Tuesday, 24 August 2021

30th Anniversary of Military Police Marked

ZAGREB, 24 Aug, 2021 - The 30th anniversary of the establishment of the first Croatian military police unit was commemorated in Odra near Sisak on Tuesday.

A memorial plaque was unveiled on that occasion at the Odra Community Centre by the head of the Croatian Armed Forces Military Police Directorate, Lieutenant General Mate Laušić, and Brigadier Ivica Kranjčević, an envoy for President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović.

Addressing the event, Laušić recalled that military police had a special role in the 1991-95 war and that their work had been characterised by professionalism, education and resolve.

Kranjčević said that the first military police unit comprised a small group of honourable men with a strong feeling of patriotism, great resolve and professionalism, who knew how to act appropriately at any time during the Homeland War.

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

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Roma in the Homeland War: More Research on Defending Croatia Needed

August 5, 2021 - When talking about the fight for Croatian independence, the public often tends to forget about the contributions of minorities such as Roma in the Homeland War. TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac reminds us of a 2019 book that researched Roma participation in defending Croatia, which is a great starting point for further research today.   

Croatia is marking the 26th Anniversary of Operation Storm, a military action that, on August 5, 1995, marked the liberation of occupied territory (apart from Eastern Slavonia, which was returned to Croatia later on during peaceful reintegration).

Victory Day is filled with pride, but for some, there is a shade of bitterness as a result of the questionable treatment of civilians and prisoners of war that to this day continues to divide the opinion of the Croatian public and remains a topic of numerous historical debates.

As noticed by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), things changed significantly in 2020. This came as a result of moves made by Croatian politicians, not only with words but also by their honouring of Serbian civilian victims in Varivode and Gruber.

''Last year's anniversary was marked by changes in the official policy towards Operation Storm (Oluja), known in Croatia as Victory Day (Dan Pobjede) and Homeland Thanksgiving Day (Dan Domovinske Zahvalnosti). August 2020 saw the public space filled with messages about reconciliation, dialogue, the importance of facts, condolences for war crime victims, and appeals for a conversation about different views on Operation Storm in both Croatia and Serbia,'' said YIHR.

With 2020 evoking feelings of sympathy for all victims of the Homeland War, a significant step was also made back in 2019 to recognise that not only ethnic Croats fought for the freedom and independence of their country. 

We defended Croatia Too: Roma People in the Homeland War“, is a monography by Borna Marinić which was presented in 2019. It was the first publication to gather info on the contribution made in the war by the often discriminated against and socially isolated minority in Croatia. The presentation was held in the "Zvonimir Home" of the Croatian military in Zagreb. The publication was the first to really delve into the contribution of Roma in the Homeland War.

The promotion gathered many VIP attendees of political and military Croatian authorities at the time. Marinić, a historian and the editor of the website ''Dogodilo se na Današnji Dan'' (It Happened on This Day), pointed out that not a lot is known about the actions of the Roma in the Homeland War, and this lack of documentation was the biggest problem he had to tackle when it came to verbal storytelling from witnesses.

''I visited Roma veterans and their commanders as well as other relevant people across Croatia, recording their statements and testimonies about the Homeland War,'' said Marinić. His research saw more than 50 people interviewed, but the total count of Roma people who participated in the war still remains unknown.

Dr. Martin Previšić pointed out while reviewing the book that it doesn't provide readers with a linear story of the war's history, but rather an authentic view on the hell of wartime and the solidarity which trumped very many differences. 

''Vukovar, Baranja, Pakrac, Novska, and Karlovac were places in which Croatia was defended, but they were also places where Roma people gave their tribute to that same defense,'' said Previšić.

Veljko Kajtazi, a member of the Croatian Parliament, elected as a representative of the Roma community, attended the representation, delighted to see that this important but unexplored subject was finally being tackled by a researcher in the first-ever book published on the topic. He pointed out, however, that this book cannot be viewed as an encyclopedia as it didn't record the experiences of all Roma people, nor does it have all of the information from all fronts, but it is a terrific base for further research.

''I'm grateful to my fellow Roma people who shared their stories and whose faith is the cornerstone of this book. I felt the obligation for Roma people to come forward and present themselves in a different light. Roma people, in large numbers, defended Croatia and gave their contribution to the defense in key moments,'' concluded Kajtazi.

Kajtazi talked about the need for Roma people to begin presenting themselves in a different light and stated that there are definitely numerous issues caused by stereotypes that Roma people are involved in crime and as such can't be trusted. 

As TCN previously wrote, The Human Rights in Croatia 2020 Overview report by Human Rights House Zagreb noticed how Roma people in Croatia still face very many obstacles in achieving their rights, which include employment, access to services, and adequate living standards, and there is still segregation in the Croatian education system too.

Additionally, the global issue of COVID-19 brought new problems for Roma people in regard to vaccination against COVID-19, a topic both Kajtazi and the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) spoke about for TCN.

Roma people helped Croatia during the darkest of its days as a new and young country. Respecting and working on actively including Roma people in our society as equals is the very least Croatia can do in return.

Learn more about Croatian politics and history from the 1990s on our TC page.

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

Wednesday, 4 August 2021

President Zoran Milanović: There's no Boycott, Some Generals Received Invitation Too Late

ZAGREB, 4 Aug, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that the fact that some of the army generals will not attend the Victory Day celebration in Knin is not a boycott, but that they received invitations too late.

Who has announced a boycott? Ljubo Ćesić Rojs has not. Josip Đakić is not a general, he is a bum, and a member of parliament, in other words he is nobody. Rojs will be there, Pavao Miljavac will be there and Ante Kotromanović will be there. Of course, not everyone can come every year, but most  people will be there," Milanović said during a visit to the southern town of Sinj.

He said he did not think there was any pressure on some of the generals by the Defence Ministry "because no one can exert pressure on those people," but noted that some of the generals and commanders were put in an awkward position because they received the invitation the day before the event, which was the ministry's responsibility.

During the visit, Milanović conferred high state medals on retired Brigadier Dušan Viro and posthumously on Franciscan Frane Bilokapić for their acts of humanity during the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

He said he did not consider the decoration of General Mladen Kruljac disputable even though he had been found guilty of corruption. "He is a war commander and is decorated what he did in the war. No one is perfect, but what he did in the war is without a doubt impeccable, and he is not the only one."

Judge Dobronić is my candidate for Supreme Court President

Answering questions from the press, Milanović confirmed that 61-year-old Judge Radovan Dobronić is his candidate for the position of Supreme Court President.

He has responded to the call for applications and "now we will see what will those who undermined, torpedoed and dishonoured my previous candidate do," Milanović said, describing Dobronić as smart, educated, honourable and incorruptible.

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

Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Defense Minister Mario Banožić: Problem of Substance Abuse Among Military Personnel Under Scrutiny

ZAGREB, 28 July, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Božinović said on Wednesday the Croatian Armed Forces had zero tolerance for drug abuse, and in the context of the latest drug abuse cases, the minister announced stricter control and disciplinary measures aimed at reducing drug abuse to a minimum and protecting the reputation of the Croatian Armed Forces.

Speaking to the press ahead of an inner cabinet meeting, Banožić said that in accordance with the Drug Abuse Prevention Act, the military police were implementing emergency control measures.

He confirmed that along with the four soldiers who had tested positive for drugs in early July, another three soldiers tested positive for illegal substances last Friday while one more soldier tried to avoid testing.

A total of 30 soldiers in barracks in Split, Ploče, Udbina, Delnice, Vinkovci and  Velika Gorica have been tested so far and drug testing will continue.

The minister expects everyone in the Armed Forces to make joint efforts to prevent drug abuse, announcing a set of measures to deal with this problem.

Banožić said the military police were still investigating recent suicide cases in the Armed Forces and that the public would be notified of the results of the investigation in due course.

The minister also announced increased counselling for members of the Armed Forces.

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

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Minister Tomo Medved: Central Celebration of Operation Storm to be Held at Knin Stadium

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - The 26th anniversary of Operation Storm will be organised in accordance with epidemiological measures and the central celebration will be held at the football stadium in Knin, while the ceremonial part will take place at the Knin Fortress, Veterans' Affairs Minister Tomo Medved said on Tuesday.

Based on guidance from the Croatian Public Health Institute on compliance with coronavirus restrictions, it has been assessed that the Knin stadium is the best place to organise a dignified commemoration of this important date in our recent history while respecting the epidemiological measures, Medved told a press conference after a meeting of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and relevant cabinet ministers with representatives of the association of retired Croatian army generals.

Before the commemoration, senior state officials will lay wreaths in front of the monument to the casualties and the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

Asked whether he expected representatives of the Serb minority to attend, after Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević of the Independent Democratic Serbian Party (SDSS) attended last year's ceremony, Medved said that an agreement had not yet been reached as to which cabinet members would be attending.

Reporters were also interested in hearing whether anyone from the Croatian Defence Force (HOS), the paramilitary arm of the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights,  would attend, Medved said that the position of the Council for Facing the Past was clear and that all components of the Croatian army and police, as well as associations of Homeland War veterans and casualties, would be invited to attend that important anniversary.

Miljavac: The problem is that young people are being recruited with HOS insignia

The head of the association of retired army generals, Pavao Miljavac, said that the association supports the idea for the commemoration to be held at the stadium due to the COVID-19 situation.

As for HOS's participation in the war, Miljavac said that its members need to be honoured as they went to defend Croatia without any ideology.

"The problem to me is that young people, 19 or 20 year olds,  are again being recruited with HOS insignia," said Miljavac and quoted the late president Franjo Tuđman as saying: "Had we continued down that path, Croatia would hardly have been recognised."

During the meeting, the participants discussed disagreements over the Civilian Casualties of the Homeland War Act.

Miljavac underscored that the minister assured them that the law would be implemented in such a way that it will minimise any possible abuse of the law.

"Strict coordination will be conducted between the Interior Ministry and Croatian defenders. We have a list of who was where - almost 95%, so that it will be strictly implemented, and there shouldn't be any abuse," he said.

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

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Croatian President Zoran Milanović Meets With EU Military Committee Chairman

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Croatian President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović met on Tuesday with General Claudio Graziano, the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the President's Office said in a press release.

Graziano thanked Milanović for the participation of the Croatian Armed Forces in EU-led missions and operations.

They talked about the Strategic Compass document which is expected to give the EU clear security and defence guidelines in the coming period.

The talks also focused on battle groups, operations and missions led by the EU, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the development of the Union's defence and security capabilities, the press release said.

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

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Croatian Defence Minister and Chief-of-Staff on Official Visit to USA

ZAGREB, 21 July, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić and the Croatian Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff , Admiral Robert Hranj are on an official visit to the USA to mark the 25th anniversary of cooperation with the Minnesota National Guard, as part of the State Partnership Programme, the Defence Ministry reported on Wednesday.

This is Minister Banožić's first official visit to the United States since stepping into office.

Banožić and Hranj visited the Sikorsky helicopter factory in Connecticut on Monday where they met with the company's executives and president Paul Lemmo.

The company is a subsidiary of the Lockhead Martin company which also producers UH-60 Black Hawk and SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. 

The Defence Ministry (MORH) points out the importance of military and technological cooperation with the USA which includes donations and the procurement of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the armed forces. During the meeting, Minister Banožić said that a US donation in 2019 was an important support to Croatia's national policy aimed at transitioning to equipment originating in the West.

"After that donation, we decided to procure two more Black Hawk helicopters and have allocated $85 million for that purpose. Our ambition is to continue developing this investment because, being a reliable and credible member of the NATO alliance, the transition to Western technology is the only possible and correct path," Banožić said. He expressed his satisfaction that at the moment Croatia's military pilots and aviation technicians are attending various training courses in the US, specialising in particular on the  Black Hawk helicopter.

"We also have two pilots gaining additional flying hours in Minnesota in cooperation and assistance of the Minnesota National Guard. This is important for us, not only in the context of buying equipment but in the context of security because we will obtain the necessary support in training," added Banožić.

Black Hawk helicopters can be used to support civilian institutions - in fighting wildfires, search and rescue missions, and emergency medical transport.

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

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Defence Minister Banožić: "We Will Make Every Effort to Prevent Unfortunate Incidents"

ZAGREB, 20 July, 2021 - The Defence Ministry will make every effort to prevent unfortunate incidents in the Croatian Army, after five servicemen died off duty in less than a month, Defence Minister Mario Banožić said on Tuesday.

"Because of unfortunate incidents that occurred in the Croatian Army, we will invest all our efforts in the further development of programmes to prevent such incidents," the minister said, expressing his deep regret over the deaths of the servicemen.

He did not discuss the circumstances of the deaths.

"Profoundly shaken by the unfortunate incidents that happened recently, I express my deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the Croatian soldiers who passed away. The loss of any member of the Croatian Army is a great loss to the system because it is they who contribute to the development of our Armed Forces," Banožić said, according to a press release from the Ministry

He said that these incidents were in no way connected with the situation in the Armed Forces, and that the Defence Ministry and the Army would do all in their power to ensure that there were as few such incidents as possible.

The Ministry said that servicemen and servicewomen could contact psychologists in their units at all times for counselling.

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

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

President Zoran Milanović: "No Causal Link Between Army Deaths"

ZAGREB, 20 July, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday there was no causal link between recent deaths in the military.

"There is no causal link between the cases, but there might be a link to some elements of social pathology and disorders which exist within and outside the army," he told the press in Varaždin, adding that he would say what he meant exactly "when some time has passed."

"These things happen, but when something like this happens in the army, it attracts attention and the public raises an eyebrow."

Milanović said deaths in the army were at the level of those in the general population and lower, adding that the recent deaths could not be linked to possible problems in the system.

Asked about soldiers caught using illegal drugs, he said that was a more complex case. "I won't comment. Let's wait for the investigation to be over."

Asked if there was any information that could shed light on the matter, he said, "There is, but I can't talk about it. Their commanders know what they are and I know. As does the Defence Ministry."

He called the whole situation awkward but not shameful. "It's a disgrace and a disaster when soldiers commit war crimes, but the Croatian army didn't do that, only exceptionally and long ago."

Milanović said all armies had problems with soldiers using illegal drugs. "It's good that they have been caught," he added, dismissing claims that the security system was in danger.

Asked if that was not normal behaviour, he said it was not and that it would be punished.

COVID vaccination

Speaking of vaccination against COVID, he said Croatia was neither the worst nor the best. "Once again, I call on everyone, get vaccinated," he said, adding that he doubted threats would work.

Milanović said he was for everything getting back to normal after the tourist season. "This hysteria that is going on, which is spilling over into Croatia from Western countries, is a major stumbling of human intelligence and reason." 

Asked about a constitutional suit filed by the Voice of Entrepreneurs association, which claims that certain businesses were discriminated against during the pandemic, Milanović said it would have been better if the parliamentary majority had been deciding on restrictions because the problems would not have been so extensive.

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

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Defence Minister Mario Banožić: Reintroducing Conscription Being Considered

ZAGREB, 26 May, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić said on Wednesday the reintroduction of conscription was being considered and that, although he was sure it was the right move, he felt that Croatian society still had to deal with this subject a lot.

Speaking on Croatian Radio, Banožić said he tried to research the subject in recent months.

He said almost two in three citizens supported mandatory military service, but added that the motive for introducing it was important, and that was security and stability.

Parents are for introducing conscription first and foremost as an educational measure, which is not the right motive, he said.

Croatia needs security, stability and serving one's country as the motive, ideals which are the foundations of the Croatian army, courage and the desire to feel secure and whole, Banožić said.

Croatian society still has to deal with this subject a lot, but reintroducing mandatory military service is the right step, he added.

Asked if there was a road map and when that could be expected, he said that for now the ministry was researching public opinion and how to manage the process because of the sensitive subject.

Especially considering that once you abandon such a model, bringing conscription back is a much tougher challenge, he added.

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

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