Tuesday

20th Aug 2019

EU, UK 'deplore' violence at Srebrenica memorial

  • Muslim woman at previous Srebrenica memorial (Photo: MyBukit)

A bottle, shoe, and stone-throwing crowd forced the Serb PM to flee the Srebrenica memorial in Bosnia on Saturday (11 July).

Aleksandar Vucic was whisked away by security after being hit in the face by a stone, which broke his glasses.

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He later told media in Belgrade the attack was planned by extremists.

“I'm sorry that people didn’t acknowledge my sincere intentions to build friendship between Serbs and Bosniaks,” he said.

Serb foreign minister Ivica Dacic described the incident as “an attack on all of Serbia and its politics of peace and regional co-operation”.

Nebojsa Stefanovic, the Serb interior minister, said on TV: “It can be seen as an assassination attempt”.

Vucic and Dacic are nationalists who deny that Srebrenica, where Serb soldiers exterminated 8,000 Muslim boys and men in 1995, was genocide.

But Vucic has called what happened a “horrible crime” and backs EU efforts to improve Kosovo-Serb relations.

For his part, British foreign minister, Philip Hammond, said on Saturday: “I … deplore the way a few individuals have sought to ruin the solemnity of today’s commemoration”.

“Their action should not be allowed to detract from the sentiments felt by a majority; that the countries and peoples of the Western Balkans need to move forward together”.

EU foreign relations chief Federica Mogherini tweeted: “My solidarity to Vucic who made the historical choice of being present in Srebrenica.”

Earlier in the day, she issued plea against racism.

“Dividing the peoples of Europe among ‘us’ and ‘them’ will only originate new conflicts”, she said.

“Christian and Muslim, Serb, Croat and Bosniak. Migrant and local. Aiming for ‘ethnically pure’ states will not bring about peace”.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker had also “welcomed” Vucic’s decision to go to Srebrenica in a statement prior to the stone incident.

“His decision is an example of the forward-looking approach that is required for the countries of the region to move ahead on their path to the European Union”, he said.

With two Serb generals on trial in The Hague, Juncker added: “We confirm our strong commitment to help bring the perpetrators to justice. European integration starts with justice”.

Saturday's event was attended by former US president, Bill Clinton, who was in power at the time of the Balkan wars.

Other VIPs included: Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu; the Macedonian and Slovenian presidents; and a minor British royal.

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