After today’s talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučič, President Miloš Zeman apologized for the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and asked the Serbian people for forgiveness. According to him, the Czechia was then looking for an ally with whom it would reject the bombing, but without success. He sees the fact that he eventually supported the action as a lack of courage. Zeman was the head of the government at the time. It is for this reason that politicians in some cases call an apology hypocritical or an admission of their own mistake, while others welcome it.
Zeman described the action of the North Atlantic Alliance, which the Czech Republic joined a few days before, as a mistake or an act of power arrogance. “I would like to ask the Serbian nation for forgiveness as a person,” Zeman said. In his words, he “got rid of many years of trauma”, he said, adding that he frees repentance. Vučić thanked him for his words from the press conference after today’s meeting.
Zeman said that the Serbian nation expressed support for the Czech in 1938 and 1968. “And we repaid it by bombing. That is why I would like to take this opportunity to apologize for my person for bombing the then Yugoslavia,” he said.
He described the event as a mistake that bothered him “all the time”. “We were the last to agree and looked desperately for at least one country that would join us and be against it. But we were left alone. Still, it doesn’t excuse us, yet it was a lack of courage,” Zeman said.
Vučić thanked Zeman for his words. He said that neither he nor the Serbian people would ever forget them. He noted that no one had yet made a similar statement about the raids.
Zeman said in an interview with ČTK two years ago that he considered the Czech government’s approval of the alliance bombing of the former Yugoslavia in 1999 to be a mistake. The goal of the Allied Operation United Force in Yugoslavia was to end the activities of the Yugoslav Armed Forces in the then province of Kosovo. The raids lasted 78 days, after which Serbian troops withdrew from Kosovo. According to Human Rights Watch, the bombing claimed about 500 civilian casualties.