The National Bank of Serbia has objected to what it calls “inappropriate” plans by Croatia to include a likeness of inventor Nikola Tesla on its euro coin once it joins the eurozone.
In a statement posted last week on its official website, the central bank in Belgrade called Zagreb’s plan an attempt at the “appropriation of the cultural and scientific heritage of the Serbian people.”
Tesla was an inventor and engineering giant whose work, including on alternate current electricity, transformed the power sector and pioneered areas like X-rays and wireless technology.
As he was an ethnic Serb who was born within the Austrian Empire in the mid-19th century in what is now Croatia, Zagreb and Belgrade have waged intermittent squabbles over bragging rights to his legacy.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said on July 23 that he can’t “see why it should be a problem to anyone” for Tesla to be commemorated on a euro coin from the land of his birthplace. He said Serbia would have not have any say in the decision.
The Serbian bank asserts that Tesla regarded himself as a Serb.
Tesla became a naturalized U.S. citizen 1891 at the age of 35. Following his death and cremation in New York in 1943, an urn containing his ashes was taken to Belgrade in 1957 where they remain today.
The Belgrade-based central bank said “it is quite certain that appropriate actions would be taken against the competent EU institutions” in order to “point out the inappropriateness” of Croatia’s proposal.
Croatia is widely expected to join the eurozone once it is eligible, in 2023 at the earliest.
Under EU regulations, euro coins have one common side and may have a distinct “national” reverse side.
The same regulation makes the “national” side subject to the agreement of other EU member states but says nothing about outside objections.