Continued Mistreatment of Croats in Serbia Stalls Serbia’s EU Membership Negotiations

Croatian Member of EU Parliament Marijana Petir

Croatian Member of EU Parliament
Marijana Petir

If anyone wants to go and see how minorities are mistreated, abused and persecuted in the 21st Century’s so-called freedom and democracy go to Serbia and check out the abominable treatment of the Croatian minority in the Vojvodina part of Serbia.

This May marks 25 years from the time of widespread and brutal persecution of Vojvodina Croats from their homes under the attack of the criminal Great Serbian policy from Slobodan Milosevic and the current Serbian government, in its desire to become an EU member state is doing nothing much to correct its wrongs of the past. In the 1990’s Serbs did not only attack Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to ethnically cleanse large areas of these sovereign countries but they also went about ethnically cleansing parts of Serbia (Vojvodina); targeting Croatian minority there. (Of course elements of such a criminal pattern would be also seen in the Kosovo, then a province of Serbia, and its Muslim population.)

When compared to 1990, there is only half of Croats still living in Vojvodina, Serbia. They are being discriminated against and their rights as a national minority – repressed. They have had no parliamentary representation in Serbia’s Parliament like Serbs living in Croatia have during the past two decades. The broadcasting of the radio and TV in Croatian language has been shut down; Serbia’s government also does not finance books and education in the Croatian language. Croats are often the targets of thievery, murder and physical attacks for which the assailants are rarely found. Catholic priests are also attacked and Catholic churches defiled. Reports Cro Portal.

Croatian member of the European Parliament Marijana Petir alerted the European Commission about this on several occasions in recent times. She asked the EC to protect the Croatian minority in Vojvodina.
The national authorities in Serbia are preventing Croats in Vojvodina from exercising their rights to language, culture and education in their mother tongue. All of the actions taken by the Serbian authorities in Vojvodina are aimed at favouring the Bunjevci — a group of Croats who do not wish to declare themselves Croats, but only Bunjevci — in order to assimilate them. Croats are prevented from exercising the rights that are guaranteed to them by the law and by international agreements.
The Croatian National Council in Serbia and the Croatian Government are therefore obliged to spend their own resources on printing textbooks. Meanwhile, the Serbian Government refuses to reimburse them for the costs of doing this and does not allow them to use public spaces for their cultural events. It is also attempting to squeeze out the Croatian language and replace it with the Bunjevac language.
Given that Croats are citizens of the European Union, how will the Commission ensure that the rights of Croats in Vojvodina to language, culture and education in their mother tongue are exercised?” Petir asked the EU Parliament in late 2015.

Johannes Hahn, Member of the EC in charge of Regional Policy

Johannes Hahn, Member of the EC in charge of Regional Policy

Johannes Hahn, EC Commissioner Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, replied that respect of fundamental rights and the protection of minorities are the key conditions for Serbia within the negotiation process and are dealt with in Chapter 23. He further explained that Serbia was completing its action plan regarding the protection of minorities and the EC expects from Serbia to take up the recommendations entailed in the EC Advisory board’s directions. Those recommendations, he said, are directed at education, use of language, access to media and religious practices in the languages spoken by minorities. He concluded that Serbia, in practice, is bound to respect fundamental rights, including the right on property protection … As to the latter part of Hahn’s reply, the return of property to the Croatian clubs and organisations (in Vojvodina) Mr Krunoslav Djakovic (President of Centre for Culture ‘Srijem” and Croatian House organisatuon) emphasised that “Croats are not asking for anything that would contradict the law, but are asking from Serbia’s government to give them, as an ethnic minority, that which they have legal right to. If they don’t want to do that, that is breach of human rights”.

Recently Petir said that she will not stop in her endeavours and that Serbia must ensure all the rights defined by the international agreements because if that does not happen, they will not be able to continue their European path. Petir also wants Croatia to start taking more care about Croats outside their country, and also the Croats in Vojvodina, so that their interests are protected and that they can have their right for a Croatian citizenship.

Miro Kovac Croatia's Foreign Minister

Miro Kovac
Croatia’s Foreign Minister

Last week, albeit reluctantly, following complaints by the Croatian government, the European Council had once again postponed the opening of negotiations with Serbia in its desired accession to EU membership. The postponement has to do with two crucial chapters of the EU legislation, Chapter 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and Chapter 24 (justice freedom and security). Croatia did not and does not accept or endorse the European Commission opinion that Serbia is ready to proceed to EU membership negotiations stage; all 28 countries, members of the EU must agree in order for any new membership negotiations to proceed.

Croatia’s concerns are threefold: the lack of Serbian cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); the mistreatment of the Croatian minority in Serbia (Vojvodina); and the universal jurisdiction of Serbian courts over war crimes committed in other parts of the former Yugoslavia.
It would seem that the EC sent a blind or a pro-Serbia bent person to Serbia during 2015 on task of investigating matters on progress made by Serbia with view to its path in becoming an EU member state. In its Progress Report (2015) EC writes:
2.4. Human rights and the protection of minorities – Overall situation – The legislation and institutions needed to uphold international human rights law are in place. Legislation to protect minorities and cultural rights is also broadly in place. However, sustained efforts are needed to ensure effective and consistent implementation across the country. Shortcomings particularly affect the following areas:
• Conditions for the full exercise of freedom of expression are still not in place. Full implementation of the new media laws needs to be ensured.
• Promotion and protection of the rights of the most vulnerable and discriminated groups, including the LGBTI persons, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS has yet to be fully ensured. Hate-motivated offences need to be properly investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned.
• Efforts to improve the difficult living conditions of Roma and to combat discrimination need to be strengthened. Government coordination and leadership of Roma integration policy needs to be further improved…”

Zilch on the widespread mistreatment of Croat minority in Vojvodina! One must, therefore, be very skeptical of the truthful representation of the situation in Serbia regarding ethnic minorities within the EC. Croatia has the absolute right to require same standards from Serbia as the EC required of Croatia during the prolonged and painful period of negotiations as prospective member of the EU. Furthermore, let’s hope that Croatia will persist in its requirements for Serbia to meet EU standards and turn away from nasty media and nasty politicians who try and belittle Croatia’s attempts at demanding acceptable standards from Serbia. As long as abuse or mistreatment of rights of ethnic minorities exist in Serbia, Croatia must remain a watchdog for the EC.

To reiterate Croatian foreign minister Miro Kovac words on 15 April 2016 HRT news “Croatia is neither a superpower nor a poodle. Croatia is a member state of the European Union. If we are admitting someone in our family we have to monitor the accession process and co-decide about it. If Serbia wants to be a part of the EU, it will have to adapt to its standards…” Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Original Article:

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