An all-day meeting on Monday between Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic partially in Croatia and then in Serbia ended in the Serbian town of Subotica with the signing of a declaration on advancing relations and resolving outstanding issues between the two countries.
The two officials started the meeting in the eastern Croatian town of Dalj where they held talks with the local Serb minority community and then continued their meeting in the afternoon with a visit to Tavankut, Serbia, where they met with the leadership of the Croat minority in Vojvodina province.
The talks between the two officials continued behind closed doors in downtown Subotica and the signing of the declaration.
The declaration consists of six items including the launch or acceleration of the bilateral protection of minorities - the Serb minority in Croatia and the Croat minority in Serbia - followed by "an active approach to prepare a state commission to determine the demarcation line between Serbia and Croatia," as well as the beginning of the application of the Agreement on succession (to the former Yugoslavia) signed on 29 June 2001 in Vienna.
The document signed also plans to prioritise the investigation into those who went missing in the 1990s war as a humanitarian issue and to invest sincere and maximum effort in the search for the missing.
The fifth item notes the readiness to actively coordinate activities in the fight against terrorism and the refugee crisis while the final, sixth item expresses readiness to actively participate in joint development and cross-border European Union projects.
"The declaration was not signed because someone had asked us to do it, but because we decided to do it. The document we signed obliges us to personally undertake everything in our power so that we finally embark on resolving outstanding issues and the future," President Grabar-Kitarovic said after signing the declaration.
She underscored that she believed that accumulated problems facing the two minorities and relations between the two countries are partially the result of a lack of communication.
Grabar-Kitarovic said that Croatian citizens are burdened with problems in the economy, welfare and pension systems, adding however that she understands the specific problems faced by the Serb minority.
"I personally pledge that I will do everything to promote a culture of dialogue, co-existence and mutual tolerance above all at the local level in order to resolve very concrete problems that people are faced with every day and which are critical for them," she said among else.
Prime Minister Vucic in that regard added that during talks with representatives of the Croat minority, which weren't "exactly sweet," he offered concrete solutions for their problems.
"I delegated the incoming mayor of Subotica to immediately lay asphalt in Tavankut's two main streets and I arranged with the prefect of Vojvodina province to allocate more funds in the budget for the "Hrvatska Rijec" weekly," Vucic said.
He noted that progress in the position of the two minorities would be visible very soon.
"They don't need to be spectacular results. I am not saying that Croats will start to adore Serbs or that Serbs will love Croats and I am not saying that there won't be problems around August 5 (Croatian Victory Day) with various statements and emotions but anything that is done concretely - a street, a text book, a painting...is a huge step and a good result from this meeting," Vucic said.
He added that the talks did not deal with how the voters would see this but that they dealt with essential issues.
"These relations are the backbone of good relations in the entire region and they are also significant for relations toward the European Union (EU). We did this of our own accord without any requests or pressure," Vucic said and added that that showed that Serbs and Croats have made progress.
Referring to recent problems concerning opening Chapter 23 in Serbia's EU accession negotiations, President Grabar-Kitarovic said Croatia doesn't intend to block Serbia on its EU path but wishes to see it in the EU and that she believed that that situation will not be repeated.
She added that Croatia insists on all benchmarks being met and that she hoped that in the future the two countries will have the strength for bilateral talks on all issues that might arise during the negotiations and to agree on transition measures to clear up any doubts, before they become a European problem.
Representatives of the Croat minority underscored that they were satisfied that they were given the opportunity to participate in overall developing Croatian-Serbian relations and that they hoped this was the beginning of an institutional form of communication and cooperation between Croats and authorities in Vojvodina in resolving accumulated problems they are faced with.