Serbia's protest note over the annulment of the conviction of Zagreb Archbishop Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac claiming that this was the rehabilitation of fascism and the NDH (WWII Independent State of Croatia), is a cheap attempt to destabilise Croatia while its wording reminds us of the era of Slobodan Milosevic and the Greater Serbia aggression, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Minister Miro Kovac said on Wednesday. 

"That note is a cheap attempt at destabilising Croatia at a sensitive time when parliament has been dissolved and prior to the commemoration of the Storm military operation," Kovac told reporters after the first meeting of the government's commission to monitor the transition benchmarks in Serbia's European Union (EU) negotiations of Chapters 23 and 24.

"That's a recipe from the 1990s. The vocabulary unfortunately recalls the time of Slobodan Milosevic and the Greater Serbia aggression," Kovac said.

Croatian Ambassador in Belgrade Gordan Markotic was presented with a note in which the Serbian Foreign Ministry protested in the strongest terms against the annulment of the guilty verdict against Alojzije Stepinac, which the authorities in Belgrade consider to be the rehabilitation of fascism and the Ustasha NDH (Independent State of Croatia). The Serbian Ministry reminded that the the United Nations and the European Union strictly forbids the restoration of fascism and fascist ideologies.

Kovac urged authorities in Serbia to use "rational, comprehensive vocabulary" in public communication in an effort to build good neighbourly relations, adding that this type of communication does not contribute to that atmosphere.

"I have to say that these assessments regarding Cardinal Stepinac are fictitious and unacceptable. This is meddling in Croatia's interior affairs," Kovac underscored.

The first meeting of the government commission to monitor the implementation of transition benchmarks in Serbia's negotiation of Chapter 23 and 24 was held in the ministry and presided by Minister Kovac. The commission was established last week after the two chapters in Serbia's EU negotiations were opened.

"We will meet regularly. We want Serbia to have a European future, to advance to EU membership because that automatically means that Serbia has met all those criteria, demands that we set within the framework of Chapter 23," Kovac said.

Justice Minister Ante Sprlje and Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved also attended the meeting today and after the meeting Sprlje said that during the negotiations Croatia would abide by the principles that apply to all modern European countries and that it would ask that of Serbia too and that it expected Serbia to align its legislation with the EU acquis communautaire.

Minister Medved said that his ministry and veterans' associations had a special role within the government commission to monitor Serbia's adaptation of the law on regional jurisdiction.

Croatia has asked Serbia and Serbia has promised to change that law and harmonise it with EU acquis communautaire, he said.

"It cannot be within Serbia's jurisdiction to persecute Croatian Homeland War veterans," he underscored.

The other issue that will be closely monitored is Serbia's contribution to find all those people missing from the war, he added.

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