Croat Plan to Put Tesla on Euro Coins Reignites Balkan Feud

Serbia’s central bank said it would take action if Croatia is allowed to put an image of scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla, an ethnic Serb born in present-day Croatia, on euro coins when it joins the currency union.

While Croatia won’t join the euro zone before 2023, passions over claiming Tesla -- one of many disputes between the Balkan neighbors and wartime foes -- is setting their respective central banks on a collision course.

Croatia said its version of the coins would feature national symbols and Tesla, who was born in 1856 to Serb parents in the town of Smiljan, then part of the Austrian Empire. He moved in 1884 to the U.S., where his career flourished.

Using Tesla’s image on Croat euro coins would “represent usurping the cultural and scientific heritage of the Serbian people since it’s beyond doubt that the celebrated scientist in his lifetime declared himself as a Serb,” the country’s central bank said on its website. It pledged “appropriate action would be undertaken with EU institutions to point out how inappropriate the proposal is.”

Croatia brushed aside the criticism.

“Nikola Tesla was selected as a motif for a euro coin on the basis of numerous responses from citizens who value the genius of this inventor,” its central bank said in an emailed response.

“The fact that Tesla, who was born in Croatia, was a Serb, we see as a plus -- I don’t see how that could be a problem,” Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told reporters Friday. “If I was the Serbian central bank, I’d say: bravo!”

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