Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic visited Dalj, easternmost Croatia on Monday morning, after which they did not speak to the press, and headed for Tavankut, Serbia.
In Dalj, the two officials saw an exhibition at the Milutin Milankovic Cultural Centre on the life and work of the eponymous astronomer, mathematician and climatologist, after which they unveiled Milankovic's bust in the garden of the house he was born in.
After that, Grabar-Kitarovic and Vucic spoke with representatives of the Serb national minority in Croatia.
Serb National Council (SNV) president Milorad Pupovac told the press the talks between the two officials were "very open" and that Serb representatives acquainted them with their issues in Croatia. He said the two officials' responses led him to believe "that those issues, after the resumption of Zagreb-Belgrade dialogue, will be dealt with and stop being the problems of both the Croat and the Serb communities in Croatia."
Asked by the press what those problems were, Pupovac said it was first and foremost the atmosphere, "which is still burdened with intolerance and hate speech and historical revisionism and an attempt to dispute the right of Serbs in Croatia to remember historical suffering such as in Jasenovac and Jadovno."
He said Serb institutions in Croatia such as the SNV and the Joint Council of Municipalities were not recognised, that depriving them of funds was an attempt to limit their autonomy, and that returnee regions were neglected in terms of development. It is very important that war crimes trials are fair towards everyone, yet a biased approach to those trials has been revived recently, he added.
Pupovac went on to say that after 17 years Serb schools in eastern Slavonia were still not registered and that the use of the Cyrillic script depended on the political will of local leaders. "We welcome the fact that Croat representatives in Vojvodina (northern Serbia) will have an opportunity to talk about their positions and problems. We want friendship and to build the biggest closeness possible between the two peoples, but also states which will pay attention to their minorities."
Asked why he believed that the Grabar-Kitarovic-Vucic meeting and a declaration they planned to sign would help to solve outstanding issues, Pupovac said "there has been no real cooperation between Croatia and Serbia since 2011, and President Grabar-Kitarovic and Prime Minister Vucic decided to put a stop to that."
It is important to change the relations, which have cooled and are often tense, which will make it possible to deal with outstanding issues, he said, adding that Grabar-Kitarovic had mentioned what she was willing to do about war crimes trials, regional development, cross-border cooperation and school registration.
Independent Democratic Serb Party president Vojislav Stanimirovic said it was good that today's meeting took place, that Croats in Vojvodina, just as representatives of Serbs in Croatia did, would state their needs too, and that Vucic said he was willing to meet those needs in line with the law.
We stated our problems, which are regulated by law but the law is not applied, he said, adding that today's meeting did not have a political background which would benefit only one side.
In Subotica, Serbia, Grabar-Kitarovic and Vucic are to sign a declaration on the improvement of relations and dealing with outstanding issues. The document is expected to cover minority protection, the war missing, border disputes and succession to the former Yugoslavia.