Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's praise of Slobodan Milosevic as a "great" leader has triggered condemnations from Balkan neighbors and the European Union.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaci and the Croatian government on September 10 said that praising Milosevic was "a provocation," a day after Vucic said that the late Serbian strongman was “a great Serbian leader” whose aims were “certainly for the best."
The European Commission said that reconciliation in the Western Balkans will only be possible if policies of the past are "rejected and overcome."
Milosevic was arrested in 2001 and held at the UN court in The Hague, Netherlands, for genocide and other war crimes committed during the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
But the former president of Serbia died in the tribunal's detention unit in 2006 before a verdict was reached.
Croatia's government said Vucic's comments can't change "historical facts" that the country was a victim of Milosevic's policies.
"If the wars waged by Slobodan Milosevic's regime represent his 'good intentions,' then the rebuilding of bridges between Serbia and the victims of its aggression will take lots of effort and time," a statement said.
"We heard words of peace, understanding, and good neighborly relations," Thaci said. "But we also heard praise for Milosevic and his generals. The two things don't go together."
'No Room For Ambiguity'
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini’s spokeswoman said that "reconciliation, normalization, and good neighborly relations will only be possible if the policies of the past … are rejected and overcome.”
"All partners in the region have a clear European perspective and therefore are required to respect these principles," said spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic.
"We must not leave any room for ambiguity or praise" for those who upheld policies that brought "a decade of misery and suffering to the Western Balkans region," she added.
In his address to ethnic Serbs in Kosovo's town of Mitrovica, Vucic said on September 9 that Milosevic was "a great Serbian leader whose intentions were certainly for the best, but our results were very poor."
"Not because he wanted that, but because our wishes were unrealistic, while we neglected and underestimated the interests and aspirations of other nations," the Serbian president added.
Vucic, an ultranationalist during the wars in the Balkans, was Milosevic's information minister in 1999.