April 23. 2024. 5:51

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Burning of Vucic effigy tests Croatia-Serbia relations

Relations between Croatia and Serbia continue to deteriorate after an effigy of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić was burned at a carnival in Kaštela, a town near Split.

At the end of the 211th International Carnival Parade in Kaštela on Tuesday, participants, as usual, burned the “culprit” who they traditionally blame for all the bad things that happened to them. This year, there were two “culprits” – Russian President Vladimir Putin and Vučić.

Vučić and Putin were depicted as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza on donkeys, and as is customary at carnivals, their effigies were cast onto a bonfire at the end of the event.

While Croatian media gave the event little coverage, Serbian press went into overdrive, with Vučić telling reporters that he would be “jealous” if the burnt doll were someone else from Serbia and not him.

The Serbian Foreign Ministry then reacted to Croatia in a note. Serbia’s head of diplomacy, Ivica Dačić, “strongly condemned the incident of burning an effigy”.

“Burning a doll with the image of the President of the Republic of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić, is an unacceptable act, which is in complete contradiction to the jointly expressed commitment to the full normalisation of relations and the improvement of comprehensive cooperation between our countries. This scandalous act of spreading hatred sends a message that in no way contributes to strengthening good-neighbourly relations, peace, and stability in the region and directly and seriously disrupts the relations between the two countries”, the note stated.

Croatia is yet to react to the incident or the note publicly, but Euractiv’s diplomatic sources said they thought the sending of a diplomatic note over a carnival effigy was ridiculous. They. noted that effigies of politicians are common at such events and have included Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, President Zoran Milanović, and his predecessor Kolinda Grabar Kitarović in previous years.

Croatia’s carnival tradition, including burning effigies and mocking politicians, has a long history.

“Writing and sending a note of protest because of something like burning a doll at a carnival is ridiculous. In Belgrade, they should have first informed themselves about what a carnival is. They have burned the dolls of numerous politicians before. And what would they say? The Germans, whose former chancellor Angela Merkel was shown by the Greeks in public – not at carnivals – with moustaches resembling Hitler’s and compared to the Nazis, and Berlin never reacted to that?!” a Croatian diplomatic source told Euractiv on condition of anonymity.

He also believes that the act of sending a note of protest over the burning of a carnival doll “speaks enough about the autocratic nature of the government in Serbia and the lack of democratic awareness”.

Božo Kovačević, a political analyst and former Croatian ambassador to Moscow, added that Serbia is overreacting to the detriment of mutual relations.

“That means looking for a reason for the further deterioration of diplomatic relations and confrontation between Serbia and Croatia since Croatia, after Kosovo’s Prime Minister Albin Kurti, is perceived as the main enemy there. However, carnival is a kind of lark and should be approached that way. Moreover, the fact that there is a burned doll with the image of Vučić on it shows that the participants of the meeting consider him a relevant person, and that should flatter him”, Kovačević points out for Euractiv.

Croatian-Serbian relations came to a head last November when Serbia expelled Croatian diplomat Hrvoje Šnajder, accusing him of “espionage”. Croatia responded by expelling Petr Novaković, an adviser to the Serbian embassy in Zagreb.

Tensions between the two countries are due to the war of the 1990s and the unresolved issue of the border on the Danube River. In addition, the issue of minority rights, both of Croats in Serbia and Serbs in Croatia, also exacerbates the situation.

“I hope that political relations between Croatia and Serbia will improve in the foreseeable future because it is in the interest of both countries,” says Kovačević.

“Cooperation with Serbia works, but there is no strengthening of relations or meetings at higher levels,” a diplomatic source that spoke to Euractiv concluded.

(Adriano Milovan | Euractiv.hr)

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