Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zoran Milanovic said on Friday that if elected Prime Minister, he would block Serbia's EU accession talks if Serbia failed to repeal its law on universal jurisdiction as well as that he could not and would not respect "the war mongers and enemies of the Croatian and Serbian peoples in the 1990s - Tomislav Nikolic and Aleksandar Vucic."
Addressing reporters after an election rally in Dubrovnik, Milanovic commented on headlines in the Serbian print media which called him an Ustasha and an idiot after a secretly made recording of his meeting with Croatian war veterans, in which he said that the Serbian leadership would want to rule the entire Balkans and was actually "a handful of wretches", was leaked to the media.
"This is not the first time the Serbian press is calling me an idiot and an Ustasha; if you are not sure where you are headed and are being attacked by (Zlatan) Hasanbegovic, Tomo Nikolic..., Aleksandar Vucic, and now (Andrej) Plenkovic - who has disappointed me a little - you are on a safe course. I don't have to explain to anyone what I have done for the status of the Croatian Serb minority. Those are our citizens, a large number of them are in the SDP, their capital city is Zagreb... they know what those characters did to them in the 1990s, how they incited them to rebellion against their Croatian brothers and homeland and what terrible price they paid for it. In that, (the Serbian leaders) enjoy the sympathy of both Pantovcak (Office of the Croatian President) and the HDZ. That axis is weak and it is not humane, and it has existed since the migrant crisis. Each time the situation escalates, you have on one side those who call for national unity and citizenship and on the other those who live off the ethno-business and inter-ethnic divisions. That is what the current government in Serbia is like. I will not justify myself to the Serbian people, and Tomo Nikolic is comparing me with (WWII Ustasha leader) Ante Pavelic," said Milanovic.
Asked if he had possibly stepped out of line and if he regretted his statements at the meeting with war veterans, Milanovic asked what in those statements was not true.
"I have a human relationship with Croatian citizens. Street-level politics and those who currently represent it are the people who in the 1990s fomented hate and instigated war and who have never answered for that. I have no need for mutual respect or good relations with those people. I simply must call them what they are. The HDZ's reaction to that is interesting... (HDZ leader) Andrej Plenkovic, the man about whom I talked rather affirmatively and nicely, said yesterday that I was currying favour (with war veterans) and that I was a "bar dilettante". It took two weeks for someone who has spent a half of their life in Brussels, including the entire war, to start using such language. That is evidence... that they are not interested in any other topics."
Asked about relations between Croatia and Serbia and what his position would be like if he came to power, Milanovic said that he said that to "people who call themselves representatives of guard brigades, in the language which is the only language some of them understand."
"We will give Serbia an appropriate deadline to repeal the contentious law (on universal jurisdiction for war crimes), and if it fails to do it, we will block their EU entry talks... and pass a similar, discriminatory law to harm them. I do not want to do it, because of relations with the neighbouring country, but if you have war-mongers in power who are proud of what they are and use every opportunity to visit (the Bosnian Serb entity of) Republika Srpska, whose leadership is breaking up Bosnia and Herzegovina... Politicians in Bosnia and Herzegovina, don't be narrow-minded and fall for provocation. Every now and then those same characters come to our borders... I acknowledge the horrors from Croatia's past at Jasenovac, yet they call all Croats Ustashas and they do it all the time. Should they be our partners? No. I am not asking them to change, I only want the said law to be repealed. We do not have to love one another. The economic relations are functioning, Serbian citizens come here for visits, everything is functioning. But I will not respect the people who were enemies of the Serbian and Croatian peoples in the 1990s. The HDZ is free to do it," Milanovic said.
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Serbia's President Tomislav Nikolic on Thursday called on Croatian officials to stop the insults on account of Serbs, assessing that the statement by Croatia's former prime minister Zoran Milanovic that Serbs were a "handful of wretches" resembled what WWII Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic thought of and how he acted toward Serbs.
He said that Bosnia and Herzegovina's Council of Ministers hoped to build the best possible relations with Croatia, however, Milanovic's statements now raised the question of whether that was possible.
The heads of several veterans' associations on Tuesday met with Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Zoran Milanovic for talks on Serbia's European Union accession negotiations on Chapter 23 and 24 and later told reporters that they "wanted to teach Milanovic and SDP democracy and dialogue."
The vice-president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, on Thursday commented on his Facebook account on an audio recording of a meeting between Social Democratic Party leader Zoran Milanovic and a group of war veterans by saying "It was way out of line, even for Zoran."
The president of the Sibenik branch of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and war volunteer, Franko Vidovic, on Thursday commented on a secret recording of a meeting between SDP leader Zoran Milanovic and war veterans' associations, saying that secretly recording a meeting like that was a criminal offence.