In yet another blow to the two countries relations, Croatian Foreign Ministry on Tuesday refused to take a protest note from Belgrade, responding in kind to Serbia’s ambassador to Croatia who had also declined to accept Zagreb’s note, after Army of Serbia delegation had been denied entry into Croatia over the weekend, N1 reported.
A statement from Serbian Foreign Ministry said Zagreb's decision was “contrary to the basic principles of modern Europe, which include the freedom of movement, the right to preserve religious and national heritage, and paying respect to innocent people killed” during the WWII.
The delegation of eleven were on their way to pay respects to the victims of the WWII Ustasha regime at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp in Croatia this Saturday, when they were denied entry after being stopped and searched by Croatian border officers at the Batrovci-Bajakovo crossing. The officers explained that the delegation did not have proper documentation to enter the country, and they were returned to Serbia.
Croatian Police Director-General Nikola Milina said Serbia’s army delegation was denied entry because their visit had not been formally announced.
Serbian Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, insisted the delegation had been properly announced to Croatian authorities and that the ban was unfounded.
On Monday, Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry summoned Serbia's ambassador, Mira Nikolic, to convey their protest, also saying the attempted visit was not announced. However, Nikolic rejected the protest note.
While Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic declined to comment, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on Saturday the entire matter was "a typical exercise in politicising and fabricating tensions between the two countries."
"What would have been normal was that Serbian authorities had announced this visit. These... eleven who wanted to come to Croatia had clearly forgotten all about regulations and international law," Plenkovic said.
"The Ministry underlines that, on the part of Serbia, there have not been any inappropriate acts, nor did Serbia's political leaders react in any way. We remind that (Serbian) President Aleksandar Vucic has refused to comment on statements by the Croatia's leaders following the ban," Serbian Ministry said, adding that “Serbia remains dedicated to the improvement of regional stability and good neighbourly relations and believes they can be achieved in concrete talks, and not through the media.”