The first secretary at the Croatian Embassy in Belgrade, Hrvoje Snajder, has been expelled from Serbia for espionage, the Serbian news website Vecernje Novosti, said on Monday evening, citing unofficial sources.
“It is a case of documented espionage and recruitment to work for the Croatian service. This means that the evidence gathered shows that Schneider violated the Vienna Convention that regulates diplomatic and consular relations and as a result he has been declared persona non grata,” the pro-government website said.
The Serbian Foreign Ministry said earlier on Monday, without giving details, that it had decided to declare Snajder persona non grata in accordance with Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
Article 9 says that “the receiving State may at any time and without having to explain its decision, notify the sending State that the head of the mission or any member of the diplomatic staff of the mission is persona non grata or that any other member of the staff of the mission is not acceptable.”
The Serbian Foreign Ministry said that during his professional engagement in Serbia, Snajder “grossly overstepped diplomatic norms” and added that a diplomatic note has been presented to Croatian Ambassador Hidajet Biscevic.
Croatia: Expulsion step towards deterioration in relations
Croatia has expressed its regret over the expulsion, noting that it was a “step towards a deterioration” in relations and destabilisation of the situation in the region.
“We completely reject the grounds for expelling the accredited Croatian diplomat. Serbia’s decision is a step towards a deterioration in mutual relations, as well as further destabilisation of the sensitive political and security situation in the region at a time when stability in South-Eastern Europe is extremely important for the whole of Europe,” the Croatian Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs said in a press release late on Monday.
It said that this step puts “additional pressure on the staff of the Croatian Embassy in Belgrade” in the run-up to elections in Serbia, set for 17 December.
“In this regard, we express our regret that the anticipated escalation of relations by Serbia at this time was realised with a drastic decision to expel the diplomat,” the press release said.
The Croatian ministry concluded by saying that it reserves the right to respond to this move “at a time and in a manner it chooses.”