Plenković Will Not Attend Bleiburg Commemoration

By 18 March 2019

ZAGREB, March 18, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Sunday that the government would go to Jasenovac this year to pay tribute to the victims of the WWII Ustasha-run concentration camp, adding that he would not go to Bleiburg because he had "another major obligation scheduled for that day."

"We have spoken with the Antifascist Federation, with Mr Habulin, at his request, and have again expressed our desire for one single commemoration to be organised. We think that that would be good. We have also spoken with the president of the Jewish community and conveyed the same message to him. They will certainly have consultations and decide what to do. Our position is very clear: we will go to Jasenovac to pay tribute to the victims of the Ustasha regime, clearly and unequivocally as we did in the newly-adopted history curriculum," Plenković said in an interview with the RTL commercial television channel on Sunday evening.

He said he would not be going to Bleiburg, a town in southern Austria where tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated pro-Nazi Ustasha regime surrendered to allied forces in May 1945, but were handed over by British troops to Yugoslav forces. Many were executed on the spot, while many perished during so-called death marches back to Yugoslavia.

"I have something else scheduled for that day, but it is too early to make it public," the prime minister said.

Responding to the interviewer's remark that he had not visited Bleiburg in the past two years either, Plenković said that the parliament president, his ministers and envoys had been there. "I know at this point that I have another major obligation scheduled for that day," he added.

"Our position is that a commemoration should take place. Whether a Mass will be celebrated or not depends on relations between the Croatian and Austrian bishops' conferences. I think that that would be good and believe that they will find the best solution through dialogue. What is crucial is that those who will go there do not politicise the commemoration, do not wear unlawful insignia and do not try to misuse the event," Plenković said, recalling that the Croatian parliament was the sponsor of the commemoration.

Speaking of the forthcoming election for the European Parliament, set for May 26, Plenković said that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović would formally call the election on March 26, adding that his HDZ party was preparing it. "I am certain, and many surveys indicate so, that the election will reaffirm the HDZ as a dominant force among serious pro-European parties on the Croatian political scene," the PM said.

Asked if he had spoken with Milorad Pupovac, the leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party, who did not show up at a meeting of the ruling coalition last week and who had announced earlier that his party might leave the coalition, Plenkovic said that he had not.

"I am still here, waiting for his call," Plenković said and added: "In any case, I want all minority MPs to be part of the parliamentary majority and the ruling coalition. I want them to be part of the common efforts of this government in many projects, plans and activities for which the minority MPs have made useful suggestions. I want every Serb, Bosniak, Albanian, Slovak, Hungarian and Roma to feel good in Croatia in 2019 and to want to live here."

Plenković said that there were certain political forces who constantly wanted to polarise society. He would not name them, saying he did not want to promote them.

More news about the Bleiburg commemorations can be found in the Politics section.