Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, who was in hot water for handing out Serbian chocolate treats to kids during a visit to a kindergarten in the city of Dubrovnik, has publicly apologised, saying she didn’t personally check the sweets.
The president was criticised after handing out Serbia chocolate on December 6, the 25th anniversary of a crucial battle to defend the besieged Dubrovnik from Serb forces at the start of Croatia’s 1990s independence war.
Furious parents complained their children should not have been given Serbia chocolate on that day of all days.
“This is what he (my son) got from Kolinda’s hands, her photo and a Serbian chocolate bar,” one of the parents wrote on Facebook according to AFP.
“Isn’t that sad, on the day of Dubrovnik defenders.”
Grabar-Kitarovic while issuing an apology told reporters, “I was extremely disappointed since I personally support the campaign ‘Let’s buy Croatian’.”
She vowed a similar thing would not happen again.
“We will apologise to parents who received these chocolate bars and send Croatian products.”
Her move also provoked anger in Serbia where several ministers and media slammed what they described as racism from the Croatian head of state.
“An example of incomprehensible racism,” said Serbian Labour Minister Aleksandar Vulin, urging a reaction from the European Union, which Croatia is a member.
“What sort of normalisation of ties can we talk about when a simple chocolate bar can provoke this ethnic intolerance?” also commented Serbian Commerce Minister Rasim Ljajic.
Croatian Serbs also criticised Grabar-Kitarovic’s move.
“These chocolate bars will be remembered as chocolate bars of shame,” Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac told N1 television on Friday.
“It is unacceptable and shameful,” he said.
Ties between the two former Yugoslav republic have plummeted to their lowest level since Croatia’s 1991-1995 war.
During the conflict, Belgrade politically and militarily backed Croatia’s rebel Serbs who opposed the country’s proclamation of independence.
Belgrade and Zagreb have been constantly trading accusations over war crimes committed by their forces during the 1991-1995 war but also World War II.