BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic cut short a visit to Brussels on Monday after a row with Croatia, which Serbia says is blocking its progress towards European Union membership, Serbian news agency Tanjug reported.
Vucic had been due to attend a meeting of the EU Intergovernmental Conference on Tuesday, which was expected to approve the opening of three new accession chapters in Serbia’s application for membership.
But Croatia, one of two former Yugoslav nations to have joined the EU so far, is objecting to the opening of the chapter on culture and education because of a dispute about the translation of textbooks, Croatia’s HINA news agency said.
“There are things Serbia must implement along its EU path,” Croatian minister for foreign and European affairs, Davor Ivo Stier, was quoted by Tanjug as saying. “Full protection of national minorities is one of those matters.”
Croatians account for less than one percent of Serbia’s population. Their languages are very similar and were part of a common language before the collapse of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
“Serbia was patient so far, but now it will talk differently,” Vucic said in remarks broadcast by the Belgrade-based Prva TV before he left Brussels.Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic accused Croatia of acting in an unprincipled way.
“If Croatia is the one to decide about whether Serbia will enter the EU, then my interest just dropped somehow,” Dacic said after meeting his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Belgrade.
Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Louise Ireland