Tuesday, 5 October 2021

PM Andrej Plenković: Serbian Textbooks' Negation of Existence of Croatian Language Outrageous

ZAGREB, 5 Oct, 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday that Serbian textbooks' denial of the Croatian language was outrageous and unacceptable.

"The embassy, the foreign ministry and all the relevant institutions have a clear duty to send protest notes to Serbia," Plenković told the press after he met junior partners in the ruling coalition in Zagreb.

"We consider it a shameful policy," he added.

On Monday, the political leadership of Croats in Serbia condemned the denial of the Croatian language in grammar books for eighth-graders. According to the local Croat-language weekly "Hrvatska riječ", a grammar book for eighth-graders by a group of authors says that the Serbian, Slovenian, Macedonian and Bulgarian languages are South Slavic languages while "Croats, Bosniaks and some Montenegrins call the Serbian language Croatian, Bosnian, Bosniak or Montenegrin." The textbook was approved by the Serbian Institute for the Promotion of Education, the weekly said.

Plenković said today that Croatia expected Serbia to rectify such anomalies in its grammar books.

He added that he would also convey Croatia's position on the matter to Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić who is expected to attend a two-day EU-Western Balkans summit, which begins on Tuesday afternoon in Slovenia.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Through Pandemics and Earthquakes: World Teachers' Day in Croatia Honors Educators

October 5, 2021 - Commemorating World Teachers' Day in Croatia is another indicator that the country is following global trends. Despite expressed sympathy for teachers, the problems in the Croatian education system are yet to be solved.

World Teachers’ Day is held annually on 5 October to celebrate all teachers around the globe. It commemorates the anniversary of adopting the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers, which sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions – says the official UNESCO website. 

Croatia is no exception in honoring the people who teach the youngest generations in the country in the hope they grow into good and educated people that will make Croatia a better place. 

Despite being established on February 2, 2006, under the name of The Faculty of Teacher Education, this institution, part of the University of Zagreb, has a much richer history of educating teachers that began with the first Teacher Training School in Zagreb in 1849. Thus, the oldest instance of Croatian formal teachers' education was followed by Petrinja (1862) and Čakovec (1879).

„The Faculty of Teacher Education, in addition to its constituent units - chairs, centers, institutes, library, and gallery, has three academic departments: Department of Teacher Education Studies, Department of Preschool Education Studies, and Department of Educational Studies. With the resolution of the University Senate of the University of Zagreb dating February 13, 2007, the Four-year Teachers’ College in Čakovec and the Four-year Teachers’ College in Petrinja merged with the Faculty of Teacher Education at first as branches and then as departments of the Faculty of Teacher Education. As such, they have developed for the purposes of organizing implementing the program of study away from the Central location of the Faculty of Teacher Education. Both departments carry out the work and operations under the name of the Faculty of Teacher Education and their own name," says the official website of the faculty.

As it suits a high educational facility for the teachers' field, the Faculty of Teacher Education commemorated the event on Tuesday and appropriately celebrated their professional holiday.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković congratulated World Teachers' Day on Twitter. He expressed gratitude for teachers doing their job during the pandemic and earthquake

„There is no greater task than raising, educating, and shaping the youth which is the future“, wrote Plenković by Twitter as reported by Index.hr.

Croatian president Zoran Milanović attended the ceremony at the Faculty of Teachers' Education. He stated that teachers played a crucial part in shaping Croatian culture.

Based on previous writings by TCN, Milanović's statement can be evident in historical events such as the First Croatian Teacher Congress in 1871. Usually, you could learn more about the history of Croatian education by visiting the Croatian School Museum in Zagreb, but sadly it still awaits post-earthquake reconstruction.

Additionally, its worth mentioning that the start of the new School year exposed the problem of parental pressure on teachers to give children As even when their actual knowledge does not justify the grade.

If not on any other day, hopefully, both the politics and the public may learn and decide to act on World Teachers' Day to help teachers resolve this troubling issue.

Read about Croatian politics and history since 1990 on our TC guide.

For more about education in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Plenković: I Will Not Accept Theory of Media Freedom Being Stifled in Croatia

ZAGREB, 23 Sept 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that he will not accept the theory of media freedom being stifled in Croatia, referring to a comment by Social Democratic Party (SDP) MP Mirela Ahmetović's assessment that banning someone from writing is unprecedented pressure on the media.

"It's not normal and it isn't possible to accuse the government because of a ruling by one judge on a temporary measure in one case. The government, the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union), none of us has anything to do with the judge's decision on that temporary measure... I reject such insinuations, even about influence on the State Attorney's Office, let alone such an influence on the courts, that there is some intention to stifle media freedom," Plenković said after meeting with the generals, commanders, and officers from the Flash military-police operation.

After the nonprofit portal H-alter in the past few weeks ran a series of articles by reporter Jelena Jindra problematizing the work of a Zagreb center for the protection of children and its head Gordana Buljan Flander, Zagreb Municipal Court judge Andrija Krivak issued an injunction ordering H-alter to stop publishing articles about Buljan Flander.

Plenković said that Minister of Culture and Media Nina Obuljen Koržinek had given a brilliant statement about the court's decision and that he supports her in that.

The government advocates full media freedom, there are legal means to counter the temporary injunction, he said.

"I won't even go into the essence nor the decision, let alone accepts theories that media freedom is being stifled in Croatia. That is out of the question. That is not true," he added.

Asked whether the court's decision was stifling media freedom, Plenković said the Zagreb Municipal Court needs to be asked that.

"What has that got to do with us? It is a temporary injunction issued by a court. It is not a political decision by anyone here," he said and added that Minister Obuljen Koržinek said everything that had to be said about that.

Asked whether this could mean that anyone could seek the courts to ban someone from writing about them, he said that he doesn't think that is the case nor practice.

"I believe that media freedom in Croatia is such that everyone breathes freely," he said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

How Croatian Businessman Allegedly Kicked Turkey Out of €150m Project

September the 23rd, 2021 - A scandal involving a Croatian businessman and Turkey has caused international scandal and seen powerful politicians from both countries apparently discuss it.

As RTL/Silvana Mendjusic writes, the construction of the first geothermal power plant in Ciglena near Bjelovar in a project worth more than 300 million kuna, and it was started together, and the Turkish investor, the majority owner, cut the ribbon in the company of Minister Tomislav Coric. Production at Geoen began, and huge sums of money and generous support began to flow into an account.

Over a period of twelve years, they were supposed to earn more than a billion, and then it all got complicated. The minority owner, Croatian businessman and entrepreneur Dragan Jurilj, allegedly set out to get the Turks kicked out of the story and has so far succeeded. While he claims that everything is being carried out according to the law, the Turks claim that their investment was stolen from them. They're threatening arbitration, warning that in the end everything will be paid for by Croatian citizens, and they have even called on Erdogan for help.

On the sidelines of the summit in Antalya, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Turkish President Erdogan talked about illegal migration, Bosnia and Herzegovina, economic cooperation, but also one concrete and currently very ''hot'' case involving this Croatian businessman.

"We've been informed that our President Erdogan mentioned the case to the Croatian Prime Minister," said lawyer Ozlem Canbeldek Akin.

According to the legal representative of the Turkish company BLT, who claims that their Croatian partner stole a project worth more than a billion kuna from, the stakes are high, and they're equally nervous on both sides.

"How they did not have a fair trial!? All of these processes are legitimate and every investor in the Republic of Croatia is obliged to respect final court decisions, whether they're satisfied with the outcome or not. I'm not satisfied with all these verdicts," said Dragan Jurilj.

The dispute, which has now risen to quite a high political level, is one taking place much lower down, a few thousand metres below the surface in fact, deep in the geothermal treasures of Croatia in which these former partners are arguing over the ownership of the Velika geothermal power plant near Bjelovar. The Turks claim: "We've invested about 300 million kuna in this, that's roughly 55 to 60 million euros. We have invested a lot, and now we've been left with nothing."

At the beginning of this saga, which is all to do with the ownership ratio within Geoen - the project holder was 80 percent for the Turkish company, and 20 percent for the Croatian businessman and their partner, Dragan Jurilj.

"I gave the company 157 million in appraised assets - four wells, permits, a power purchase agreement, concessions... I didn't indebt the company, I gave the company 157 million. They were supposed to give 300 million to give and not borrow based on my assets. They they just took out loans and indebted the company,'' said Jurilj.

''Why didn't you take out a loan yourself?'' Jurilj is asked.

- Well, OK.

''You had no references at the time...''

- That's right. I didn’t have any references at the time, but for references you get a commission or some smaller percentage, you don’t get 80 percent.

''Okay, did you agree to it?''

- I didn't agree to anything. They were supposed to convert that loan after the completion of the project, they were one hundred percent indebted to the company, and they were supposed to convert it into capital reserves. They didn't do that.

Two years ago, the geothermal power plant was inaugurated. According to the agreement, the financing is on the side of BLT. And we've met those requirements. BLT has provided the capital and a loan," he said.

Along with Muharem Balat, the owner of the Turkish company, Minister Coric openly praised the project. He will now be asked to rule on the administrative proceedings.

"Our investment was stolen from our shareholders, we want compensation from those shareholders. But if we fail in that, then we'll have to go to the European Court of Human Rights and we'll seek arbitration and compensation which will then end up being the burden of Croatian taxpayers which we wouldn't have wanted… "

The foundation of any such move, he says, will be the thesis that they didn't have the right to a fair trial in Croatia.

"There's no arbitration, so Croatia can't be responsible for inter-member relations, the Republic of Croatia can only be responsible if it harms the project, if the project stops functioning for any reason ...", said Dragan Jurilj.

When operating, the geothermal power plant produces electricity for about 29,000 households in total. The power plant is a privileged producer of energy, as it produces electricity from renewable sources, it is then sold on at a discounted price. This directly regards about one billion and 200 million kuna of revenue annually, if not more.

Last year’s amount alone is enough to understand why these ex-partners are fighting so hard for ownership, as back in 2020, they produced 76.2 gigawatt hours of electricity and 120 million kuna without VAT was paid. The market value of energy was 21 million kuna and the amount of aid paid out was 99 million kuna. This generous relationship between the market and the preferential price is the greatest thing this plant can boast of.

It all started last year, say the more than disgruntled Turkish partners. Jurilj then sent an envelope to Turkey marked as an invitation to the Assembly of the Society. But it wasn't an invitation to the Assembly, but some unimportant documentation. Invitations to the assembly don't need to be notarised. If you register an envelope in the post office as an invitation to the Assembly - it is classed as an invitation. So, he registered it and at the session of the Assembly in our absence he changed the management. According to our agreement, our members must be on the board. They kicked us out of that session.

How the deception of the Turks began, according to them...

"I sent an invitation to the Assembly based on the Companies Act, I haven't engaged in anything illegal. I've invited them to the Assembly several times. If they don't respond the first and the second time, I have the right to legitimately make decisions," Jurilj added.

That's illegitimate, claimed the Turks. They then filed a complaint and the measure was temporarily suspended in the Commercial Court. Jurilj was then asked not to send the invitation to Turkey but instead to their Zagreb branch. Unfortunately, another invitation to Turkey was sent, this time it really was an invitation for the Assembly, but when the Turks received it, because it takes some time for the shipment to reach Turkey, they claim that the Assembly had already been held.

"I did everything according to the law, if something was late, then that's not my fault, and they ignored my invitation to the Assembly for a couple of years," claims Jurilj.

They say they asked you to send it to the office in Zagreb.

"It's not written in the law, it says it's sent to the address of the centre. I sent them that invitation."

Doesn’t it feel like you wanted them not to come?

"I did everything according to the law."

Jurilj and his new partner Goran Pavlovic convened a new assembly, they called upon Turkish board members, and then Jurilj demanded that the Commercial Court in Zagreb, due to non-fulfillment of the partnership agreement, register the deletion of the Turkish company BLT from the project.

"Unfortunately, at the Assembly held without our presence, they made a decision that BLT must pay additional performance to Geoen," the lawyer added.

BLT reacted by submitting to the Commercial Court the measure according to which the exclusion of BLT could not be carried out. Unfortunately, at the Assembly held without our presence, they made a decision that BLT must pay additional payments to Geoen.

The Turks claim that in one year, Dragan Jurilj withdrew more than 80 million kuna...

The Turks have had the most objections to the court register. The response we received from the Commercial Court was: "Oh, we checked the court register and you aren't co-owners, plus there is no more Geoen and we have to suspend the proceedings."

They are directly accusing Jurilj of ''extracting'' more than 80 million kuna from the company since the summer of 2020.

"That isn't true, and secondly, BLT has expressed disloyal behavior, disrespect and made threats of lawsuits against banks, and threats to institutions that have succumbed to its influence ...", the Croatian businessman said, and the Turkish investors are now filing criminal charges for fictitious debentures.

"They managed to extract eight million euros paid by HROTE (Croatian energy market operator)," the lawyer added.

"At the same time, the bank isn't allowing me to dissolve the company's account, although I'm the director, the authorised person and the sole owner.'' said Jurilj.

What has HROTE got to do with it all?

What's going on now? The power plant is still working. In the first eight months, the power plant produced electricity worth 25 million on the market. There have been incentives worth 49 million. But those 75 million HROTE - the market operator with which the energy purchase agreement was signed - are no longer being given to anyone.

HROTE proposed to the court the establishment of a court deposit in which they would pay the funds. The court refused to establish a deposit, HROTE appealed and the appeal proceedings are ongoing. Dragan Jurilj, on the other hand, accuses HROTE of paying 25 million kuna to Geoen into a foreign account.

"I went to the bank on behalf of Geoen, and the order wasn't accepted. They came to HROTE to transfer my money abroad, HROTE isn't even the director of the company, it was reported to the institutions which deal with this, and that Turkish bank has been as well,'' said Jurilj.

HROTE replied that their actions were supported by appropriate court decisions and that Jurilj's allegation was unfounded.

If HROTE doesn't pay you, do you not have a contract stating how you'll perform your obligations to the workers?

“According to the workers we're dealing with, we have issues with the difficulty of paying the tax debt according to the budget because it is a debt from 2020 while BLT ran the project and while they were taking money from the project,” claims Dragan Jurilj.

DORH (State's Attorney Office of the Republic of Croatia) has been informed of the situation

We informed the DORH in a timely manner about the legal situation regarding Geoen, as well as about our actions. Given the many ongoing court proceedings, we don't wish to go further into commenting on the statements made by the opposing parties.

"They're ignoring the opinions of the law. They haven't yet transferred the energy purchase agreement and are putting the entire plant into question, and then it will only continue to harm BLT and me as a creditor member, and the state budget."

The chronology of court decisions shows that the Commercial Court in Zagreb and the court register acted faster in favour of Croatian businessman Dragan Jurilj, and slowly when decisions had to be made, they leaned more in favour of BLT.

"We were first deleted from the court register, we lost our stakes, and while we were fighting for those stakes, Geoen was attached to GS, and the economic entity was transferred to another Eco Consult entity."

They pointed out that they haven't so far been allowed to prove their claims in court.

"We have nothing to lose, I'm being honest, I know these are serious accusations being made against the judges. I wouldn't want to go that far, but when I look at the case, there are things I can't understand, some things can't be legally explained." the Turks claim.

"BLT constantly keeps going to all these institutions and claiming to have been damaged, that they're going sue the state, but they can't sue the state. They do have the right to demand compensation for those shares and they'll have them paid. Nobody is trying to run away from that fact," assured Jurilj.

In this dispute, both parties filed several criminal charges, the State Attorney's Office was informed in the meantime. Jurilj, on the other hand, is exploring a new geothermal field - Slatina dva, which is twice as strong as the power plant near Bjelovar, and there is a much bigger investment to be had in Slatina.

The Ministry of Economy failed to respond to our request. Although the representatives of the Turkish side claim: None of Jurilj's companies still has a legal basis for the exploitation of geothermal waters. They explained that the rights from the license can be transferred to another economic entity only if the Government, at the proposal of the Ministry, gives explicit prior written consent. However, Minister Tomislav Coric is not making any sort of move as far as this is concerned - yet.

For more, follow our business section.

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Maraska Drink Factory Marks 200th Anniversary

ZAGREB, 22 Sept, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Tuesday visited Zadar's most famous company, the Maraska beverage producer, accompanied by its new owner, Bosnian entrepreneur Svjetlan Stanić.

The hosts informed the prime minister about the alcoholic beverage plant, where the extract of marasca cherry and walnut is stored in big barrels. Besides the Maraschino liqueur, Maraska is proud of the fact that it is one of the few companies producing the Orahovac liqueur in the old way, from green walnuts. 

"I'm pleased to see that a centuries-long tradition has been preserved and that production will continue in future. I'm confident that with the production of key brands, these traditional products will find their place on the domestic and foreign markets," Plenković said.

He congratulated the Stanić Group, which recently bought Maraska, on the 20th anniversary of the alcoholic and soft drink factory. "It's an excellent move for branding Zadar and Croatia, for contributing to investment from Bosnia and Herzegovina in Croatia and from Croatia in Bosnia and Herzegovina and, it seems, it's a great signal for new investment which will advance production."

"On behalf of the government, I welcome this investment in Zadar, which has had a great tourism season, which is quickly recovering after the COVID crisis," Plenković said.

Stanić Beverages, a company owned by the Stanić Group, signed a contract on the purchase of Maraska with Saponia and Koestlin, members of the Mepas Group. Stanić Beverages now owns 98.25% of Maraska shares, having bought 45.3% from Koestlin and 52.90% from Saponia. It will also make a binding public offering for the rest of the stock after the completion of the transaction with Saponia and Koestlin.

For more about business in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 20 September 2021

USA Visa-Free Travel for Croatians: Decision in Next Few Days, Says Plenković

September 20, 2021 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković also confirmed USA Visa-free travel for Croatians, and that a decision should be made in the next few days.

Andrej Plenković said that the USA should abolish visas for Croatia in a few days, reports Index.hr.

"We are about to abolish US visas for Croatian citizens. This should happen in the next few days. We have been working on it for a long time. I think that finally this obstacle, which has slowed down trade and investment flows with the US, is soon behind us," the Croatian prime minister said.

Recall, visas for the United States should be abolished no later than September 30 - the end of the US fiscal year.

During the summer, signals came from the US that this should be the case.

In early August, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken nominated Croatia for the Visa Waiver Program.

"Today, I nominated Croatia to join the Visa Waiver Program. This step towards a visa-free regime signifies Croatia's tremendous progress in meeting strict standards for participating countries. We hope for an even stronger US-Croatian relationship," Blinken wrote on Twitter in August.

Croatia has been working on visa-free travel since 2007. And while abolishing visas has often been linked to the rate of refusals, there has been - and continues to be - intense communication and work to meet strict security criteria.

In the last few years, the Ministry of the Interior has been cooperating intensively with the US Department of Homeland Security on strengthening security capacities, such as border security, migration, and international protection, collecting and analyzing data on cross-border passengers and air passengers, fighting terrorism and terrorist fighters and information exchange.

The abolition of visas has been an unresolved diplomatic issue in relations between the two countries for almost 30 years. To enter the visa-free regime, several preconditions need to be met, and the last that Croatia had to meet was less than three percent of rejected applications.

Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Cyprus are the only EU members whose visas have not yet been abolished by the United States. In 2014, the European Commission asked the United States to cancel visas for Croatia and other EU countries whose citizens still had to have the document to enter the United States. They even threatened reciprocal measures, but that did not happen.

Poland was excluded from the regime late last year after conducting a campaign to encourage business people and officials who were almost sure to obtain a visa to apply.

A similar campaign was conducted this year by Croatia, which already on September 30 last year, when the fiscal year in America ended, lowered the number of rejected requests to four percent and was no longer far from achieving the goal.

For more on travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Plenković Says Emotionalism Regarding Freedoms in Croatia Unserious

ZAGREB, 18 Sept, 2021 - Commenting on the Freedom Festival rally, held in downtown Zagreb on Saturday, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković described as unserious the emotionalism regarding freedoms in Croatia in the context of the country's COVID-19 death toll and restrictions in other countries.

"I find the emotionalism regarding freedoms, after so many COVID-19 deaths and the cost for the health system, unserious," Plenković told reporters during a visit to Vukovar.

The organisers of Freedom Festival 2.0 have said that "most people now realise that COVID-19 has been misused for political ends that include the introduction of an entire set of measures and decisions that cause unprecedented damage to humans and benefit only smaller groups in positions of immense power."

"COVID-19 has been here for more than 20 months, and if there are people who are still not aware of the reality, they should check media reports and credible information to see how many people have died so far around the world, including Croatia," the PM said in a comment on the Zagreb rally.

He noted that in the past 24 hours 12 people died of COVID-19 and that only two had been vaccinated, one being a 95-year-old woman and the other a person with a serious illness.

"I call on all citizens to be reasonable, responsible, there is protection and I don't see why they would not follow the example of the 52% of Croatians who have already been vaccinated," he said.

He said that Croatia had less restrictive anti-epidemic rules than some other countries and that the education system, transport, economy, production and social life had been functioning.

People in Croatia have been able to go to the cinema, theatre, to museums and restaurants, he noted, adding that that was why he considered the emotionalism regarding freedoms unserious.

I don't see reason for protests in Croatia

Even though mass protests are taking place across Europe, including France, Slovenia and Greece, Plenković said that he did not see any reason for protests in Croatia.

"The regime here has not been strict... people have been able to go to school, travel by bus, train, go to the cinema, theatre... What is missing? Discos? I think we can survive without discos for one season, hopefully the last one," he said, noting that the topic had been exaggerated as there was no reason for criticism about restriction of freedoms in Croatia

Noting that he was not imposing his opinion on anyone, Plenković said that as a responsible prime minister, trusting science, he wanted to repeat that COVID-19 was spread easily, that more than 8,300 Croatians had died of it and that the costs related to the disease amounted to HRK 36 billion.

For more on Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

Mayor: It’s a Disgrace Nobody Has Answered for Vukovar Crimes

ZAGREB, 18 Sept, 2021 - Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava said after a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Vukovar on Saturday that the incumbent and all previous Croatian governments should be ashamed of the fact that nobody had answered for the city's destruction in 1991 and the thousands of people killed there.

"If we disregard the rulings of the international tribunal in The Hague and for the Ovčara atrocity, nobody has yet been brought to account for Vukovar and that is a big disgrace for this government and all previous governments," said Penava.

Asked by reporters if today was an appropriate day to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Vukovar, Penava said that everyone would have their own opinion on the matter but that he welcomed it as a day honouring Vukovar's defenders and the 204th Brigade.

He said that he had listened to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's speech today, in which, he said, Plenković spoke about positive examples of the government's care for Vukovar but failed to mention problems, such as those regarding the local economy and suspended investments in the local wood-processing sector and hotel industry, which, he said, the government led by Plenković was responsible for.

"What saddens one the most, and what the government led by Plenković has inherited from the previous governments, is the shameful fact that nobody has been brought to account for the fact that Vukovar was razed to the ground in 1991, while the parliamentary majority regularly votes confidence in both the Supreme Court and the Chief State Prosecutor, thus supporting the policy that has turned its back on the Vukovar victims," said Penava.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 18 September 2021

30th Anniversary of Battle of Vukovar Marked

ZAGREB, 18 Sept, 2021 - The Battle of Vukovar was a turning point in the war for Croatia's freedom and independence, and its participants were heroes who deserve admiration, it was said at an event marking the 30th anniversary of the battle in Vukovar on Saturday. 

Vukovar was heroically defended in the 1991 battle for three months, after which its defence lines were penetrated and the city fell into the hands of Serb paramilitaries and the Yugoslav People's Army.

The ceremony in Vukovar was attended by numerous defenders and wartime commanders, led by the last commander of the city's defence forces, Branko Borković, President Zoran Milanović and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković's envoys, the heads of Vukovar-Srijem and Osijek-Baranja counties, Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava, and government members, led by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

"More than 30,000 troops, armed with 600 tanks, 500 armoured vehicles and 180 howitzers were deployed to seize Vukovar which was defended by some 6,000 defenders and volunteers. In that 'David and Goliath' battle, by keeping the enemy engaged in the area of Vukovar, Croatian defenders gave an additional three months to the rest of Croatia to consolidate its armed forces," Plenković said at the commemoration.

Battle was of crucial importance for maturing of Croatian democracy

Thanking defenders for what they did in 1991 by defending Vukovar and Croatia, Plenković said the Battle of Vukovar was a decisive battle of the Homeland War that also had a crucial role in the maturing of the Croatian democracy.

"Even though the suffering in the Homeland War is still a painful memory, notably the fate of 1,858 people gone missing, the victorious Croatia extended a hand of reconciliation and trust, respecting the rights of ethnic minorities, including the Serb minority. Croatia remains committed to the values which helped defend Croatia's freedom and democracy in the Homeland War," said Plenković, underlining the need to continue with efforts to shed light on the fate of all missing persons, punish war criminals, secure adequate satisfaction for former inmates of prison camps, and promote the truth about the Homeland War, notably among children and young people.

Speaking of the government's responsibility for the revitalisation of Vukovar and the entire eastern Slavonia, Plenković said that Vukovar had been named a place of special respect, the Vukovar Hospital had become a national memorial hospital, 18 November, the day of the city's fall, had been declared a national holiday, and the Croatian Army had returned to Vukovar while the prospect of bringing to justice those responsible for war crimes had improved.

Borković: Croatia not owing anyone anything, on everyone's conscience 

The last commander of Vukovar's defence forces and commander of the 204th Vukovar Brigade, Branko Borković, said that Croatia today was a member of NATO and the European Union and that "it does not owe anything to anyone and is on everyone's conscience."

He said that Croatia is not an accidental state, is not "a successor either to the Ustasha or to Partisans" and was not created in World War II.

Borković noted that in recent years many political and social organisations as well as various office-holders at local and national levels and public figures had knowingly or unknowingly acted below the high standards set by Vukovar's struggle and sacrifice.

As part of today's commemoration, held outside the city's Eltz Castle, Croatian Air Force jets and its Wings of Storm aerobatic team flew over the event. Earlier in the day, state and other delegations laid wreaths and lit candles at the Homeland War Memorial Cemetery.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

PM Andrej Plenković Says it's Reasonable to Adopt Euro 9.5 Years After EU Entry

ZAGREB, 15 Sept, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday during the national parliament's Question Time that it was reasonable for Croatia that entered the EU in 2013 to switch to the euro nine and a half years after its admission to the Union.

"It seems a reasonable time frame to me for a country that joined the Union on 1 July 2013 to adopt the euro on 1 January 2023, that is nine and a half years," Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in response to the question from Marko Milanović Litre (Croatian Sovereignists) whether the citizens should be asked about the adoption of the euro and renunciation of monetary sovereignty.

"You are a new MP. Your predecessors in this same parliament ratified the EU Accession Treaty by 150 votes in favour. Your colleague, Ruža Tomašić, thanks to whom you are sitting here, was a member of the European Parliament in 2013. Your colleague Ilčić has rushed to the EP where he is paid in euro," Plenković said.

The PM said that the strategic goal of his government was to get Croatia into two deeper integrations - the Schengen passport-free travel zone and the euro area.

"We have made sure to fulfil the Maastricht criteria in the present circumstances of a pandemic, earthquakes and crises and have come close to adopting the euro, and now we listen to this initiative of yours. I don't know if we have all slept through this entire period," the prime minister said.

"Is there anyone who still thinks that EU membership is bad for us, after we have absorbed 44 billion more than we have contributed?" he concluded.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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