Continued Mistreatment of Croats in Serbia Stalls Serbia’s EU Membership Negotiations

Croatian Member of EU Parliament Marijana Petir

Croatian Member of EU Parliament
Marijana Petir


If anyone wants to go and see how minorities are mistreated, abused and persecuted in the 21st Century’s so-called freedom and democracy go to Serbia and check out the abominable treatment of the Croatian minority in the Vojvodina part of Serbia.


This May marks 25 years from the time of widespread and brutal persecution of Vojvodina Croats from their homes under the attack of the criminal Great Serbian policy from Slobodan Milosevic and the current Serbian government, in its desire to become an EU member state is doing nothing much to correct its wrongs of the past. In the 1990’s Serbs did not only attack Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to ethnically cleanse large areas of these sovereign countries but they also went about ethnically cleansing parts of Serbia (Vojvodina); targeting Croatian minority there. (Of course elements of such a criminal pattern would be also seen in the Kosovo, then a province of Serbia, and its Muslim population.)

When compared to 1990, there is only half of Croats still living in Vojvodina, Serbia. They are being discriminated against and their rights as a national minority – repressed. They have had no parliamentary representation in Serbia’s Parliament like Serbs living in Croatia have during the past two decades. The broadcasting of the radio and TV in Croatian language has been shut down; Serbia’s government also does not finance books and education in the Croatian language. Croats are often the targets of thievery, murder and physical attacks for which the assailants are rarely found. Catholic priests are also attacked and Catholic churches defiled. Reports Cro Portal.

Croatian member of the European Parliament Marijana Petir alerted the European Commission about this on several occasions in recent times. She asked the EC to protect the Croatian minority in Vojvodina.
The national authorities in Serbia are preventing Croats in Vojvodina from exercising their rights to language, culture and education in their mother tongue. All of the actions taken by the Serbian authorities in Vojvodina are aimed at favouring the Bunjevci — a group of Croats who do not wish to declare themselves Croats, but only Bunjevci — in order to assimilate them. Croats are prevented from exercising the rights that are guaranteed to them by the law and by international agreements.
The Croatian National Council in Serbia and the Croatian Government are therefore obliged to spend their own resources on printing textbooks. Meanwhile, the Serbian Government refuses to reimburse them for the costs of doing this and does not allow them to use public spaces for their cultural events. It is also attempting to squeeze out the Croatian language and replace it with the Bunjevac language.
Given that Croats are citizens of the European Union, how will the Commission ensure that the rights of Croats in Vojvodina to language, culture and education in their mother tongue are exercised?” Petir asked the EU Parliament in late 2015.


Johannes Hahn, Member of the EC in charge of Regional Policy

Johannes Hahn, Member of the EC in charge of Regional Policy

Johannes Hahn, EC Commissioner Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, replied that respect of fundamental rights and the protection of minorities are the key conditions for Serbia within the negotiation process and are dealt with in Chapter 23. He further explained that Serbia was completing its action plan regarding the protection of minorities and the EC expects from Serbia to take up the recommendations entailed in the EC Advisory board’s directions. Those recommendations, he said, are directed at education, use of language, access to media and religious practices in the languages spoken by minorities. He concluded that Serbia, in practice, is bound to respect fundamental rights, including the right on property protection … As to the latter part of Hahn’s reply, the return of property to the Croatian clubs and organisations (in Vojvodina) Mr Krunoslav Djakovic (President of Centre for Culture ‘Srijem” and Croatian House organisatuon) emphasised that “Croats are not asking for anything that would contradict the law, but are asking from Serbia’s government to give them, as an ethnic minority, that which they have legal right to. If they don’t want to do that, that is breach of human rights”.


Recently Petir said that she will not stop in her endeavours and that Serbia must ensure all the rights defined by the international agreements because if that does not happen, they will not be able to continue their European path. Petir also wants Croatia to start taking more care about Croats outside their country, and also the Croats in Vojvodina, so that their interests are protected and that they can have their right for a Croatian citizenship.


Miro Kovac Croatia's Foreign Minister

Miro Kovac
Croatia’s Foreign Minister

Last week, albeit reluctantly, following complaints by the Croatian government, the European Council had once again postponed the opening of negotiations with Serbia in its desired accession to EU membership. The postponement has to do with two crucial chapters of the EU legislation, Chapter 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and Chapter 24 (justice freedom and security). Croatia did not and does not accept or endorse the European Commission opinion that Serbia is ready to proceed to EU membership negotiations stage; all 28 countries, members of the EU must agree in order for any new membership negotiations to proceed.


Croatia’s concerns are threefold: the lack of Serbian cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY); the mistreatment of the Croatian minority in Serbia (Vojvodina); and the universal jurisdiction of Serbian courts over war crimes committed in other parts of the former Yugoslavia.
It would seem that the EC sent a blind or a pro-Serbia bent person to Serbia during 2015 on task of investigating matters on progress made by Serbia with view to its path in becoming an EU member state. In its Progress Report (2015) EC writes:
2.4. Human rights and the protection of minorities – Overall situation – The legislation and institutions needed to uphold international human rights law are in place. Legislation to protect minorities and cultural rights is also broadly in place. However, sustained efforts are needed to ensure effective and consistent implementation across the country. Shortcomings particularly affect the following areas:
• Conditions for the full exercise of freedom of expression are still not in place. Full implementation of the new media laws needs to be ensured.
• Promotion and protection of the rights of the most vulnerable and discriminated groups, including the LGBTI persons, persons with disabilities, and persons with HIV/AIDS has yet to be fully ensured. Hate-motivated offences need to be properly investigated, prosecuted and sanctioned.
• Efforts to improve the difficult living conditions of Roma and to combat discrimination need to be strengthened. Government coordination and leadership of Roma integration policy needs to be further improved…”

Zilch on the widespread mistreatment of Croat minority in Vojvodina! One must, therefore, be very skeptical of the truthful representation of the situation in Serbia regarding ethnic minorities within the EC. Croatia has the absolute right to require same standards from Serbia as the EC required of Croatia during the prolonged and painful period of negotiations as prospective member of the EU. Furthermore, let’s hope that Croatia will persist in its requirements for Serbia to meet EU standards and turn away from nasty media and nasty politicians who try and belittle Croatia’s attempts at demanding acceptable standards from Serbia. As long as abuse or mistreatment of rights of ethnic minorities exist in Serbia, Croatia must remain a watchdog for the EC.

To reiterate Croatian foreign minister Miro Kovac words on 15 April 2016 HRT news “Croatia is neither a superpower nor a poodle. Croatia is a member state of the European Union. If we are admitting someone in our family we have to monitor the accession process and co-decide about it. If Serbia wants to be a part of the EU, it will have to adapt to its standards…” Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)


  1. My interest here is how and why people adopt particular identities, and who names them- I glanced at Wikipedia and read of “Dalmatians” and “Illyrians” in the Austro-Hungarian census. How identities unite and divide us! Why do you think people identify as Bunjevci rather than as Croats?

    • I believe Clare, there is profound pride in “localised” identities and although Bunjevci are a Croatian sub-group many will not identify themselves as Croat but as Bunjevci, similar could be said for Dalmatians at this superficial level…”Tribal” history of many nations has similar tracks everywhere. Here’s a good link on Bunjvci

    • Vlado Lušić says:

      Ms Flourish, I don’t know anything about you or where you come from but I know that I am Dalmatian among my fellow Croatians in Croatia. However, to every non-Croatian I am only Croatian. Let me explain. Joe Blow is a Tasmanian among his fellow Australians but to everyone else in the world he is only Australian. To make things a little more ‘complicated’, let me go to another level. I am also an Australian to all my fellow Australians in Australia – except to those Australians who are of Croatian origin. To them I am an Australian Croatian who is Dalmatian born in Split. The case of Bunjevci is much more complicated. They are, as Ina says, a specific Croatian sub-group in Serbia. Some of them say they are only Bunjevci in order to survive in a very intolerant and hostile Serbian environment.

  2. Thank godness for some of the European Union red tape 🙂

  3. Excellent article, Ina!

  4. Thank you for informing us about the Serbs/Croats situation.

  5. ótimo post…um dia de muita paz pra vc…

  6. Ina, can you get this excellent article in the main stream press in Europe and North America, OZ and elsewhere? Would you consider submitting it as an editorial, or a paid article in influential newspapers and digital news outlets like Foreign Policy etc. I encourage you to get this published.

  7. Ina, thank you for revealing the clear picture of mistreatment of Croats in affecting Serbia’s entry to EU. Yet in my opinion, alongside what you mentioned, I think EU member states are actually more concerned about the absorption capacity of the Union. For instance, there will be more costs for EU to maintain Serbia’s agriculture due to Common Agricultural Policy, while at the same time EU is still concerning the economic performance of some members like Greece. Meanwhile, as Serbia is a close diplomatic ally of Russia, after Serbia’s entry, I believe EU member states would be worried about future policies towards Russia that would be hampered just because of Serbia’s pro-Russia stance in the unanimous voting. All in all, I think human rights, including the discrimination of Croats, is only an excuse for the EU member states in not welcoming Serbia into the institution after the above calculation of costs.

    • I too am concerned about Serbia’s relationship with Russia, Bauhinia, because even if Serbia did become an EU member state that would not stop it from continuing close ties with Russia even secretly if it needs be, which of course is not good for EU

  8. Stevie10703 says:

    Let’s not forget that when the war for our independence started that the Serbs were ethnically cleansing Croatians from the Vojvodina area and they had concentration camps in that region. If I’m not mistaken, the number of Croatians that lived in Vojvodina before the war was 170,000 and now those numbers are 40,000 and dropping, one must ask, how did this happen? Croatians there are routinely threatened, intimidated, and beaten on a daily basis and some even killed. There was an instance a few weeks back where a Croatia priest was attacked right in his own rectory and not a peep about this from anyone but I can guarantee you if in Croatia you look at a Serb wrong it would be all over the media and we would be labeled “fascists.” In the Serbian Sabor, there is no Croatian representation unlike the Croatian Sabor which has 3 seats for Serbs.

    I think a big problem right now is that the Serbs are being egged on by the Russians and are once again trying to show their muscle. Just look what they are doing in Bosnia right now with even more further threats to split from BiH and they are taking a cue from “mother Russia.”

    As for us Hrvati, we tend to self identify based on the region we are from. My mom is from Zadar and my dad from Imotski and never one have I heard them say they are Dalmatinci, always Croatia and honestly, it always bothers me when I hear, people say, this guy is a Dalmatinac, or a hercegovac, or a Bosanac, or a Slavonac, or a Lican, or a Zagorac, or a Janjevac (also an ethnic Croatian enclave in Kosova), etc. For me, its a way of dividing us rather than uniting us…

    • Well said, Stevie – the nourishment that comes for Serbs’ atrocious behaviour against Croat minority and in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the push to cut away the Serb Republic – created on genocide – must have strong backing and you are on the right path in your thoughts I think … one wouldn’t want to see such an underhanded lot joining the EU unless one wants to bombard it from within…

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