Croatia Marks 27 Years Since Start of Homeland War

By 31 March 2018

ZAGREB, March 31, 2018 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said at Pltivice Lakes National Park on Saturday that the Plitvice victory 27 years ago today was the beginning of Croatia's victorious struggle for freedom and independence.

She was speaking at a commemoration for Josip Jović, a policeman killed there 27 years ago today in an operation launched to liberate an occupied part of Croatia during the Serbian military aggression.

A wreath was laid at Jović's monument at Plitvice Lakes on behalf of Croatia by the president, Deputy Parliament Speaker Milijan Brkić, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mirko Šundov, and Police Director Nikola Milina. Wreaths were also laid and candles lit by delegations of associations of wartime liberation units and Homeland War associations.

The president said she was proud the commemoration renewed the memory of a day the Croatian people remembered as Bloody Easter, saying that "by commemorating Josip's death, we remember in a special way all the victims and their families because we owe special gratitude to them too, as we do to the families of the missing, who deserved the desired peace."

Our only and lasting task is the creation of an always better Croatia, the president said, adding that Croatia's freedom, pride and honour should be defended through economic progress, social justice, political culture and moral virtues.

Speaking on the government's behalf, Interior Minister Božinović thanked the retired and active police officers and all Croatian defenders for their contribution to the homeland. On Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's behalf, he said Jović's death was a lasting symbol of all Homeland War victims.

The respect for Jović and his fellow fighters should be transferred to the new generations, just as the memory of the contribution of the special police then and in the operations that followed, in which we showed unity, determination and excellence, Božinović said, announcing better work conditions and salaries for the police as well as the hiring of 600 new officers this year.

Aware of our key role in Croatia's security, we are training with the world's best police forces and services, strengthening international ties due to the nature of present-day threats, he said, adding that the goal was to develop a proactive police for the 21st century which could respond to every threat, including illegal migration, cyber and organised crime, and terrorism.

Operation Plitvice on 31 March 1991 was a response by the Croatian police to the taking of Plitvice Lakes National Park and the blockade of state road D1 which connected the north and the south of the country. In the early morning hours, Interior Ministry forces driving to a local hotel were ambushed by Serb rebels. Josip Jović, a 22-year-old special policeman, was killed and nine police officers were wounded. The clash lasted several hours and the rebels were forced to retreat.

This event is widely considered to mark the beginning of the Homeland War.