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Serbia’s Expulsion of Croatian Diplomat Damages Relations: Zagreb

The Foreign Ministry in Zagreb condemned Serbia’s decision to expel a Croatian embassy official for an unspecified violation of diplomatic norms, saying that the move threatened regional stability.

The Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said on Monday that Serbia’s decision to declare Croatian diplomat Hrvoje Snajder persona non grata was a “step towards the deterioration of mutual relations”.

“We completely reject the basis for the expulsion of the accredited Croatian diplomat,” the ministry said in a statement.

“The decision by the Republic of Serbia represents a step towards the deterioration of mutual relations, as well as the further destabilisation of sensitive regional political and security situations at a time when stability in south-east Europe is of exceptional importance for the whole of Europe,” the statement added.

Serbia’s Foreign Ministry announced on Monday evening that it had decided to declare Snajder persona non grata “in accordance with Article 9 of the Vienna Convention”, which allows states to terminate foreign diplomats’ stays.

“During his professional engagement in the Republic of Serbia, Snajder grossly departed from the framework of diplomatic norms and violated the aforementioned convention,” the ministry said in a statement, without giving details of the alleged violation committed by the Croatian diplomat.

Hidajet Biscevic, the Croatian ambassador to Belgrade, declined to explain the situation further.

“Even if I knew what [Snajder] did, I shouldn’t say, I can’t go into details because it’s outside my jurisdiction. No comment,” Biscevic said in comments reported by Zagreb newspaper 24sata.

The Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs linked the move to parliamentary polls that are due to be held in Serbia next month.

It claimed that the expulsion represents “additional pressure on the employees of the Croatian embassy in Belgrade, which is particularly manifested during the pre-election period in the Republic of Serbia”.

The expulsion came after a period in which relations between the two countries, who were foes during the 1990s wars, had somewhat improved.

In June, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabic in Subotica in northern Serbia at the opening of a new building housing the headquarters of the Croatian National Council, the representative body of Croats in Serbia, the Hrvatska Rijec Croat-language newspaper publishing house and the Institute for the Culture of Vojvodina Croats. The Croatian government had financed the whole project.

The two premiers also met in Zagreb in April, while Plenkovic met Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Davos during the World Economic Forum in January.

This series of meetings came after an initiative by the leaders of Serbs in Croatia and Croats in Serbia, Milorad Pupovac and Tomislav Zigmanov, to build bridges between the two countries’ officials.

Relations began to thaw at an official reception at Orthodox Christmas in Zagreb in January, attended by Plenkovic and Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and EU Integration Minister Tanja Miscevic.

Relations between Serbia and Croatia are burdened by their wartime enmity and the unresolved issue of missing persons from the 1991-95 conflict. The two countries have also yet to resolve a non-war-related border dispute.

Source : Balkan Insight