve the genocide lawsuits before they can be heard at The Hague? Add your thoughts in the comment area.