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.

Monday, 20 September 2021

Verdis Republic: New Self-Proclaimed Neighbour of Croatia

September 20, 2021 - Just like Liberland, another state entity saw an opportunity in unclaimed territories between the borders of Serbia and Croatia. Meet the Verdis Republic.

Despite defending its territory and sovereignty in an armed conflict back in the '90s, Croatia still has some unclear territorial issues. 

Back in 2015, a Czech citizen, Vit Jedlicka, used a piece of territory that was claimed neither by Croatia nor Serbia to good use and made himself a president of Liberland. 

„We now have 40 future embassies, a working government, a stable source of income through voluntary taxation, and a clear vision about the development of Liberland. I just finished interviews with Huffington Post and Prague Post, so there is a large ongoing interest from people, as well as from the media, in Liberland“, Jedlicka told TCN in 2015.

After only six months of existence justified by the Terra Nullius law (the first person to lay claim to unclaimed sovereign land has rights to it), Liberland allegedly had 300,000 citizenships applications, and Jedlicka granted 130 of them to people who actually managed to come to the territory of the land

„The reason why neither side had claimed the waterfront plot was simple. When discussing borders, Serbia declared it wanted everything to the east of the Danube and had no interest in anything to the west. Croatia, by contrast, wanted to stick to the land register borders of the 19th-century map when the Danube flowed differently. As there was more land on the Serbian side, they laid claim to that, meaning they did not take up any claim on what was soon to become Jedlicka's Liberland“, explained Paul Bradbury in 2019 when he wrote about four years of Liberland's existence.

But as the Liberland territory isn't the only no-man's land around the Danube region, a new state most recently wants to get the land for itself. 

„Verdis, officially the Free Republic of Verdis, is a sovereign-state claiming an uninhabited parcel of disputed land locally named as pocket 3 of the Croatia-Serbia border dispute on the western bank of the Danube, close to 'Liberland', between Croatia and Serbia. It plans to be a largely environmentally conscious and humanitarian state in Europe. The Free Republic of Verdis is currently aiming for international recognition and a permanent inhabitance on its land claim. With Verdis being the first entity to lay claim to its land-claim, it makes the land-claim legally belong to Verdis even after the Croatian-Serbian border dispute ends. This is due to international law“, says the website of the new neighbor to Croatia and Liberland.

Verdis currently only exists as a website (which tries to get as much attention as possible by contacting various news outlets such as Večernji List) but already has 1,040 citizens. Most of them are Croats and Serbs. So far, nobody lives in the territory, but there are already big plans and ideas of how the state will function. 

verdis_flag.jpg

Verdis Flag © Free Republic of Verdis
„The population of Verdis is to be divided into Representative groups, each of these groups will have 150 people in them, and there will be 100 groups in total. Every two years a representative elected by their group will sit at the House of Representatives. Here laws and regulations are voted upon. Laws that a majority of the House of Representatives agree to pass are sent to the President to sign. If the President signs the proposed law it will come into effect. If the president does not choose to sign the law, the House of Representatives might have to change parts of the law or persuade the President to pass it“, says the Verdis website.

With the plan so far, Verdis will have 13 ministries and the department of the president. As Večernji List learns, the current president is Daniel Jackson, who, despite the fact you can't vote until you are 18 neither in Croatia or Serbia, is currently 16.

„16-year Daniel Jackson that presented himself as a temporary president hopes that in five to ten years, Verdis will achieve international recognition and have enough money to settle on territory which he claims permanently“, says Večernji List. They add that in order to get citizenship, you need to pay 16 dollars. Jackson also told Večernji List that he has never been to the Verdis territory so far, only negotiated to sail through Dunav, but that the coronavirus pandemic slowed down the whole thing. He also pointed out that all his current endeavors are done with respect to international law. Verdis has also issued several passports.

 The aforementioned environmentally conscious republic has several ideas on how to make this new country eco-friendly right from the start.

„The Government of Verdis has shown increased interest in establishing hydroelectric whirlpools. Although these HW's are small, a single one can power up to 60 homes. They are small, cheap, easy to manage, and are harmless to the environment. This is the most positive plan for Verdisian electricity. As it will take time for Verdis to establish its self-sustained electricity, the government plans to rely on neighboring sovereign-states by paying for essentials until further established“, says the Verdis website.

They add that buildings themselves will be done in a modern and environmentally-conscious design. They will be built as high-rises to ensure more space on the ground.

„This will allow a large population in such a small area while also allowing a normal and decent life in such a small area similar to Monaco“, the new government promises as the president collects money to actually come and visit his country to be.

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Branko Bačić: Vučić's Call is a Provocation, Illegal to Hang Out Another Country's Flag

ZAGREB, 14 Sept, 2021 - Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) whip Branko Bačić said on Tuesday that the call by Serbia's President Aleksandar Vučić to "Serbs in all Serb lands" to hang out their Serb flags on 15 September, wherever they may be, is inappropriate, unacceptable and a provocation.

"I consider that to be a provocation and inappropriate, all the more so, because it is in violation of the law," Bačić told reporters in the Croatian Parliament, citing the Public Law and Order Act which says that displaying other countries' flags is not allowed.

I expect the Serb community to respect the law

"I expect that our fellow citizens and members of the Serb community in Croatia will respect its laws," said Bačić, underscoring that it is inappropriate and unacceptable for the "president of Serbia to call on citizens of Croatia, notably members of the Serb community in Croatia, to hang out Serbian flags in Croatia on 15 September."

Asked if the police would monitor that, Bačić said that the Croatian police perform their duties according to the law and that he believes that this will be the case tomorrow too.

"It is not particularly hard to check if someone has displayed the flag of another country in their window," said Bačić.

He rejected claims from the opposition that the government should have reacted more sharply to Vučić's call and that it did not do so because of the cooperation with its coalition partner, the Independent Serb Democratic Party (SDSS).

He underlined that HDZ is cooperating properly with its coalition partners. "The ruling majority is stable but that does not mean that we will pass over this kind of call, merely because we are in a coalition with members of national minorities," he said.

Bačić would not comment on a statement by SDSS MP Milorad Pupovac that all Serb minority institutions should hang out the Serbian flag alongside the Croatian flag and that he saw Vučić's call as an encouragement and not as an imposition.

Ruling majority is stable

Ahead of the autumn sitting of the Sabor, Bačić said that the ruling majority is stable and that the government has full support in addressing numerous challenges, from economic recovery and the fight against the pandemic to the reconstruction of earthquake-struck areas.

He expects the government to adopt amendments to the Reconstruction Act by the end of the month to accelerate the post-earthquake reconstruction of Zagreb and the Banovina region.

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

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Croatian World War 1 Memory: Research Project Investigating Memory and Heritage

September 7, 2021 - In a pool filled with social research supported by the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute, Liljana Dobrovšak leads a project to explore the Croatian World War 1 Memory. The heritage and sites of memory of this horrible historical event as well as political and social background interpreting those events will be displayed on an international round table on September the 9th and 10th, 2021.

As the past always keeps inviting us back to learn something new the history books overlook, events such as World War 1 require revisiting.

Enter ''The First World War in the Culture of Memory. Forgotten Heritage'', a scientific project led by Ljiljana Dobrovšak to dig deeper into the collective memory of this dreadful war.

''The aim of the research is to initiate a scholarly debate on the ''cultural memory'' of WW1 in Croatia based on newly acquired knowledge in order to determine its causes and why it contributed to the contemporary social phenomenon of ''forgetfulness'' related to WW1 in Croatia.

The objective of this research is to examine WW1's ''cultural memory'' in Croatia back during the time of the Kingdom of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs/Yugoslavia (and in relation to the wider region and the rest of Europe) through the systematic investigation of ''memory politics'' (legal framework), ''sites of memory'' marking practices and ''commemorative practices’' ''during the war and in the interwar period,'' explains the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute on its website.

This piece of research had two goals. The first is concerned with investigating and recording what the research calls ''sites of memory'', and to fully determine circumstances of their creation, establishment or even, in some cases, the disappearance of those places. This was done by analysing and studying actions and/or attitudes of the Croatian institutions, military and civilian associations next to the central Belgrade institutions, military and civilian organisations towards ''sites of memory'' related to the WW1 in Croatia.

The second goal concerns situating these ''sites of memory'' in a wider socio-political context. This way, researchers can investigate how, at the time, the Yugoslav legal framework of memory politics is developed towards its formation through commemorative practices on its territory, as well as, attitudes of the Yugoslav state and central institutions in Belgrade towards Croatian citizens as members of the Austro-Hungarian Army who died fighting for the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.

''The overall result of this predominantly historical research project which is multidisciplinary in character is not only expanded knowledge about neglected and insufficiently researched Croatian cultural and historical heritage but more importantly; the acquired knowledge which enables the scientific and cultural integration of the Croatian WW1 memory, more precisely cultural memory, and its valorised historical heritage into the wider socio-historical European context,'' concludes the Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute.

The project started in 2020 and will last until 2023. However, even now, the research has moved far enough to hold an international scientific round table regarding the matter.
The round table lasting from September 9-10 will see lectures from scientists from Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), and Croatia.

The event will be held at Ivo Pilar Social Research Institute's multimedia hall in Zagreb, at Marko Marulić Square 19. However, due to the current epidemiological measures, the number of seats at the hall is limited. But never fear, as you can follow the discussions and lectures live via a Zoom meeting (Meeting ID: 892 6457 0158 Passcode: 316547).

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

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

Saturday, 7 August 2021

Jandroković: Attack in Subotica Prompted by Serbian President’s Rhetoric

ZAGREB, 7 Aug, 2021 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Saturday the rhetoric used by the president of Serbia and Serbian officials was the reason for a recent physical and verbal attack on Croats in Subotica.

Asked if the attack could be the result of the two countries' policies, Jandroković said the situation in the two countries could not be compared.

"The celebration of Operation Storm in Croatia is dignified. We celebrate our victory in the Homeland War without disparaging anyone. We have a good cooperation with representatives of all ethnic minorities, including the Serbs, and the rhetoric used by Serbia's president and senior officials is probably to blame for some people feeling the urge to physically or verbally threaten members of the Croat people," Jandroković told the N1 broadcaster when asked about an attack on five Croatian nationals in Subotica which local police said was due to a row over a parking space.

The Croat National Council said on Friday that five Croatian nationals were physically and verbally assaulted and their relative was lightly injured when an unidentified man attacked them in Subotica but local police denied it.

Jandroković also said that Serbia should face the truth and accept responsibility for the events of the 1990s.

"That is a precondition for better cooperation. We must all be forward-looking, there is no use in turning to the past," he said.

Speaking of wildfires that have been raging for days in Greece and Turkey, Jandroković called for developing international solidarity.

"We received help from them when the region of Banija was hit by (last year's) earthquake," he said, adding that Croatia was currently able to provide assistance to Greece and Turkey.

Jandroković once again called for compliance with epidemiological restrictions, expressing hope the tourist season would last not only until the end of August but the end of September.

The parliament speaker was today in Imotski, where he attended a ceremony marking 120 years of fire-fighting in the Imotska Krajina region and the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Imotski Voluntary Fire Department.

For latest news about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 7 August 2021

Croatian Citizens Attacked in Subotica, Police Deny It

ZAGREB, 7 Aug, 2021 - Five Croatian citizens have been physically and verbally attacked and a cousin of theirs lightly injured by an unknown man in Subotica, northern Serbia, the Croatian National Council (HNV) said on Friday, but local police denied it.

The incident occurred on 2 August when the man physically attacked the passengers in a car with Zagreb licence plates, saying he would "slaughter all Ustasha" and swearing at them, said Darko Baštovanović, an official of the HNV, the Croatian minority's umbrella organisation in Serbia.

Asked by the passengers' cousin, Z. B., why he was doing that, the man grabbed him by the throat and threw him to the ground, lightly injuring him. Z. B. then called the police, which arrived on the scene but did not give him a report on the attack, Baštovanović said.

Subotica police, however, said in a statement the claims that Z. B. was injured were incorrect and that the Croatians did not report being physically attacked, the suboica.com website said.

Police said Z. B. told them "that a man insulted and grabbed him by the throat over a parking disagreement, but did not mention that his cousins from Croatia had been injured or physically assaulted."

Officers spoke to six of Z. B.'s family members who "did not complain about being physically attacked by that man."

Police said they identified the perpetrator, a 63-year-old man of Subotica, in half an hour, interviewing him and sending the case to the prosecutors.

According to suboica.com, the police called "on all local subjects" to contact them "for correct and verified information, instead of spreading incorrect and unverified information in public, because in that way they are harming the good inter-ethnic relations that are traditionally nurtured in Subotica."

The HNV said it stuck by its claims despite the police statement, condemning "the brutal attack on ethnic grounds" and saying "it is yet another in a series of attacks against the Croatian community in Serbia, which we believe have also been caused by the continuous negative coverage on Croats in Serbian media."

The HNV said the latest case showed in what conditions the Croatian community lived and to what it was exposed, adding that it was especially worried that the attack occurred in Subotica, a multiethnic city and the cultural centre of the Croatian people and Croatian institutions in Serbia.

Baštovanović said Serbian authorities were obliged to respond appropriately because this time Croatian citizens were attacked also, adding that taking appropriate action would prevent inter-ethnic incidents and the further deterioration of Croatian-Serbian relations.

For more news about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, 25 July 2021

Would Nikola Tesla Have Preferred to be on a Croatian or Serbian Coin?

July 26, 2021 - A global citizen equally proud of his Serb origin and Croat homeland, what would Nikola Tesla have made of the latest Balkan political row over his identity?

It is almost 80 years since the genius that was Nikola Tesla died alone in a New York hotel room, the end of an extraordinary life of invention and creativity that changed the world for the better. 

He certainly deserves to be remembered and celebrated for all he contributed, but the latest proposed recognition of his genius has once more ignited a Balkan political row and fired up the Internet's army of Balkan keyboard warriors. 

It wasn't long after starting Total Croatia News 6 years ago that I learned that the two most clickbait evergreen topics which would attract tons of aggressive comments were the origins of Nikola Tesla and anything that mentioned the word Tito. As such, I have learned to avoid referring to either for the most part, but the latest row regarding Tesla's origins has included statements from the Croatian President, as well as both Croatian and Serbian Prime Ministers.

Someone once told me that the quickest way to start a lively negative debate on Facebook in this region is to invite thoughts on whether Tesla was a Serb or a Croat. It is a question that the Serb authorities take very seriously, as appears to be the case once again after Nikola Tesla was voted to appear as a symbol of Croatia on three coins when Croatia eventually joins the EU.  

Before we dive into the quagmire, it is worth recalling Tesla's own words on the subject, back in 1936:

"I am equally proud of my Serb origin and my Croat homeland. Long live all Yugoslavs."

A nice, balanced statement paying tribute to the two nationalities with which he clearly associated, even though he went on to be an American citizen. Nobody disputes that he was ethnically Serb, or that he was born and grew up in Smiljan, a small village in what is today modern Croatia. 

But then things get interesting. Serbia claims Tesla as their own - and ONLY theirs - there is no question that Tesla is anything but a Serb, despite the great man professing equal pride at his Croat homeland. Serbia has certainly done a great job at getting the message out there, even naming its main international airport after him. But the proud Serbs who claim him as their own fail to mention a couple of relevant facts. Tesla never had Serbian citizenship, and he only actually spent 31 hours in Serbia in his entire life, a solitary visit in 1892. If you travel to Serbia to search for places that Tesla spent time or created things, then you are going to be disappointed, as there is nothing to see, apart from his ashes which were transferred to Belgrade in 1952. Hardly surprising, given that he only spent 31 hours of his life in Serbia. 

nikola-tesla-ethnicity_1.jpg

The claim that he was born in Croatia should also be clarified, as Croatia was not an independent country at the time of his birth, rather part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Smiljan was in the zone of the Military Frontier at the time, and his citizenship was Austrian, before he bcame an American later in life. Having said that, the quote above shows that Tesla identified with both his Serb ethnicity and Croatian homeland. 

There is, of course, a certain irony - given the nationalist passions in some quarters of this region - of Serbia objecting to the celebration of a Serb on a Croatian coin, but that is perhaps another discussion. 

What can also not be disputed is that Smiljan today is firmly within the boundaries of modern Croatia. And for those looking for evidence of Tesla's formative years, there is plenty to explore, from the visitor centre at Smiljan, his school in Karlovac, the surrounding nature which inspired him, and the city of Sibenik, which was the first city in the world to have street lights powered by alternating current. It is probably worth mentioning that had Tesla's education and life experience continued in this region, he would probably not have fulfilled his potential, as it was only once he got to the States and was exposed to bigger things that he flourished. 

As I wrote a couple of years ago in It is Time for Croatia to Claim its Nikola Tesla Heritage, Croatia has thus far done a terrible job marketing its Tesla heritage, and it is one of the several gifts that it possesses which are totally underutilised. The birthplace of Tesla should be a global attraction, and one which is there to inspire the minds of the next generation. It could - and should - be developed for that purpose, rather than the very poor effort that we have at the moment at Smiljan - there was not even a cafe the last time I visited. Combining the Tesla story with the huge success of Croatia's 21st-century innovator, Mate Rimac, is a compelling story which will bring more interest not just to Croatia, but to the wider region. 

Would Tesla have preferred to be represented on a Croatian or Serbian coin 80 years after his death? He would probably not have had to choose, as Serbia will also get to choose its motifs for the coins if and when it adopts the euro. And wouldn't it be nice for him to be commemorated by both, given that he was equally proud of his association to both?

Just as Nikola Tesla was equally proud of his Serb origins and his Croat homeland, wouldn't it be nice if his Serb origins and Croat homeland could agree to celebrate the genius of a man who gave the world so much, rather than try and score cheap political points?

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Milanović: Once Serbia Enters Euro Zone, Let It Propose Tesla As Well

ZAGREB, 24 July, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović on Saturday commented on the reactions from Belgrade following the announcement that Croatia will put the image of scientist Nikola Tesla on euro coins, saying that "once Serbia enters the euro zone, let it propose Tesla as well." 

Writing in a Facebook post, Milanović recalled a failed initiative by the Serb National Council (SNV) of more than ten years ago to establish "a Serb ethnic bank" in Croatia that was to be named after Nikola Tesla.

The initiative was launched in cooperation with "the state leadership and a development fund of Serbia, which allocated nearly five million euro of Serbian taxpayers' money for that purpose", and the SNV's idea was also for Croatia to make its contribution to the initial capital.

"The entire project for an ethnic bank was half forgotten over time, primarily because it was untenable businesswise," Milanović said. 

Milanović, who had served as prime minister at the time, said that he and his finance minister, Slavko Linić, had tried to find a solution, but to no avail, despite the millions of euro from Belgrade and the Croatian contribution. "Our intentions were sincere, but it didn't work."

"It's all right when a financial institution (Tesla Bank) should be established with the joint financial support of Croatia and Serbia. In that case, I guess, Tesla is our common heritage. When Croatia, a forthcoming member of the euro zone, proposes that Tesla should be on a coin, that is cultural appropriation according to Serbia's central bank," Milanović said, adding in conclusion: "Once Serbia enters the euro zone, let it propose Tesla as well and everyone will be happy." 

For more news about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Construction of Croatian House in Subotica Begins

ZAGREB, 26 June 2021 - The construction of the Croatian House in the northern Serbian city of Subotica has begun, the Croatian National Council (HNV) announced on Friday.

The realisation of this largest infrastructure project of the Croatian minority in Serbia, which is financially supported by the Croatian government, began two months after the laying of the foundation stone. The construction is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

The Croatian House will be home to the only three professional institutions of the Croats in Serbia. It is the result of joint efforts by the Croatian government, the Croatian State Office for Croats Abroad, and the Croatian minority in Serbia.

The start of the construction work coincided with a holiday of the Croatian community in Serbia and was attended by a representative of the State Office for Croats Abroad, Milan Bošnjak.

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

Thursday, 13 May 2021

Zagreb-Belgrade Flixbus Line to be Reintroduced After Year Long Absence

May the 13th, 2021 - Following an entire year of coronavirus pandemic induced absence, the Zagreb-Belgrade Flixbus line will be reintroduced, facilitating cheap road travel between the two capital cities.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Darko Bicak writes, thanks to the increasingly favourable epidemiological situation and the growing vaccination rate here in Croatia, as well as in neighbouring Serbia and various other European countries, the need for movement is finally increasing again.

Consequently, the Zagreb-Belgrade FlixBus line will re-establish international bus lines to Serbia up to four times a week as of this month, more precisely as of May the 20th, thus connecting the Croatian and Serbian capitals regularly and cheaply once again.

"We intended to start opening the network of lines to Serbia earlier than this, as we did with other European countries where epidemiological conditions allowed for that earlier. Unfortunately, this wasn't possible before now, but the demand of passengers for travel, which is visibly growing as the epidemiological situation gradually improves, prompted us to start with the Zagreb-Belgrade Flixbus line again anyway,'' explained Ante Grbesa, the director of the FlixBus CEE South region.

Given the optimistic expectations surrounding the improving epidemiological situation more or less all across Europe, FlixBus will launch all of the international lines in May and June on which it operated back in pre-pandemic 2019.

This season, Flixbus will once again connect Croatia with fifty destinations in eight countries, which are also key emitting markets for Croatia. These include Germany, Slovenia, Poland, Austria, Italy, the Czech Republic, and neighbouring Hungary and Serbia.

''The epidemiological measures are easing across many European countries and together with our bus partners, we're looking forward to returning on an ever-increasing scale. We hope that the situation will allow us to do that, and that the planned opening of most of the network of lines from the record year of 2019 will be completely fulfilled again,'' concluded Grbesa.

For more, follow our travel section.

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