Serbia’s president said Monday that the sole purpose of his planned trip to Croatia was to commemorate the victims of Jasenovac, the largest World War II concentration camp in the country, after Zagreb barred his entry.
Aleksandar Vucic addressed the media after Serbia and Croatia became embroiled in a diplomatic dispute over his ban on visiting the camp and the Pokrac area.
“I wanted to enter an EU country and lay flowers in a place where…tens of thousands were killed in Jasenovac. It seems to me somehow illogical that you try to prevent something like that from happening and that you justify it all with stories about provocations, and I don’t know why,'” said Vucic.
Vucic said he requested permission for the private visit from Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic for the first time on Sept. 2 last year, but he was refused.
He said that on Sept. 4, he received a reply from Plenkovic’s Cabinet saying: “We are asking you to postpone the visit due to the internal political situation.”
He added that his request was sent again on March 1 for a visit to Jasenovac on March 5.
“After two days, we received the message that ‘the visit is not welcome at this time,’ and on March 4, I made a decision that I would not go to Jasenovac at that time either, and not a single media outlet in Serbia found out about it. We did not whine. We were fair partners,” he said.
He said the highest value of the European Union is freedom of movement.
“I prepared the passports…an ordinary passport, a diplomatic passport, whatever they need. I come to the border, hand over my passport, and then move freely. These are the basic principles of the EU. I didn’t know there were any special ways to introduce myself,” said Vucic.
He said this news did not appear in the Serbian media but in Croatian media.
”You noticed that for the first time, whether by accident or not, the information about my not going to Jasenovac did not come from the Serbian media. The information was published by Jutarnji.hr. We wanted to hand over the note in silence. That’s why they launched an attack with crazy arguments,” he added.
Prime Minister Plenkovic meanwhile said that such a visit, if it had taken place, would have had its own political implications and weight.
“It is not a private visit, no matter how discreetly one tries to do it. It is a matter that has its own political implications and should come at the right time for both the host country and for those who want to come to Croatia,” Plenkovic said.