Croatia–Serbia relations

Croatian-Serbian relations



Croatian–Serbian relations are foreign relations between Croatia and Serbia. The two countries established diplomatic relations on 9 September 1996 following the end of Croatian War of Independence.[1]

From 1918 to 1991, both countries were part of Yugoslavia. They now share 241 kilometers of common border. In the 2011 Croatian census, there were 186,633 people of Serb descent living in Croatia.[2] In the 2011 Serbian census, there were 57,900 people of Croat descent living in Serbia.[3] Smaller lasting disputes include border disputes over the Island of Šarengrad and the Island of Vukovar.

Croatia has an embassy in Belgrade and a general consulate in Subotica. Serbia has an embassy in Zagreb and two general consulates, one in Rijeka and one in Vukovar.


During Duke Muncimir of Croatia's reign, the exiled Prince Petar Gojniković of the Serbian House of Vlastimirović stayed in Croatia during his exile and later returned to Rascia and seized power there. Prince Petar exiled his cousins who were pretenders to the Grand Princely throne: Pribislav, Bran and Stefan whom Muncimir received and put under his protection.[4]

With the nation-building process in the mid-19th century, first Croatian–Serbian tension appeared. Serbian minister Ilija Garašanin's Načertanije (1844)[5]:3 claimed lands that were inhabited by Bulgarians, Macedonians, Albanians, Montenegrins, Bosnians, Hungarians and Croats were part of Serbia.[5]:3 Garašanin's plan also includes methods of spreading Serbian influence in the claimed lands.[5]:3–4 He proposed ways to influence Croats, who Garašanin regarded as "Serbs of Catholic faith".[5]:3 This plan considered surrounding peoples to be devoid of national consciousness.[5]:3–4[6]:91 Vuk Karadžić partly denied the existence of Croatians and Croatian language, counting them as "Catholic Serbs" except those who speak Chakavian dialect. Croatia was at the time a kingdom in Habsburg monarchy, with Dalmatia and Istria being separate Habsburg Crown lands. Ante Starčević, head of the Croatian Party of Rights, proved that Croats and Croatia do exist and reciprocated, denying Serbia. After Austro-Hungary occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878 and Serbia gained its independence from Ottoman Empire, Croatian and Serbian relations deteriorated as both sides had pretensions on Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1902 major anti-Serb riots in Croatia were caused by reprinted article written by Serb Nikola Stojanović that was published in the publication of the Serbian Independent Party from Zagreb titled Do istrage vaše ili naše (Till the Annihilation, yours or ours) in which denying of the existence of Croat nation as well as forecasting the result of the "inevitable" Serbian-Croatian conflict occurred.

That combat has to be led till the destruction, either ours or yours. One side must succumb. That side will be Croatians, due to their minority, geographical position, mingling with Serbs and because the process of evolution means Serbhood is equal to progress.[7]

Nikola Stojanović, Srbobran, 10 August 1902.

After Balkan wars a part of Croats began to envisage Serbia to be to the other South Slavs what Piedmont was to other Italians: a unifying force that will help create an independent South-Slavic state. In World War I, Croats fought in the Austro-Hungarian army against Serbia, while Croatian general Ivan Salis-Seewis was a military governor of occupied Serbia. Some Croat POWs volunteered to fight in Thessaloniki battlefront with Serbian army. On 29 October 1918 the Croatian Sabor declared independence from Austria-Hungary and decided to join the newly formed State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs which on 1 December 1918 entered into union with the Kingdom of Serbia and formed the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Initial Croatian zeal for the new state faded away as the republican view of a new state was ignored and especially since the concept of "Greater Serbia" was put in practice during the early 1920s, under the Yugoslav premiership of Nikola Pašić. Using tactics of police intimidation and vote rigging,[8] he diminished the role of the oppositions (mainly those loyal to his Croatian rival, Stjepan Radić) to his government in parliament,[9] creating an environment for centralization of power in the hands of the Serbs in general and Serbian politicians in particular.[10] Police violence further alienated Croats, who began to ask for their own state. In 1928 Stjepan Radić and five other Croat politicians (supported by a vast majority of Croats) were shot in the national assembly in Belgrade by a Serb deputy, enraged by continuous Croatian claims that they were 'exploited by Serbia and that Serbia is treating them like a colony'. This led to the dictatorship of King Alexander in January 1929. The dictatorship formally ended in 1931 when the king imposed a more unitarian constitution and changed the name of the country to Yugoslavia. The HSS, now led by Vladko Maček, continued to advocate federalization of Yugoslavia, resulting in the Cvetković–Maček Agreement of August 1939 and the autonomous Banovina of Croatia. In April 1941, Yugoslavia was occupied by Germany and Italy who created a puppet-state called the Independent State of Croatia (NDH) which was governed by the pro-Axis Ustaša movement, which sought to ethnically cleanse Serbs, Jews, Roma, and many others from its territory thus committing a genocide.[11][12][13][14][15] The Simon Wiesenthal Center estimates that at least 100,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma, anti-fascist Croats, and others were murdered in Jasenovac concentration camp alone. Following the victory of Yugoslav Partisans, who were led by the Croat Josip Broz Tito, the Ustaša and the Chetniks were defeated and both countries became part of SFR Yugoslavia.

Croatian War of Independence

The period of 1991 to 1995 is marked as the Croatian War of Independence.[16] It was preceded by SANU Memorandum which was published by Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts in 1986 and which had assumed creation of Greater Serbia, consisting of most of Croatian territory and whole Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia. For this purpose, Serbs living in Croatia stimulated by Serbian leadership established Republic of Serbian Krajina, which captured third of the whole territory of Croatia, which was occupied by the remnants of the Serbian-controlled Yugoslav People's Army (from Serbia and Montenegro) from 1991 to 1992 and was supported by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia through military support.[17][18] The reason for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to support the Republic of Serbian Krajina against Croatian forces were common interests in upholding the status quo of keeping ethnic Serbs of former Yugoslav territories united, either within the extant Yugoslav state or as satellite states serving as proxies to Belgrade.[19] From territories occupied by Serbs in 1991, around 700,000 people were expelled or fled.[20] In next four years, until 1995, in massacres and bombings was killed around 16,000 Croatian people.[21] Croatia regained control over most of occupied territories in 1995.

Post-war relations

After the end of the Croatian War of Independence, the two countries established diplomatic relations on 9 September 1996.[22] Croatia filed a genocide lawsuit against Serbia at the International Court of Justice in 1999, and after Zagreb declined requests to withdraw it, Belgrade filed a countersuit in 2010.[23] Both lawsuits were dismissed on 3 February 2015, as International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found no evidence to support either claim. The court ruled that both sides undoubtedly committed crimes, but they were not committed with genocidal intent so they are not considered genocide according to the Court's definition of genocide.[24]

Border dispute

Due to the meandering of the Danube, the eastern border of Baranja with Serbia according to cadastral delineation is not followed, as each country controls territory on their side of the main river flow.

Further south, near Vukovar and near Šarengrad, there are two river islands (Vukovarska ada and Šarengradska ada) which have been part of SR Croatia (during Yugoslavia) but during the war they came under Serbian control.

Croatia is asking that the islands be returned because of the Badinter Arbitration Committee decision from 1991 that all internal borders between Yugoslav republics have become international. Serbia's position is that the natural border between the countries is the middle of the main flow of Danube, which would make the islands Serbian territory.[25] Military occupation of the islands ended recently after an incident in which Serbian military opened fire and arrested the mayor of Vukovar Vladimir Štengel with 19 other Croatian civilians and 8 children who were going to visit Zvezdan Kisić, the mayor of the Serbian town Bačka Palanka.[26] These islands are now under Serbian police control.

Consulate General of Serbia in Vukovar

Serbia established a diplomatic mission in Vukovar, Croatia on 5 February 1998,[27] twenty days after the end of the reintegration process of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia into Croatia, which was the end of the Croatian War of Independence. The consulate is responsible for five Slavonian counties: Vukovar-Syrmia County, Osijek-Baranja, Brod-Posavina, Požega-Slavonia and Virovitica-Podravina County.

Due to the huge interest of local citizens, in the beginning consulate operated also in Beli Manastir.[28] The consulate is at the end of the war played a very positive role in the life of the local Serbian minority in the city and region.[27][29][30][31]

Representatives of the consulate are frequent interlocutors of local and national media when it comes to issues of protection and promotion of Serbian identity in the Danube region.[32][33] Consulate organizes and participates in various cultural and educational projects and humanitarian actions, some of which are: celebration of the signing of Erdut Agreement,[30] showing of documentary films,[34] donation of equipment,[35] organizing concerts[36] etc. On the occasion of 150 anniversary of the birth of Nikola Tesla, consulate was, in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb, co-financed Days of Nikola Tesla in Osijek.[37]

Over time the consulate achieved close cooperation with minority institutions and organizations such as Joint Council of Municipalities, Eparchy of Osječko polje and Baranja, and Radio Borovo.

International organizations

Both countries are full members of the Southeast European Cooperation Process, of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, of the Central European Initiative, of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative and of the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation.

Croatia also supports Accession of Serbia to the European Union.[38][39]

Rivalry in basketball

The big rivalry in basketball started at the FIBA European Championship in 1995. At the time, Croatia was a newly independent state, while Serbia was a federal unit of FR Yugoslavia. Both countries did well in the tournament, with Yugoslavia ranking first. The third-place Croatian team caused an international scandal by bringing politics into sports when they walked off the medal stand and out of the arena just before Serbs and Montenegrins were about to receive their gold medals.[40] Curiously, there hasn't been a single direct game involving the two countries over the course of the championship.

Croatia and Yugoslavia did face each other in a game at EuroBasket 1997. Four seconds before the end of the tense game, Croatian team was leading by two points when Serbian Saša Đorđević took the ball and made a three-pointer, winning the game for Yugoslavia.[41] Yugoslavia went on to win the championship, while Croatia ended up ranking 11th overall.

Afterward, on Euro championship 2001, Croats were heavily beaten by 88:60. Last match on big competitions was at the 2016 Olympics, were Serbia also won 86:83.

This rivalry went on also to clubs. Serbian clubs dominate in regional league, where they won nine times (Partizan eight times), and Croatian club won only one title. Particularly at the final game of the regional ABA league with Partizan from Serbia and Cibona from Croatia. This time the Croats were leading just 0.6 seconds before the end of the game. When all seemed finished, the Serb from Partizan, Kecman, took the ball and made it from the other side. The Serbian team won again.[42]

Rivalry in football

Rivalries between Croatian and Serbian football contenders became especially famous to the world in the early 1990s, starting with the historic Dinamo Zagreb–Red Star Belgrade riot, which emphasized in some peoples' eyes the breakup of Yugoslavia. The Croatian national football team and the Yugoslav national football team played on only a few occasions—the first being in 1999 for UEFA Euro 2000 qualifying Group 8. Nevertheless, the rivalry between the two teams has been described as one of fiercest in the world.[43][44][45][46] Fourteen years later, for the first time in history, Serbia as an independent country played national team against the Croatian team on 22 March 2013 in qualification group A of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The match, which Croatia won 2–0, was closely followed around the world.[47] The football federations of Serbia and Croatia agreed to ban foreign guests fans at the two games because of security concerns.[48] Later, Croatia drew Serbia 1-1 in Belgrade which meant Serbia was eliminated. During the match, Miralem Sulejmani, who was in a goal scoring opportunity, was knocked down by a tactical tackle from Josip Šimunić for which he was given a red card.[49]

Croatian stance on Kosovo

Croatia recognized Kosovo as independent and sovereign republic on 19 March 2008.[50][1]

Diplomatic missions

Croatian ambassadors to Belgrade

  • Davor Božinović (2002–2004)
  • Tonči Staničić
  • Željko Kuprešak
  • Gordan Markotić (2013–)

Serbian ambassadors to Zagreb

See also


  1. 1 2 "MVEP • Datumi priznanja". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  2. "Population by Ethnicity, by Towns/Municipalities, 2011 Census". Census of Population, Households and Dwellings 2011. Zagreb: Croatian Bureau of Statistics. December 2012.
  3. "Official Census 2011 Results". Republički zavod za statistiku. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  4. De Administrando Imperio, XXXII. Of the Serbs and of the country they now dwell in
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Cohen, Philip J.; Riesman, David (1996). Serbia's Secret War: Propaganda and the Deceit of History. Texas A&M University Press. ISBN 0-89096-760-1.
  6. Anzulovic, Branimir (2001). Heavenly Serbia: From Myth to Genocide. New York University Press. ISBN 1-86403-100-X.
  7. Bilandžić, Dušan (1999). Hrvatska moderna povijest. Golden marketing. p. 31. ISBN 953-6168-50-2.
  8. Balkan Politics, Time magazine, 31 March 1923
  9. Elections, Time magazine, 23 February 1925
  10. The Opposition, Time magazine, 6 April 1925
  11. "Croatian holocaust still stirs controversy". BBC News. 29 November 2001. Retrieved 29 September 2010.
  12. "Balkan 'Auschwitz' haunts Croatia". BBC News. 25 April 2005. Retrieved 29 September 2010. No one really knows how many died here. Serbs talk of 700,000. Most estimates put the figure nearer 100,000.
  13. "Deciphering the Balkan Enigma: Using History to Inform Policy" (PDF). Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  14. "United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about Jasenovac and Independent State of Croatia". Archived from the original on 16 September 2009. Retrieved 3 June 2011.
  15. Genocide and Resistance in Hitler's Bosnia: The Partisans and the Chetniks, 1941–1943 pp20
  16. Chuck Sudetic (3 January 1992). "Yugoslav Factions Agree to U.N. Plan to Halt Civil War". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 December 2010.
  17. Martić verdict, pp. 122–123
    "The Trial Chamber found that the evidence showed that the President of Serbia, Slobodan Milošević, openly supported the preservation of Yugoslavia as a federation of which the SAO Krajina would form a part. However, the evidence established that Slobodan Milošević covertly intended the creation of a Serb state. This state was to be created through the establishment of paramilitary forces and the provocation of incidents in order to create a situation where the JNA could intervene. Initially, the JNA would intervene to separate the parties but subsequently the JNA would intervene to secure the territories envisaged to be part of a future Serb state."
  18. "Final report of the United Nations Commission of Experts established pursuant to security council resolution 780 (1992), Annex IV – The policy of ethnic cleansing; Prepared by: M. Cherif Bassiouni". United Nations. 28 December 1994. Archived from the original on 4 May 2012. Retrieved 19 March 2011.
  19. Brown & Karim (1995), p. 120
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  21. index (11 December 2003). "Utjecaj srbijanske agresije na stanovništvo Hrvatske". Retrieved 24 November 2017.
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  25. "Čija je Šarengradska ada?". (in Serbian). Radio Television of Serbia. 7 February 2010. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  26. "Slobodna Dalmacija: 29". Retrieved 2010-06-11.
  27. 1 2 "Yugoslav Daily Survey, 98-08-14". Retrieved 2013-01-21.
  28. "Yugoslav Daily Survey, 97-12-17". Retrieved 2013-01-21.
  29. "Najveći odaziv od rušenja Miloševića – mJutarnji". 20 January 2008. Retrieved 2013-01-21.
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  37. "Školica – Teslini dani u Osijeku". Retrieved 2013-01-21.
  38. "VESNA PUSIĆ U BEOGRADU 'Hrvatska podupire suradnju Kine i središnje i istočne Europe'".
  39. K.T./HINA. "'Hrvatska neće uvjetovati Srbiji napredak k EU'". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  40. Clarey, Christopher (3 July 1995). "BASKETBALL; Politics Take Center Court as Yugoslavs Win Title". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-08-18.
  41. Sasa Djordjevic trojka protiv Hrvatske. 14 September 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2016 via YouTube.
  42. "Kecman sa pola terena za titulu!". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
  43. CNN – SPORT – Football – Top 10 international rivalries Retrieved 6 November 2008.
  44. Goal – News – Portugal v Spain & the 10 most intense international football rivalries Retrieved 26 June 2012.
  45. Reuters – Soccer – Serbia and Croatia in World Cup stare-down Retrieved 31 July 2011.
  46. Caufght offside – Fifa 2014 World Cup qualifying draw: Some hugely interesting fixtures ahead Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  47. Daily Record: Croatia 2 Serbia 0: Hurricane of hatred blows itself out as Croats breeze by deadly rivals. 22 March 2013
  48. Sportske – Vest – Domaci Fudbal – Bez navijaca u Zagrebu i Beogradu (Without fans in Zagreb and Belgrade) Retrieved 20 July 2012.
  49. "Is this the worst tackle ever? Croatia's Simunic brutally attacks during crunch Serbia qualifier". Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  50. ""Težak zalogaj": Hrvatska priznala Kosovo!". Retrieved 2 May 2016.
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