Why Is The Croatian Government Negotiating With This Gentleman?

By 8 September 2017

It is hard to believe, but the person on the photo is an important political player in Croatia.

The controversial memorial to HOS war veterans, carrying the inscription “For Homeland Ready”, which was a slogan used during the times of the Nazi-puppet Independent State of Croatia in the Second World War, was yesterday moved from Jasenovac to nearby Novska. In return, the HOS war veterans claim they have received official confirmation from the Ministry of Administration that they can use the slogan on their insignia. Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević held a press conference, saying that it was just a technical harmonisation and that the final decision on the use of the slogan would be made when a special law is adopted next year. In the end, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković also said that the Ustasha slogan was not legalised, reports Telegram on September 8, 2017.

Here is how we got here:

1. The memorial plaque is unveiled in Jasenovac

Last year, HOS veterans unveiled a memorial plaque in memory of 11 killed HOS members in Jasenovac, near the location of the infamous Ustasha concentration camp. The names of the victims are accompanied by the HOS coat of arms, which includes the “For Homeland Ready” slogan. The slogan is not “an old Croatian greeting”, as some say, including the current Croatian President, but was used as an official slogan during the Independent State of Croatia. The plaque immediately became a point of controversy.

2. Plenković establishes a commission

At the end of last year, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said he was sorry that the plaque had been unveiled. He announced that he would set up a commission to deal with the past. In March, the commission was established, but its recommendations regarding symbols of totalitarian regimes in Croatia are not expected before March 2018. On the basis of these recommendations, a new law on such symbols is supposed to be passed.

3. HNS and national minorities protest the plaque

After Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković said at the end of August that the plaque would most likely remain in Jasenovac until a new law is passed, HDZ’s coalition partners started protesting. HNS and national minority members of Parliament, such as Milorad Pupovac and Furio Radin, said that the Prime Minister had promised them he would remove the plaque, which needs to be done urgently. HDZ’s government depends on the votes of HNS and national minority representatives for its slim majority.

4. Prime Minister promises to solve the problem

After this, Plenković repeatedly pledged to resolve the case. “We are looking for a way to bring the context of Jasenovac into correlation with what is written on the plaque, with full respect for the 11 HOS veterans. The context of the regime in Jasenovac and the slogan do not go together. We are looking for a solution which would make the contents of the plaque acceptable to everyone, and we will find a solution very quickly,” said the Prime Minister.

5. The plaque is moved from Jasenovac to Novska

Yesterday, the plaque was finally moved from Jasenovac. However, it has not been taken down for good but was just moved to nearby Novska in its original form. The “solution” was found in negotiations between ministers and HOS representatives, including the person in the photo at the beginning of this article, whose claims that he is not a fascist are somewhat hard to believe. The fact that such a person has become an important political factor in Croatia tells you all you need to know about the current political climate.

6. HOS representatives are delighted with having the slogan “legalised”

Anto Đapić, one of HOS leaders, said that he “consider this day as one of the biggest victories of HOS volunteers since the end of the Homeland War.” He also stated that, during the governments of former HDZ prime ministers Ivo Sanader and Jadranka Kosor, the plaque would be removed the same day it was put up. HOS officials added that the government sought to remove the slogan from their coat of arms in the early rounds of negotiations, but they refused, and apparently succeeded.

Deputy Prime Minister and acting HNS president Predrag Štromar said later he did not know that HOS had received the certification from the Administration Ministry and repeated that he was against the slogan.

So, the slogan has been removed from Jasenovac, but it is now apparently acceptable to use it elsewhere in Croatia, which is a solution which certainly cannot satisfy anyone who believes that today’s Croatia should have nothing to do with the failed and the criminal Nazi-puppet Independent State of Croatia. The current situation is mostly the result of the weakness of Prime Minister Plenković, who is unwilling or unable to control the hard-right wing of his party and its supporters and is afraid to stand up to them. His weakness has given more room for hardliners to spread their ideology and to make the Ustasha insignia more acceptable and present in everyday life. The recent renaming of Marshal Tito Square in Zagreb, supported by HDZ, is another aspect of the issue.

The story will undoubtedly continue.