Friday, 24 April 2020

MPs Harshly Respond to Statements by 2 MPs on Ethnic Minorities

ZAGREB, April 24, 2020 - During a parliamentary debate on the implementation of the constitutional law on ethnic minority rights in 2018 on Friday, SDP lawmaker Gordan Maras and independent MP Mario Vučetić accused MPs Miro Bulj and Hrvoje Zekanović of spreading intolerance and hatred.

Vučetić and Maras said that citizens were fed up with attempts by individuals to parasitise on ethnic minorities and on negative context.

Those who spread intolerance and hatred do not wish good for Croatia, and stupid nationalists are in favour of a model of governing like that in Serbia, they said in response to previous statements made by Bulj and Zekanović.

Bulj, a parliamentary deputy of the MOST party, said that ethnic minorities in Croatia were exercising their rights to a great extent, however, this was not the case with ethnic Croats in Serbia who were, he said, exposed to mobbing.

Bulj raised the question of reciprocity considering the respective minorities in Croatia and Serbia. In that context he recalled that ethnic Serbs have three seats allotted to them in the Sabor, on the other hand there was no allotted seat for Croats in Serbia.

Furthermore, Serbia sets aside one kuna per each member of the ethnic Croat community, while Croatia allocates 37 kuna for each member of the ethnic Serb community, he added.

Zekanović of the Sovereigntists Party, wondered whether the Serb National Council would be included in efforts to take on the burden of the corona crisis considering austerity measures, and in that context he raised the question whether millions of kuna would still be allocated to "that and other associations that spread hate speech."

He went on to say that although ethnic minorities are a benefit for Croatia's society, he insisted that it should not be forgotten that members of an ethnic minority took up arms against Croatia 30 years ago.

"We have not heard the leader of that minority offering a sincere apology," he said accusing the current government of being "a Croat-Serb-Roma coalition."

The parliamentary deputy of the Czech and Slovak minorities, Vladimir Bilek, responded that minorities should be seen as bridges between Croatia and other countries.

He said that in the past few years, Czechia and Slovakia had provided some 25 million kuna for infrastructure investments in Croatia.

Ante Babić of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that Croatia was investing efforts to make sure that the status of ethnic Croats in Serbia could be improved. We would like their status to be improved, however that also depends on the other side, Babić said.

Public Administration Minister Ivan Malenica said that in 2018, a total of 173 million kuna was spent on the implementation of the law on ethnic minority rights, 29 million kuna more than in 2017.

More news about national minorities in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 21 February 2020

Parliamentary Vote on Census Bill Postponed until Next Friday

ZAGREB, February 21, 2020 - The Croatian parliament has postponed until next Friday a vote on 20-odd items on its agenda, including a bill on the population census scheduled for the spring next year, which sparked a heated debate and led to three deputies of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leaving the chamber.

"My colleagues from the HDZ group have informed me that the group representing the ethnic minorities will hold additional consultations, so the vote will be next Friday," Speaker Gordan Jandroković said after a break which was preceded by a heated debate.

Things escalated during the debate on amendments to the census bill tabled by the ethnic minorities group. The proposed amendments were first rejected by a government representative and then by MPs, after which Vladimir Bilek, MP for the Czech and Slovak minorities, requested a recess so that the group could agree on how to vote on the bill.

Rejected was the amendment in which the minority MPs proposed that citizens be allowed to say that they have more than one mother tongue and the amendment concerning the appointment of census takers from among the ethnic minorities.

Zdravko Zrinušić, state secretary at the Ministry of Finance, said that everyone is free to declare their mother tongue and that the introduction of "two modalities" could lead to unreliable results and unclear answers, as a result of which data might not be comparable with previous census data.

Speaking of census takers, Zrinušić said that before every census the National Bureau of Statistics prepares instructions specifying the criteria for census takers and that it will be so this time too.

"During the selection process county election commissions will be required to take into account the representation of members of ethnic minorities among census takers in areas populated by ethnic minorities," he said.

Branko Bačić of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said that next year's census would be the fourth since 1991 and that the same rules had applied to all the previous censuses.

Parliament voted on four of 29 items planned and added 12 more items to the agenda, including a motion to relieve Dražen Jelenić of his duties as chief state attorney.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

World Day of Romani Language Marked in Croatia

ZAGREB, November 6, 2019 - The World Day of Romani Language was marked in Croatia on Tuesday as one of three holidays of the Roma community in the country.

"Our work over the last ten years on promoting the Romani language and marking the World Day of Romani Language has been a very successful project through which we have preserved some of the valuable material for future generations and restored a sense of pride to the Roma community," Veljko Kajtazi, the MP for the Roma minority, told a ceremony marking the World Day of Romani Language in Zagreb.

Speaking of the Roma community's achievements and plans for the future, Kajtazi cited an expanded edition of the Romani-Croatian Dictionary covering over 30,000 words. He added that a Roma Memorial Centre would be opened in August next year on the site of a WWII concentration camp for Roma at Uštica near Jasenovac, and that the founding of a central library for the Roma in Croatia was under way.

"We will collect all relevant literature from the Roma community in one place, save its rich tradition and culture from oblivion and make it available to the general public for the first time. This will also make us unique in the world," Kajtazi said.

The head of the University of Zagreb, Damir Boras, said that a program of Romani studies was being prepared as part of the Department for Indology and Far East Studies at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Zagreb, and that the Romani language and literature were already being taught.

The World Day of Romani Language has been organised by the Kali Sara Alliance of Roma in Croatia since 2009. This initiative was embraced by the UNESCO General Assembly in 2015 and today it is marked in at least 15 countries.

More news about the Roma in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 28 October 2019

Most Croats Consider Minorities Acceptable in Highest Positions, But Not in Their Families

ZAGREB, October 28, 2019 - Most Croats would not mind a person with a disability, a person of a different skin colour, religion or ethnic background than the majority or an LGBTI person holding the highest elected position in the country, while at the same time slightly more than a half would not feel comfortable if their child was in a love relationship with a same-sex person, shows a special Eurobarometer survey on discrimination in the EU.

Last Thursday the European Commission published the findings of the special Eurobarometer in which citizens of all 28 EU member-countries were asked about their views on discrimination and social acceptability of groups at risk of discrimination.

The survey, published on October 24, was conducted on May 9-25 and covered 27,438 persons from the 28 member-countries.

Most Croats would have nothing against the highest elected political position being held by a woman (89%), a person perceived as young (81%), a person with a disability (83%), a person perceived as old (80%), a persons of a different skin colour than the majority population (68%), a person of a different religion than the majority (71%), or a person of a different ethnic background (68%).

Asked how they would feel if that position was held by a homosexual, lesbian or bisexual, 45% of those polled said they would feel comfortable, 15% said they would feel moderately comfortable, while 35% said they would feel uncomfortable.

As for an intersex person holding the highest elected political position, 37% said they would feel comfortable about it, while 36% would feel comfortable about such a position being occupied by a transgender person.

Most respondents, or 54%, would feel comfortable about a Roma person holding the highest political position, 19% would feel moderately comfortable and 24% would feel uncomfortable.

As regards the respondents' children, the survey shows a lower level of tolerance towards persons belonging to minority groups.

When asked how comfortable they would feel if one of their children was in a love relationship with a white person, 87% said they would feel comfortable, 87% said they would feel comfortable about their child being in a relationship with a Christian person, 76% said they would feel comfortable about their child being in a relationship with a young person, 65% would feel comfortable about an atheist person, 64% about a person with a disability, 57% about a Jewish person, 46% about an Asian person, 45% about a black person, 48% about a Buddhist person, 35% about an old person, 25% about a person of the same sex as their child, 47% would feel comfortable about a Muslim person, 36% about a Roma person, 19% about an intersex person and 18% about a transgender person.

The least acceptable relationship is one with a transgender person - 57% of the respondents said they would feel uncomfortable about their child being in such a relationship, 55% would feel uncomfortable about their child being in a love relationship with a transsexual and 54% would feel uncomfortable about their child being in a relationship with a person of the same sex.

Compared with a survey of four years ago, the share of those who would feel totally uncomfortable about their son or daughter being in a same-sex relationship has grown from 40 to 41%, while the share of those who would feel totally comfortable about it is 11%, the same as four years ago.

While 93% of Dutch respondents would find it totally acceptable if their prime minister was a homosexual, in Bulgaria that share is 17%. Three percent of Bulgarians find it totally acceptable to have a same-sex son-in-law or daughter-in-law, while 69% of Dutch and Swedish respondents think so.

An average 69% of respondents in the EU would feel comfortable if their child was in a love relationship with a Jewish person, which is 9% more than in 2015, and 55% would find it acceptable if their child was of the same-sex sexual orientation, 11% more than four years ago.

More statistics about Croatia can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

Multi-Cultural Tourism Project Presented at Roma House near Bjelovar

ZAGREB, October 27, 2019 - A 1.4 million kuna project "Experience multi-cultural tourism!", financed entirely with money from EU funds, was presented at the Roma House in the village of Maglenca near Bjelovar on Saturday.

The Bjelovar-based Adepto Open University, in cooperation with a company which owns a hotel in Garešnica, has developed the project, designed to help vulnerable groups access the labour market in the tourism sector. The project is based on unique food products of the numerous ethnic minorities living in Bjelovar-Bilogora County.

Of Croatia's 22 ethnic minorities, as many as 21 live in that county.

The main purpose of the 14-month project is to develop three new, unique market-based education programmes - for cooks of multi-ethnic food, hosts of multicultural events, and on-line sale and booking agents. The programmes are especially intended for vulnerable groups and job-seekers in the tourism and restaurant sectors.

Education programmes will be simultaneously attended by mentors so that they can perfect their communication skills.

Alen Kaminski of the Adeptio Open University said that as one of the strategic and fastest growing economic branches in Croatia and the rest of the world, tourism was faced with problems which formal education could not adequately respond to due to the speed of development and changes in the habits of users of tourism products.

The EU has recognised that problem and this project is a result of that, he said.

"We want to improve relations between the private market and the education sector, enable the transfer of competence and eventually develop three entirely new market-based training programmes," Kaminski said.

More news about national minorities in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Hungarian Minority MP Leaves Parliamentary Group of Zagreb Mayor Bandić

ZAGREB, September 25, 2019 - The chairman of the Work and Solidarity Party's parliamentary group, led by Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, Robert Jankovics, told reporters on Wednesday that he had left the group, but would continue to support the parliamentary majority.

Jankovics, who represents the Hungarian minority in the Croatian parliament, said that from now on he would work solely through the group of lawmakers representing ethnic minorities.

"The differences among members of the group have become too great for me and they are no longer just conceptual but substantial as well," Jankovics said without revealing the reasons for his departure. He added that he did not want to speak badly of his colleagues.

The Work and Solidarity Party, led by Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić, now has 11 MPs in the 151-seat parliament.

Jankovics had said earlier that the only condition for him to join the party's group was to support the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovič.

The mayor of Zagreb and leader of the Labour and Solidarity Party, Milan Bandić, said on Wednesday that Robert Jankovics obviously did not feel well in his skin considering that the parliamentary group and therefore also its responsibility were great, noting that there were no problems in the parliamentary group.

Bandić said that he was not worried by Jankovics's departure or by the possibility that his parliamentary group might fall apart.

Noting that he had talked with Jankovics two days ago, Bandić said: "He chose to go his own way and I wish him well, just as I wish everyone else well. As for the reasons of his departure, you should ask him. I have no problem with Mr Jankovics or with anyone else."

He said that Kazimir Varda, who is also the vice-president of the Labour and Solidarity Party, would be the new head of the parliamentary group, succeeding Jankovics.

Considering that Jankovics sad that he was leaving because of substantial differences, reporters asked Bandić about the nature of those differences, to which he referred them to Jankovics, noting that as far as he was aware, there were no problems.

He would not speculate as to whether the ruling HDZ party was behind the latest developments, which, as the Opposition claims, wants to weaken Bandić's influence in the parliament.

More news about Zagreb Mayor Bandić can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

President says Pupovac Criticises Croatia in Malicious Manner

ZAGREB, September 12, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Wednesday sent a letter to Independent Democratic Serb Party president Milorad Pupovac, telling him that she closely follows his public statements in which he criticises Croatia "in an entirely inappropriate, unacceptable and malicious manner."

The president says she is determined in her intention that Croatian citizens should build a country of peace, understanding and prosperity, and that she regrets that Pupovac has not carefully read her letter to him from 2016, which she encloses with the latest one.

"I consider that my obligation also because of the 10,000 members of the Serb nationality who, in defending their homeland Croatia from the Greater Serbia aggressor, confirmed their patriotism and have never undermined it by moral patronising, particularly not by political blackmail, although they have the right and the obligation, as Croatian citizens, to point to potential anomalies which, unfortunately, are part of the growing up of every society, but not to the extent that some would like to make it seem and thus cause damage to the state they live in," the president says in the latest letter.

In a letter of 13 February 2016, the president condemned threats and hate speech against a number of public figures and organisations, but added that among them were some who for years, through their public activity, had been provoking, irritating and even insulting the majority of the Croatian population, untruthfully depicting and even ridiculing the Homeland War, essentially denying the reality, and implicitly the very idea of the Croatian state, thereby creating a climate of tension, exclusion and intolerance.

In that letter, she also said one should condemn actions aimed against the equality, safety and dignity of political, ethnic and other minorities in Croatia, just as one should condemn every action that offended the Croatian people and any other majority community.

More news about Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Abusive Graffiti Sprayed at Entrance of Village Where Pupovac Was Born

ZAGREB, September 10, 2019 - The Zadar police administration was informed on Monday morning about the appearance of insulting graffiti at the entrance to the village of Cerane Donje, the village were Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac was born.

The police stated that an investigation was under way. The graffiti sprayed on the posts were removed in the meantime.

According to the Novosti newspaper, the abusive messages of the graffiti were directed against the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Pupovac as well as Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

One of the messages was "Kill the Serbs!", and the other read that the terror of the Great Serbia lunatic against the whole of Croatia is the consequence of the "Plenković's sick policy" of making Croatia and the HDZ party free of extremism, clerical fascism and nationalism. The Novosti newspaper also claimed that this was actually a headline in one of the recent issues of the "Hrvatski Tjednik" weekly.

More news about Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Minorities' Inclusion in Parliamentary Majority Necessary for Sound Politics

ZAGREB, September 3, 2019 - Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Andrej Plenković has reiterated that for a sound political culture and tolerant climate, it is necessary to have representatives of ethnic minorities included in the parliamentary majority.

In his address to the press in Monday, Plenković recalled that the present-day Croatia in 2019 is a country that "has accomplished all its national tasks: democracy, freedom, independence, peaceful reintegration, membership of the European Union and NATO. All that is relevant is solved by us as a state."

"As far as the need for the inclusion of representatives of minorities in the parliamentary majority is concerned, my position is that it is necessary for a sound political culture and tolerant climate," Plenković said in response to questions about the future developments regarding the relations in the ruling majority.

It is now on Croatia to settle the remaining matters in a level-headed, rational and responsible matter in order to develop itself as a tolerant and Europe-oriented society where minorities feel safe and well, he added.

For the Croatians it cannot be anything more positive than when minorities feel well in the contemporary Croatia that has solved all essential issues and now it is supposed to make progress economy-wise and socially, Plenković said in his comment on speculations whether the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) would stay or go out of the ruling coalition.

Plenković said that it was on the SDSS leadership to present its position.

"We will talk. I must find some time in my busy schedule for talks with (SDSS leader Milorad) Pupovac," Plenković said. The Croatian premier again refuted Pupovac's claims about an intolerant social climate in Croatia and Pupovac's attempts to compare the contemporary Croatia to the 1941-1945 NDH regime.

More news about national minorities in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Suspect Who Hurt 70-Year Ethnic Serb in Rijeka to Be Detained in 30-day Custody

ZAGREB, August 25, 2019 - A 42-year-old man, who was arrested in Saturday on charges of threats and infliction of bodily harm to a 70-year-old man in Rijeka based on the victim's ethnic background, will be detained in investigative custody for 30 days, the Rijeka police stated on Sunday.

The suspect, who is a public employee in the civil protection administration, has been also suspended from his job.

The 42-year-old man was arrested at the Rupe border crossing on Saturday morning on suspicion that he committed a criminal offence of threat in an incident in a car park in Rijeka's suburb of Viškovo on 20 August when the suspect and the 70-year-old man had an argument about the parking place. In the incident, the suspect uttered insults against the 70-year-man based on the latter's ethnic background and slightly injured the old man who informed the media that he had been beaten due to his ethnic Serb background.

More news about Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

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