Vesna Pusić.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Darko VLAHOVIĆ

The Serbian government will have to secure financing for Croatian-language media in Serbia following their closure because protection of minority rights is one of the main conditions in EU membership negotiations, Croatian Foreign and European Affairs Minister Vesna Pusic said on Saturday.

"I hope we will manage to reach a bilateral agreement on this matter before it is included on the agenda of Serbia-EU accession negotiations. It was an unavoidable condition in our accession talks and it will be in theirs as well. Minority protection is a main accession criterion and I hope we will reach an agreement with Serbia before that," Pusic said in an interview with Croatian Radio.

A number of minority-language radio and television programmes in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina have been suspended because of media privatisation in Serbia, and the only remaining Croatian-language programme on Radio Subotica is facing closure.

The Croatian minority's leaders have been warning for years that the privatisation of Radio Subotica will jeopardise the right of the Croatian community to be informed in their own native language and thus undermine their acquired rights.

Radio Subotica, the only radio station in Serbia to have aired a 24-hour programme in Croatian, remained without a single employee on November 26 and is facing the prospect of being taken off the air. The last seven employees, who had been running 24-hour programmes in Serbian, Hungarian and Croatia for a month, were forced to sign a decision on employment termination.

A three-hour Croatian-language programme will most likely be broadcast until Christmas when it will be shut down.

Radio Subotica is the oldest and most listened-to urban radio station in Serbia. It was launched in 1968, and a daily Croatian-language programme has been broadcast since 1998.

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