President Reuven Rivlin is scheduled to pay state visits this week Croatia and neighboring Serbia. Departing for Zagreb Monday evening, Rivlin will conclude the trip with a one-day visit to Belgrade on Thursday. The flight between the Balkan capitals is just under an hour.
Today independent states, Croatia and Serbia were two of the six constituent republics of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which broke up in 1992 following the collapse of Communist rule. Both declared independence in 1992. Montenegro seceded from its union with Serbia in 2006, while Kosovo declared its independence in 2008. While Croatia became 28th member of the European Union in 2013, Serbia’s bid to join the EU remains frozen because it will not recognize Kosovo’s independence.
Following the breakup of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Croatia fought a four-year war. In 1996, the two countries established diplomatic relations, which have improved over the years.
Considering Rivlin’s fondness for soccer, the president will have a lot to talk about in reviewing Croatia’s stellar second-place performance at the recent FIFA World Cup Championships in Russia.
While no meeting between Rivlin and members of the Croatian squad has been scheduled, according to the president’s office, his schedule is subject to change.
Rivlin’s visit is intended to strengthen bilateral trade in defense equipment and agricultural produce, as well as in technology and tourism. The president will be accompanied by Economy Minister Eli Cohen and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. The trade delegation will be headed by Shraga Brosh, president of the Israel Manufacturers Association. Other delegates include Israel Export Institute chairman Adiv Baruch and Brig.-Gen. (Ret.) Mishel Ben Baruch of SIBAT Defense Industries, and representatives of the Israel Innovation Authority, the Israel Hotels Association, the Israel Farmers Association, Israel Aerospace Industries, Elbit and Israel Aeronautics.
The visit will include meetings with Rivlin’s Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who on July 11 met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the FIFA World Cup semi-final in Moscow.
Rivlin will also meet with Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek and Speaker of the Parliament Gordan Jandokovic.
Escorted by Croatian Defense Minister Damir Krstičević, who recently visited Israel, Rivlin will tour an Israel defense exhibition.
On a more somber note, he will visit the notorious Jasonovac death camp that was operated by Croatia’s puppet regime during World War II. Estimates of the number of people murdered there range from 600,000 to 1.4 million.
Rivlin will also lay a wreath at the monument for those who fell in Croatia’s war for independence.
In Serbia, Rivlin will be welcomed by President Aleksandar Vučić, and will subsequently meet with Speaker of the Parliament Maja Gojkpvic. He will also participate in the renaming of street that will have particular resonance with recent political developments in Israel. The road, to be named Benjamin Ze’ev Herzl Street, will commemorate the fact that Herzl’s father’s family were originally from Zimony (today Zemun, in Serbia.
Rivlin, who makes a point of taking no frills flights, will leave for Zagreb via El Al but return from Belgrade on Thursday night via Arkia.