miro kovač.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Daniel KASAP / dk

Ethnic Croats in Vojvodina would like to see the implementation of the Serbia-Croatia agreement's provision providing them with a guaranteed seat in the legislature and thus enabling them to take part in political decision-making, representatives of Vojvodina Croats said during their meeting with Croatian Foreign Minister Miro Kovac in Zagreb on Friday.

The bilateral treaty signed 12 years ago and ratified by the two countries' parliaments envisages that the Croat ethnic community be represented in Serbia's parliament. However, Serbia has introduced some other rules which is why only the two biggest minorities (Hungarians and Bosniaks) in that country can pass the threshold at elections, according to an explanation given by Slaven Bacic, one of the leaders of of the 58,000 strong Croat community in Serbia.

Addressing the press, Foreign Minister Kovac and his interlocutors expressed hope that Serbia's authorities would soon start implementing the bilateral treaty and thus enable the Croats to have at least one seat allocated for their representative.

The leader of the Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Croats, Tomislav Zigmanov, expressed hope that Vojvodina Croat representatives would soon be received by other Croatian top officials too.

Their meeting with Kovac fell a few days before Serbia's parliamentary elections set for 24 April and in the period when Serbia is trying to open the policy chapter on the judiciary within its accession negotiations with the European Union.

Croatia insists on three conditions to be met before green-lighting the opening of the said chapter in the talks between the EU and that candidate, and those conditions are the enforcement of the law enabling local Croats to have their representative in Serbia's national assembly, Belgrade's full cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and the revocation of Serbia's law on universal jurisdiction in prosecuting war crimes that were perpetrated in the wars in the aftermath of the collapse of the former Socialist Yugoslavia.

"It is absurd and perverse that the country from which war plans were launched for the area of former Yugoslavia to behave like a policeman and a judge," the Croatian minister said in his comment on why Croatia insists on the revocation of that Serbian law.

He is confident that Croatia and Serbia will succeed in solving the issue in the process of Serbia's drawing closer to the 28-strong bloc.

He said that Croatia wanted to develop partner-like relations with Serbia.

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