Sunday, 10 March 2019

Croatian President Says She Is Sorry About Bleiburg Mass Ban

ZAGREB, March 10, 2019 - Following a decision of the Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia to withhold permission for a mass at Loibach, a field near Bleiburg in May this year, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Saturday that she could not interfere in the relations between the authorities of the Catholic Church, however, being a Croat and a Catholic believer, she deeply regretted for such decision of the Gurk-Klagenfurt Diocese.

The president also expressed her confidence that the Croatian Bishops' Conference will find a solution enabling Catholic faithful to commemorate at religious service the victims killed in the Loibach field and Bleiburg and death marches in the wake of the Second World War.

The Croatian Bishops Conference (HBK) already expressed its deep disagreement with the decision by the Roman Catholic Church in Carinthia to reject permission for this year's memorial mass at Loibach.

The HBK believes that "not allowing the possibility to pray for the victims of that great tragedy of the Croat people means disrespect for the victims and lack of sensitivity for the suffering of the innocent", dismissing the reasons for the refusal of permission in their entirety.

The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia who surrendered to allied forces there 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.

The Roman Catholic Church in Carinthia has turned down the HBK's request to hold a mass at Loibach because the event is used for political purposes, the local church said on Friday.

"The mass held in the field near Bleiburg has become part of an event that is used for political purposes and is part of a political and national ritual that serves for the selective perception and interpretation of history," reads a statement signed by the secretary of the Klagenfurt Diocese, Msgr. Engelbert Guggenberger.

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

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Parliament Speaker Supports Croatian Bishops' Statement on Bleiburg Ban

ZAGREB, March 9, 2019 - Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković has told reporters he fully supported a statement by the Croatian Bishops Conference (HBK) which expressed its deep disagreement with the decision by the Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia to withhold permission for this year's memorial mass at Loibach, a field near Bleiburg.

The Croatian Bishops Conference believes that "not allowing the possibility to pray for the victims of that great tragedy of the Croat people means disrespect for the victims and lack of sensitivity for the suffering of the innocent," dismissing the reasons for the decision in their entirety.

I fully support the HBK statement, Jandroković told reporters on Friday evening in the central Croatian town of Gospić where the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) held an election rally for the Lika-Senj County Assembly.

Vladimir Šeks of the HDZ also addressed reporters in Gospić on Friday evening, saying that the Organisation Committee of the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon, the Croatian parliament under whose auspices the event is held, and the Austrian regional government had already taken all steps to prevent any display of Ustasha insignia at the commemoration in Bleiburg.

The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia who surrendered to allied forces there 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.

The secretary of the Klagenfurt Diocese, Msgr. Guggenberger, said that the mass held in the field near Bleiburg "has become part of an event that is used for political purposes and is part of a political and national ritual that serves for the selective perception and interpretation of history."

In a statement that explains the decision not to grant permission for the religious service, planned for May 18 this year, the Catholic Church in Carinthia says that the decision was made after a thorough analysis of the 2018 gathering at Bleiburg as well as numerous conversations between representatives of the Austrian and Croatian bishops conferences, which also included believers of the Croat community in Carinthia and representatives of Austrian security authorities.

Even though the Bleiburg gathering is held on a private property, holding a religious service there requires permission from the local church.

Since last year Austria has been treating the Bleiburg commemoration more critically, at the initiative of several Austrian members of the European Parliament. Recently, a law went into force banning the display of Ustasha symbols, dating back to the time of the NDH.

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

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Croatian Bishops Conference Disagrees with Bleiburg Mass Ban

ZAGREB, March 9, 2019 - The Croatian Bishops Conference (HBK) on Friday expressed its deep disagreement with the decision by the Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia to withhold permission for this year's memorial mass at Loibach, a field near Bleiburg, dismissing the reasons for the decision in their entirety.

"The secretary of the Gurk Klagenfurt Diocese, Msgr Engelbert Guggenberger, has decided not to allow this year's memorial mass in the Bleiburg field. The Croatian Bishops Conference regrets that decision and expresses its deep disagreement with the reasons he stated and dismisses them in their entirety," the HBK Press Office said in a statement.

It believes that "not allowing the possibility to pray for the victims of that great tragedy of the Croat people means disrespect for the victims and lack of sensitivity for the suffering of the innocent."

The HBK recalls that its representatives and representatives of the Austrian Bishops Conference conducted talks on the commemoration of the Bleiburg tragedy on several occasions. The HBK also says that it joined activities to hold masses in Bleiburg in 2003. "In all previous years, notably in 2018, the Eucharist was celebrated in dignity as befits the Church's most dignified prayer," the HBK says in its statement.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković has been informed of the news that the Roman Catholic Church in Carinthia has rejected the HBK's request to hold a religious service at Bleiburg, and since the Bleiburg commemoration is held under the parliament's auspices, he plans first to hold talks with the organisers of the event and then decide how to proceed and coordinate future actions.

According to sources close to Jandroković, talks will first be held with the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon and the HBK, which are the organisers of the commemoration, after which a decision will be made as to what to do next.

According to unofficial reports, the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon met on Friday to discuss the matter.

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić would not comment today on the decision of the Catholic Church in Austria either, saying only that a mass was the most appropriate way to commemorate victims of World War II.

The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia who surrendered to allied forces there 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.

"One should not comment on other countries' actions... for us Bleiburg is a place of remembrance and commemoration of the victims," Pejčinović Burić told reporters.

The secretary of the Klagenfurt Diocese, Msgr. Guggenberger, said that the mass held in the field near Bleiburg "has become part of an event that is used for political purposes and is part of a political and national ritual that serves for the selective perception and interpretation of history."

In a statement that explains the decision not to grant permission for the religious service, planned for May 18 this year, the Catholic Church in Carinthia says that the decision was made after a thorough analysis of the 2018 gathering at Bleiburg as well as numerous conversations between representatives of the Austrian and Croatian bishops conferences, which also included believers of the Croat community in Carinthia and representatives of Austrian security authorities.

Even though the Bleiburg gathering is held on a private property, holding a religious service there requires permission from the local church.

Since last year Austria has been treating the Bleiburg commemoration more critically, at the initiative of several Austrian members of the European Parliament. Recently, a law went into force banning the display of Ustasha symbols, dating back to the time of the NDH.

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

Friday, 8 March 2019

Catholic Church in Austria Bans Bleiburg Mass

ZAGREB, March 8, 2019 - The Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia has turned down a request by the Croatian Bishops Conference (HBK) to hold a mass at Loibach, a field near Bleiburg because the event is used for political purposes, the local church said on Friday.

"The mass held in the field near Bleiburg has become part of an event that is used for political purposes and is part of a political and national ritual that serves for the selective perception and interpretation of history," reads a statement signed by the secretary of the Klagenfurt Diocese, Msgr. Engelbert Guggenberger.

The statement further notes that the event in Loibach harms the reputation of the Catholic Church. "... if permission for Mass is granted, the overall perception of the event could rightfully be used as a basis to accuse the Catholic Church in Carinthia of instrumentalising a religious service for political purposes and not distancing itself from the Fascist worldview," the statement said.

The decision to withhold permission for the religious service, which was planned for May 18 this year, was made after a thorough analysis of the 2018 gathering at Bleiburg as well as numerous conversations between representatives of the Austrian and Croatian bishops conferences, which also included believers of the Croat community in Carinthia and representatives of Austrian security authorities.

Even though the Bleiburg gathering is held on a private property, holding a religious service there requires permission from the Catholic Church in Carinthia.

Since last year Austria has been treating the Bleiburg commemoration more critically, at the initiative of several Austrian members of the European Parliament. Recently, a law went into force banning the display of Ustasha symbols, dating back to the time of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

The Bleiburg commemorations are held in tribute to tens of thousands of Croatian civilians and soldiers of the defeated Nazi-allied NDH who surrendered to allied forces there 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.

Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković has been informed of the news that the Roman Catholic Church in the Austrian federal state of Carinthia has rejected the Croatian Bishops Conference's (HBK) request to hold a religious service at Bleiburg, and since the Bleiburg commemoration is held under the parliament's auspices, he plans first to hold talks with the organisers of the event and then decide how to proceed and coordinate future actions.

According to sources close to Parliament Speaker Jandroković, talks will first be held with the Honorary Bleiburg Platoon and the Croatian Bishops Conference, which are the organisers of the commemoration, after which a decision will be made as to what to do next.

Foreign and European Affairs Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić would not comment on the decision of the Catholic Church in Austria either, saying only that a mass was the most appropriate way to commemorate victims of World War II. "One should not comment on other countries' actions... for us Bleiburg is a place of remembrance and commemoration of the victims," Pejčinović Burić told reporters.

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

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Austria Bans Ustasha Symbols

ZAGREB, February 12, 2019 - Austria's Federal Ministry of the Interior on Tuesday stated that it had extended a list of banned political symbols to include, among other things, two Ustasha symbols.

The list of the banned insignia, posted on the ministry's website, includes 13 flags and symbols of which most relate to Islamist and terrorist organisations, whereas two are symbols of the 1941-1945 Nazi-style Ustasha regime in Croatia.

The initiative to forbid by law those two symbols was launched by the regional authorities in Carinthia, where every year in mid-May a commemoration is held in Bleiburg in memory of victims killed in the wake of the Second World War by the Tito-led Partisans. During those commemorative events, some appear in Ustasha uniforms, display Ustasha insignia or perform the Nazi salute, for which they are regularly arrested by local police.

Austrian members of the European Parliament have requested the ban on symbols of WW2-era pro-Fascist regimes in Europe.

The list of the proscribed symbols includes also insignia of the Society of the Muslim Brothers, Hamas, Hezbollah, the Kurdish PKK party and the Turkish Grey Wolves.

The maximum fine for using the proscribed insignia is 4,000 euro, and those who repeat the offence can be fined up to 10,000 euro.

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

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Traditional Burgenland Croat Ball Held in Vienna

ZAGREB, January 20, 2019 - The 72nd traditional Burgenland Croat Ball was held in Vienna's Schoenbrunn Hotel on Saturday evening, featuring a programme of folk songs and dancing specific to the eastern Croatian region of Slavonia.

This most important annual cultural event of the Croats of Burgenland attracted nearly 1,300 Croats from Burgenland and Vienna as well as their guests from elsewhere in Austria, Croatia and neighbouring countries.

Among those attending was Gernot Bluemel, Austria's minister of culture, arts, media and EU affairs. "Austrian-Croatian bilateral relations are excellent, especially in the area of culture. Croatia is an important EU member and we cooperate very well," he told Hina.

"The Croatian ball is a nice tradition with a wonderful atmosphere and I am glad to be among its guests again," Bluemel said.

The ball was opened by the president of the Croatian Centre in Vienna, Tibor Jugović, who said: "The Croats of Burgenland are proud of this event showcasing their tradition, culture and customs, which they have been fostering for nearly five centuries in Austria."

Mijo Marić, director of the Croatian Heritage Foundation, said: "This ball shows that Croatian identity has been preserved for centuries and in it we recognise Croatian culture and customs integrated into Austrian tradition."

The programme featured performances by 12 music ensembles from Croatia, Austria and Italy.

More news on the Croatian diaspora can be found in the special section.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Croatian Prime Minister Visits Croats Living in Austria

ZAGREB, December 18, 2018 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković met representatives of Croats living in Austria on Monday and told them Croatia would continue to support their activities.

Plenković arrived in Vienna to attend the EU-Africa summit the central event of which will be held Tuesday.

"Here are the representatives of all Croatian organisations in Austria, at least in Vienna and the area," said Petar Tyran, head of the Croatian Centre in Vienna where the meeting was held.

He also informed the prime minister Croat organisations in Austria needed financial support to be able to keep the media for the Croat minority in Austria.

Plenković said it is a priority for his government to provide for Croats around the world, notably in countries in which they are an autochthonous minority, as it is the case in Austria.

"Austria is one of the main countries for Croatia's foreign trade, investments, a country that helped Croatia during the Homeland War in which you played a great role of support and understanding for everything that was happening in the homeland," Plenković told Austrian Croats.

He also mentioned the new law on citizenship which the government had forwarded to parliament and which is expected to facilitate the process of obtaining citizenship to Croats living abroad.

More news on the relations between Croatia and Austria, as well as Croats living in Austria, can be found in our Politics section.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

Croatian Wines Presented in Vienna

As part of the promotion of Croatian wines under the Wines of Croatia – Vina Mosaica brand, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce organised a promotional wine dinner in Vienna, Austria. Hosted by the director of the Vienna Wine Academy, Josef Schuller, ten Croatian wineries presented their best wines – Badel 1862, Degrassi, Dvanajščak Kozol, Feravino, Iločki Podrumi, Krauthaker, Kutjevo, PP Orahovica, Stina and Vina Belje, reports Večernji List on December 16, 2018.

“The quality of your wines is obvious, the problem is their insufficient recognizability," Schuller pointed out, adding that the problem could be solved thanks to the fact that many Austrians love to spend their holidays on the Croatian coast, where they have an opportunity to taste Croatian wines.

“And, in your country, almost every island has its wine. With good promotional activities like this dinner, bright future awaits you,” said Schuller, especially emphasising Malvasia, a wine variety which cannot be found in Austria. “The red wines from Dalmatia are a little bit more well-known among the Austrians, but I am afraid that not everybody is aware just how great these wines can be. Your Graševina is also better than the Austrian, but unfortunately, it is not well-known,” said Schuller.

Raising awareness is precisely the goal of such promotional events. “We try to use the potential we have and brand Croatia as a wine country to ultimately make the job easier for our exporters. If our autochthonous varieties win so many prizes at international competitions, why would not they be offered at the best restaurants,” asked Luka Burilović, the president of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK).

“The export trends to Austria are positive. After Bosnia and Herzegovina and Germany, Austria is the third largest export market in the wine sector. In 2017, we exported 8,500 hectolitres of wines, worth 1.2 million euro. We can reasonably expect exports to grow further,” said Burilović.

The basic idea of this kind of promotional events is to enable direct contact between wineries and customers, distributors and restaurant owners. The wines of Iločki Podrumi have found their buyers in Austria since 2017, and the Austrian market now accounts for 15 per cent of the company’s total exports.

"Our export strategy is not focused on volume, although the share of exports of our wines increases year by year,” said Karmela Tancabel, the wine export advisor at Iločki Podrumi. “Events such as these can greatly contribute to this since the structure of guests is aimed at developing business links and above all at raising awareness about Croatia,” said Tancabel.

In addition to being extremely demanding when it comes to gastronomy, the long-time wine distributor Ivo Peršinović said that the Austrians are very closed when it comes to importing foreign wines. "It is not easy to break through the Austrian market. They import only seven per cent of the wines sold, the rest are their wines,” said Peršinović, adding that the number of Austrian buyers had doubled in the last two years. “Wine dinners are the right way because gastronomy is the main promoter of wines," concluded Peršinović at the event held at the Kornat restaurant.

More news about Croatian wines can be found in our Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Croatia and Austria to Work on Defence Cooperation

ZAGREB, October 30, 2018 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević met on Tuesday with his Austrian counterpart Mario Kunasek to discuss ways to deepen the cooperation between the defence sectors of Croatia and Austria, the Croatian ministry reported.

Krstičević was on an official, reciprocal visit to Austria, after Kunasek paid an official visit to Croatia in May.

The two countries' defence sectors cooperate within the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy, and they have a well-developed cooperation in military training and education, between their military academies and with regard to the training of special forces.

"Agreement was reached to further expand cooperation in the field of defence during the Austrian minister's visit to Croatia next year, when a cooperation agreement will be signed, including cooperation between military academies, cooperation between special forces, and the exchange of experience in assistance to civilian institutions," Krstičević said after the meeting.

Kunasek said that Croatia was a very important and reliable partner to Austria, investing significant effort in the field of defence cooperation. In 2019 Croatia and Austria will organise around 40 joint activities that will expand the current agreement on defence cooperation from 1998, said Kunasek.

The two ministers also agreed to further deepen bilateral cooperation in Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects.

Together with Hungary and Slovenia, Croatia and Austria have launched a PESCO project dedicated to removing nuclear, biological and chemical threats.

Krstičević expressed satisfaction with the meeting with his Austrian counterpart, the third meeting held this year, and underlined its importance for the security of Southeast Europe.

Regional stability and border security in regional and global challenges are among shared priorities, the two ministers said.

This is just one in a series of moves by Croatian government to improve defence cooperation with countries in the European union. For more on activities of Croatia's defence ministry, click here.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Austria to Expand List of Banned Symbols, Including Ustasha Insignia

ZAGREB, October 4, 2018 - The Austrian federal coalition government on Wednesday sent to parliament a bill expanding the list of banned extremist symbols, including the insignia of Croatia's World War II Ustasha regime.

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