(EurActiv) — he European Commission has strongly rejected comments denying that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre amounted to a ‘genocide’ made by the newly-elected Serbian president Tomislav Nikolić, who is due to make his first visit to Brussels on 14 June.
Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, a European Commission spokesperson, dismissed what she termed “attempts to re-write history” yesterday (4 June).
The massacre of over 8,000 Bosnians – mostly men and boys – in Srebrenica (see background) has been labelled an ‘act of genocide’ by both the International Crime Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“The atrocities in Srebrenica in July 1995 were a crime against all humankind, and we should never forget it, and we should never allow it to happen again,” Hansen told a Brussels press briefing.
In a Montenegrin TV interview on Friday, the Serbian President had said that the Srebrenica blood-letting was a war crime committed by some Serbs, who should be found and brought to justice. But he said that no genocide had been committed as such.
Nikolić also told a German newspaper that Croatia’s border town of Vukovar, which was bombed to the ground by the Serb-led army during the country’s war for independence in 1992, was in fact a “Serb town.”
The statements by the new Serbian President evoked little surprise, despite his efforts since 2008 to adopt a more pro-European stance. Nikolić had previously served as deputy to Vojislav Šešelj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, who is standing trial for war crimes at The Hague tribunal.
Asked if Commission President José Manuel Barroso would actually meet a genocide denier, Hansen was careful not to suggest that the visit be canceled.
A diplomat from one EU country told EurActiv that the Union was in a difficult situation. On the one hand, it did not wanted to “throw Serbia into the hands of Russia” but equally, “we either have values or we don’t,” he said.
Last week, Nikolić symbolically chose Russia as his first foreign destination and made statements honouring Putin using phraseology reminiscent of the Stalinist era.
Nikolić’s statements mark a tone change from that of his predecessor, Boris Tadić, who made bold gestures of reconciliation and in 2010 attended a ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide. There, he received a frosty reception from the victim’s relatives, who called him a “monkey” and a “murderer”.