Saturday, 18 June 2022

1000th Issue of "Hrvatska Riječ" Weekly of Croat Minority in Serbia Released

ZAGREB, 18 June 2022 - A ceremony was held in Subotica on Friday to mark the publication of the 1000th issue of the "Hrvatska Riječ" weekly newspaper of the Croat community in Serbia.

Addressing the ceremony, the newspaper's editor-in-chief Zlata Vasiljević said that many events, achievements and problems of the Croats in Serbia would not have been covered in the media if there had not been "the Hrvatska Riječ" newspaper.

This 52-page weekly is issued every Friday.

"These 1000 issues of the newspaper bear witness to political, societal and economic changes in the country in which we live, and they also bear witness to the political relations between Serbia and Croatia. What is even more important, these first 1,000 issues have covered all that has happened in the Croat community in Serbia," Vasiljević said.

The head of the Croatian National Council in Serbia (HNV), Jasna Vojnić, said that the leadership of this ethnic minority is proud of the newspaper and praised the journalists in the newspaper for being reputable, professional, fair and incorruptible.

She recalls many obstacles and problems and pointed out that in some areas in Serbia there is still fear of buying and reading the Hrvatska Riječ in public.

The head of the DSHV party, Tomislav Žigmanov, said that the newspaper had grown into "the biggest mine of information about the Croat community in Serbia.

Dubravka Severniski of Croatia's central office for the Croats abroad praised "Hrvatska Riječ" as a high-quality newspaper that helps ethnic Croats in Serbia to preserve their language and identity.

The publication of this weekly is financed from the budget of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina.

Sunday, 17 October 2021

Interior Renovation Work on Count Jelačić’s Birth House in Petrovaradin Starts

ZAGREB, 17 Oct, 2021 - Serbian Culture and Information Minister Maja Gojković and Croatian National Council (HNV) leader Jasna Vojnić on Friday launched work on the interior renovation of the birth house of Count Josip Jelačić, the Ban (governor) of Croatia (1801-1859) in Petrovaradin.

The renovation work, worth €100,000, will be financed by the Serbian government with the support of the government of the northern province of Vojvodina and its capital city Novi Sad, of which Petrovaradin is now part.

After the historical building is fully renovated, it will serve as a memorial to the best known governor of Croatia, the seat of several organisations and a meeting point for local ethnic Croats.

The ceremony of launching renovation work was held on one of the four holidays of the ethnic Croat community - the day of Count Jelačić's birth.

HNV head Vojnić said that the event should serve as an example of how all other outstanding issues related to the Croat community in Serbia should be dealt with, citing in that context guaranteed seats for the Croat community in the Serbian parliament, proportional employment in state institutions, sufficient funding for the work of local councils, a positive image in the media and the protection of cultural goods of the Croat community.

Gojković said the renovation of Count Jelačić's birth house was a true symbol of "our wish to contribute to the preservation of the tradition, customs and culture of the Croat ethnic minority in our country."

"By doing so we are demonstrating our commitment to building better relations and understanding between the Serbian and Croat peoples," she said, among other things.

The event was also attended by an envoy of Croatia's Central State Office for Croats Abroad, Dario Magdić.

"I hope and believe that today's event is a continuation of positive developments that started a year ago, when this building was purchased by Serbia and handed over to the HNV... It shows that we should work and build together, to the benefit of our autochthonous communities and societies," he said.

Those attending the ceremony were also greeted by Vojvodina Prime Minister Igor Mirović.

The birth house of Count Jelačić is located in the centre of Petrovaradin.

Built in 1745, the house was renovated in 2001 on the occasion of the 200th birth anniversary of Count Jelačić.

The Serbian government purchased the part of the building that was handed over to the Croat community for €600,000.

Petrovaradin is an ancient garrison town and was an important point of military resistance to Ottoman forces during the time of the Habsburg Empire in the 17th century, when it was settled by Croats.

In the early 19th century, Croats accounted for more than 90% of the town's population, but today they account for only 10%.

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Saturday, 4 September 2021

Round Table on Vojvodina Croats Held in Osijek

ZAGREB, 4 Sept, 2021 - The biggest challenges faced by the ethnic Croats in Serbia are exclusion from decision making and the policy of ignoring or denying crimes committed against them in the 1990s, a round table on the Croats in Serbia's Vojvodina province was told in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek on Saturday.

The fact that the Croats in Serbia are still excluded from decision-making processes raises a number of concerns because they cannot deal with their problems institutionally, said Tomislav Žigmanov, director of the Culture Institute of Vojvodina Croats. The needs and interests of the Croat community are instead addressed ad hoc, he added.

The authorities in Serbia still ignore or deny the crimes committed against Vojvodina Croats in 1990s, notably the fact that "they were the victims of ethic violence, persecution and murder, and that 30 years on there is still no act or monument commemorating the most tragic period for the Vojvodina Croats," Žigmanov said.

He also warned of the very strong state interventionism in the identity dispute over the Bunjevci community and their being part of the Croatian people, which he said is a scientific truth.

"Unfortunately, we do not have enough power to oppose this, and we expect Croatia to continue asserting its interests when it comes to our cultural heritage," Žigmanov said.

Zvonko Milas, state secretary at the Central State Office for Croats Abroad, said that the biggest problem for the Croats was that Serbian institutions have still not accepted what had happened in the past, "all the crimes against Croats, terrorism, killings and the departure of tens of thousands of Croats from those areas."

The Croatian government and the Central State Office will be partners in raising public awareness both in Serbia and in Croatia, where people should also know what our ethnic kin went through and what they need today, Milas said.

The deputy head of Osijek-Baranja County, Mato Lukić, said that about 70 percent of Croats had moved out of Serbia in the last 50 years, and that the majority of Vojvodina Croats had been expelled.

"The Croats in Vojvodina are often stigmatised, which is one the reasons for their departure," Lukić said.

Lukić said that there would be a population census in Serbia next year and that it would be good if the Croats identified themselves as Croats. He said that there were reports indicating that some of them did not want to identify themselves as Croats in order to avoid possible problems.

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Saturday, 7 August 2021

HNV Says Democratic Country Recognised by Response to Ethnic Hatred

ZAGREB, 7 Aug, 2021 - A democratic and safe country is recognised by the response to ethnic incidents, the head of the Croat National Council (HNV) in Serbia, Jasna Vojnić, said on Saturday in a comment on an assault on Croatian nationals in Subotica.

The assault occurred early on 2 August, with a man lunging at passengers, including three minors, in a car with Zagreb licence plates, saying he would "slaughter all Ustasha", and attacking a local Croat from Subotica, according to eye-witnesses.

Police arrived at the scene soon and arrested the attacker.

Vojnić said ethnic incidents happened in the best organised countries but that "a developed, democratic and safe country is recognised not by the number of such incidents but by the way it responds to them."

She said that what was problematic in Serbia was the lack of condemnation of ethnically motivated incidents against ethnic Croats by government officials and media turning the victims into the culprits.

The leader of the Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Croats, Tomislav Žigmanov, said one was again witnessing the competent authorities downplaying incidents, a reference to the Serbian Ministry of the Interior describing the incident as a row over a parking space.

This is yet another convincing reason why Croats in Serbia do not trust institutions that deal with and prosecute incidents, said Žigmanov.

Police dismiss allegations man was injured

Subotica police said that the allegation about the man, identified as Z. B., having been attacked, was not true and that the Croatian nationals in question did not report any physical attack, the portal reported.

Soon after the incident was reported, police arrived at the scene and interviewed Z.B., who said that a man had shouted insults at him and grabbed him by the throat due to a misunderstanding over a parking space, but made no mention that his relatives from Croatia were attacked or injured, police said.

Police interviewed six people, members of Z.B.'s family, who "at no moment said that the man had physically attacked them."

Police said they identified and located the assailant, a 63-year-old man, in half an hour. He was interviewed and the case was forwarded to the local prosecutorial authorities.

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Tuesday, 27 April 2021

President Zoran Milanović to Recall Ambassador to Serbia Over His Alleged Disregard For Ethnic Croats

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - Croatia's President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that he would recall Croatian Ambassador to Belgrade, Hidajet Biščević, after the ethnic Croat leader Tomislav Žigmanov criticised the diplomat for working against the Croats in Serbia.

In the meantime media outlets have reported that Ambassador Biščević did not react to the developments in which ethnic Croats received death threats, and that he also failed to even telephone those members who received threats to express sympathy with them.

Žigmanov, who is the leader of the Democratic party of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV), recently claimed that the Croatian ambassador had made a "tepid reaction" to attempts by Serbian authorities in Subotica to introduce the Bunjevci vernacular as an official language in that northern city and that the ambassador communicated with people whom Žigmanov described as persons "who are actively working on the destabilisation and dissolution of the (ethnic Croat) community."

All that prompted President Milanović to say today that he did not know whose policy Biščević "is pursuing there."

I cannot know whether all those headlines are true and I will summon him back to Zagreb for consultations, Milanović said in his address to the press at the Gašinci military range in eastern Croatia.

The Večernji List daily has reported that on 30 March, Žigmanov sent a letter to Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman to inform him that Biščević was working against the interests of the ethnic Croat community in Serbia.

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Thursday, 12 March 2020

DSHV to Run in Elections in Coalition with United Democratic Serbia

ZAGREB, March 12, 2020 - The only political party of the Croat minority in Serbia will run in the country's April elections in a coalition with pro-democracy and pro-European parties, organisations and individuals, the leader of the Democratic Alliance of Croats in Vojvodina (DSHV), Tomislav Žigmanov, said on Wednesday.

Serbia will hold elections on 26 April for city councils, the parliament of Vojvodina province and the national parliament.

As a member of the Vojvodina Front movement, which includes the Social Democratic League of Vojvodina and the Vojvodina Party, the DSHV has joined the United Democratic Serbia coalition, which comprises the organisation Serbia 21, the Modern Serbia Party and the Civic Democratic Forum.

United Democratic Serbia includes "individuals, parties and organisations that publicly, unequivocally and consistently advocate the European future of Serbia," Žigmanov said, adding that the DSHV shares their goals and values.

Žigmanov said that he would be the DSHV's candidate for the national parliament, while his deputy, Mirko Ostrogonac, would run for the provincial parliament.

As part of this coalition, the DSHV will also run in local elections in Subotica, Sombor, Bač, Zrenjanin, Pančevo, Novi Sad and Beočin.

Žigmanov said that the DSHV hadn't had any contacts with the ruling Serbian Progressive Party of President Aleksandar Vučić.

"The biggest problem is that this time too we are left without guaranteed seats. The excuse by Serbian officials is that this cannot be done without changing the constitution, which has turned out to be untrue because the election law has been amended with regard to the election threshold," the DSHV leader said.

He added that "there is no political readiness in Serbia to ensure guaranteed seats" for the Croat minority, which is why the DSHV joined those who have expressed an interest in the status of the Croat minority.

The question of guaranteed seats for the Croat minority in the Serbian National Assembly and the Vojvodina Assembly, based on the model that exists for the Serb minority in Croatia, has for years been at the top of the list of unresolved issues between the two countries.

More news about the status of Croats in Serbia can be found in the Diaspora section.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Equipment Stolen from Office of Local Croat Association in Serbia

ZAGREB, February 17, 2020 - Technical equipment including a laptop, a printer and a Wi-Fi router were stolen from the offices of the local cultural society of ethnic Croats in the village of Ljuba in the Serbian province of Vojvodina, local media outlets reported on Monday.

The Hrvatska Riječ weekly newspaper reported that the theft had occurred under still unclear circumstances.

A representative of the association, Željka Donković, told the newspaper that the local authorities in the municipality of Sid and the local community had provided the Ljuba NGO with space to work.

"We have invested a lot of funds and efforts to make the offices suitable for our work," Donković said, expressing hope that the perpetrators who had taken away the technical equipment would be identified and arrested by the police.

The head of the Ljuba local community, Mirko Belan, was quoted as saying that coexistence in the village was good. He does not think that there are any reasons to believe that this case of theft could be ascribed to ethnic intolerance.

On the other hand, the Democratic Alliance of the Vojvodina Croats (DSHV) says that "it is extremely concerning that this act happened in Srijem, where local Croats were exposed to large-scale persecutions in the 1990s." During that period, 30,000-40,000 ethnic Croats were forced to leave or decided on their own to depart from the area, the DSHV says.

The Ljuba association was set up in 2014 with the aim of preserving and promoting the customs and heritage of local Croats in that village in the region of Mount Fruška Gora.

More news about Croats in Serbia can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Serbian Croat Leader Hopes Milanović's Victory Won't Change Treatment of Croat Community

ZAGREB, January 8, 2020 - The leader of the Democratic Alliance of the Vojvodina Croats (DSHV), Tomislav Žigmanov, has said that he hopes Croatian authorities' interest in the Croat community in Serbia will continue after Zoran Milanović's election as Croatia's new president.

In a Twitter message on Wednesday, Žigmanov congratulated Milanovic on his victory, noting the election proved that Croatia "is a highly consolidated democracy."

In a subsequent statement to the Vojvodina Radio and Television (RTV) public broadcaster, Žigmanov said he hoped the cooperation between Croatian authorities and the Croat community in Serbia and the support that community had received would continue.

"We hope Croatia's new President Zoran Milanović will be interested in that, both in bilateral relations with Serbia as well as in direct communication with institutions of the Croat minority," he added, noting that Milanovic should "create a platform for cooperation and relations with Serbia in a balanced and diplomatic way."

The League of the Vojvodina Social Democrats (LSV), a party led by Nenad Čanak, welcomed Milanović's election as Croatia's new president.

"Your victory is an encouragement to all democratic and progressive forces in our region. I expect you to be a major advocate of a faster European journey for all countries in the region," Čanak said, adding that the cooperation between Croatia and Serbia had to be much better in the coming period.

More news about the status of Croats in Serbia can be found in the Diaspora section.

Monday, 23 December 2019

Žigmanov Accuses Local Government in Subotica of Discrimination Against Croat Minority

ZAGREB, December 23, 2019 - Councillors of the DSHV party representing the Croat community in Serbia on Monday walked out of a Subotica Council meeting in protest against obstruction of the formation of a Croat school centre in the northern city.

DSHV president Tomislav Žigmanov said after the DSHV representatives left the meeting that although a year ago this party had proposed amending the decision on Subotica's network of pre-school institutions and elementary schools as a precondition for the registration of the Croat school centre, this item had not yet been added to the council's agenda.

"This is a more than obvious act of discrimination when it comes to initiatives by the Croat community," said Žigmanov.

The DSHV criticised the local Serb Progressive Party (SNS) and the Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians for discrimination against the ethnic Croats in the city.

The Croatian school centre is the largest project of the Croat community in the education field since the introduction of lessons in the Croatian language in 2002.

There has been no official explanation from the city authorities of the reasons for the delay.

Žigmanov said that the project had been discussed with Serbia's top officials and that it was also one of the recommendations made by the Serbia-Croatia intergovernmental committee on minorities.

More news about the status of Croats in Serbia can be found in the Diaspora section.

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Croatian Government Allocates 90,000 Euro for Croatian House in Subotica

ZAGREB, December 14, 2019 - The Croatian government on Friday awarded 90,000 euro to the Croatian minority in Serbia for the construction of the Croatian House in the northern city of Subotica and for staffing purposes of the Croatian National Council (HNV).

An agreement to that effect was signed at HNV headquarters by the state secretary of the Central State Office for Croats Abroad, Zvonko Milas, and HNV president Jasna Vojnić. The agreement was signed on the occasion of the national holiday of the Croatian minority in Serbia.

Milas said that by supporting a strategic project of this kind the Croatian government showed that it cared that the Croats in Serbia preserved all aspects of their identity, primarily their language and culture.

Vojnić said that this was a great day for the HNV because it showed that Croatia indeed understood the needs of the Croats in Serbia.

"What we emphasised during our meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković earlier this year is that our Croatian community has great plans, ideas and potential, but that it needs to be strengthened in staffing terms and institutionally developed," Vojnić said.

The allocated funding will be used to build a new building to house all three professional institutions of the Croatian minority under one roof - the Institute for Culture, the Hrvatska Riječ (Croatian Word) newspaper publishing house and the HNV. Two persons will be hired for development projects and one to lead the HNV regional office.

The Croatian minority in Serbia celebrates December 13 as one of its four national holidays, when the HNV held its first electoral convention in 2002. The HNV is the representative body of the ethnic Croats in Serbia, with responsibilities in the areas of education, culture, information and the official use of the Croatian language.

More news about Croats in Serbia can be found in the Diaspora section.

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