Friday, 9 December 2022

A Week in Croatian Politics - Schengen, Bomb Scares and ATM Shortages

December the 9th, 2022 - This week in Croatian politics, we've finally had a bit of good news - Croatia has successfully filled all of the requirements to finally join Schengen and will officially do so on the 1st of January, 2023, on the very same day of Eurozone accession. That isn't all, though...

After a lot of nail biting and waiting, Croatian Schengen accession has been officially approved

After much deliberation, a lot of back and forth and eyebrow-raising from Austria apparently not being quite understood, Croatia got the green light to become a Schengen member state on the first day of 2023. Austria's initial issues with proposed Schengen expansion (which would have also included Romania and Bulgaria, but that won't be the case for now) weren't with Croatia as a country but with Schengen expansion as a whole. One Austrian minister was quoted as saying that Schengen is all well and good until there's a political issue, when it suddenly ''ceases to exist''. I dare say that for as excellent as Schengen is, he's far from alone in those opinions.

Despite all of that, and despite reports from the likes of the Financial Times (FT) that neighbouring Hungary and Viktor Orban could be the ones to throw a spanner in Croatia's Schengen plans, both Austria and Hungary (and even Slovenia, which was expected to cause many more issues than it actually did) gave the green light alongside the other deciding nations.

Croatia is now set to become a fully-fledged member of the Schengen area and in less than one month, border controls will be abolished at land, as well sea border crossings, and then on March the 26th, 2023, the same will be done at the country's airports.

Bulgaria and Romania apparently did not receive support because there was a lack of consensus on them joining. 

"Croatia received the unanimous support of the Council for Internal Affairs and Justice - on January the 1st, 2023, we will become a member of Schengen! During this, a year of delivery, we achieved the government's strategic goals, from which both people and the economy will benefit the most!" Plenkovic tweeted after the official announcement.

ATMs cause trouble as we approach Eurozone accession

Moving the Schengen celebrations and the promise of totally free movement aside for a moment, the same unfortunately can't be said for the freedom of cash withdrawals as we approach the day on which we introduce the euro as our official currency. Thousands of ATMs were put out of function this past week as we prepare to enter the Eurozone, leaving many people scratching their heads about where to get cash. Some ATMs have already had the kuna drained from them and been filled up with euros, and around 40 percent of them across the nation will eventually become unavailable as we get closer to D-Day, or should I say E-Day. 

Throughout this final month in which the kuna remains the country's official currency, around 2700 ATMs will be put out of function. Only those which have the ability to allow both kuna and euro withdrawals will continue to work, with the rest gradually being adapted to the euro.

The mass shutdown of ATMs will begin in about ten days, with a small number being shut down by December the 15th, and from that date, the Croatian Association of Banks (HUB) will publish an interactive map of all ATMs in Croatia that remain active in real-time so that people know where they can withdraw banknotes.

It's worth noting that this is also the time to get that old sock with rolled up notes in it out, lift up the mattress, and check your old coat pockets for 10 and 20 kuna notes. The traditional Croatian practice of keeping banknotes in odd items of clothing hidden somewhere in the house could come back to bite those who fail to bank their extra cash lying around so that it can be automatically converted to euros free of charge when we make the official switch over from the kuna to the euro on 2023's maiden day.

PM Andrej Plenkovic says that those who are against Ukrainian soliders being trained here will have to carry that on their conscience for a long time to come

There has been a lot of talk about the idea and then the plan to train Ukrainian soldiers here in Croatia. President Zoran Milanovic (SDP) quite openly said that he was very much against the idea and that Croatia's unwavering support for Ukraine and warm welcome to Ukrainian refugees said enough. He believed that training soldiers to fight against the Russian invaders here could end up bringing unwanted problems to Croatia's doorstep, a mere 30 years after a bloody war of its own.

Others are totally for the idea, and this includes other EU countries who have agreed to also train Ukrainian soldiers in their fight against continued Russian onslaught. 

Plenkovic claimed that he hasn't yet heard any valid, logical or reasonable argument for possibly not making a decision on Croatia's participation in the EUMAM military aid mission to Ukraine and said that the burden of political responsibility isn't on those who are in favour, but on those who aren't. He said he'd be voting for it and that he didn't understand the political logic of those who have reservations about that decision and mission.

How parliament members will vote on Croatia's participation in the EU military aid mission to Ukraine "will be a mark they'll carry with them in the long term," he added.

It's important that Croatia supports Bosnia and Herzegovina on its EU candidate path, according to its senior international representative

During a recent meeting with the State Secretary for Europe at the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Andreja Metelko Zgombic, the senior international representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, assessed that it is important for that country that Zagreb fully supports its acquisition of EU candidate status.

"Croatian support for Bosnia and Herzegovina's candidate status for EU membership is very important," wrote Schmidt on his Twitter profile. Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic also expressed his expectation that the Council of Europe would be able to approve the candidate status of Bosnia and Herzegovina by the end of the year. Earlier on, the European Commission had indeed recommended that the Council make such a decision.

The German politician at the head of the international administration in Bosnia and Herzegovina assessed having EU candidate status as important for the entire country. "Obtaining EU candidate status would be a much-needed boost for the country and an important sign for people that the enlargement process is working for Bosnia and Herzegovina," he said.

During that same day, State Secretary Metelko Zgombic headed the delegation that held working consultations with colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Bosnia and Herzegovina's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Josip Brkic, also stated on his Twitter that the interlocutors expressed satisfaction with the "extremely good bilateral relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina".

"Croatia remains the most important supporter and friend of Bosnia and Herzegovina on its path to both the EU and to NATO," said Brkic.

President Zoran Milanovic visited Chile, the home of a huge number of Croats and their descendents

President Zoran Milanovic went to Chile for the first time recently, on his first trip to South America since taking office in February 2020. It is a vast continent of many opportunities where around 600,000 Croats and their descendents live today. Approximately 160 years ago, the very first wave of Croatian migrants, forced into making difficult decisions by poverty along the coast, set out for Chile. Two more emigrant waves to South American countries followed later, motivated by both economic and political reasons. I won't go into the political ones here.

Historian Ljuba Boric, who works at the Centre for Migration Studies at the University of Santiago de Chile, says that the first Croats arrived there from all over the Dalmatian coast between 1860 and 1870 because of a disease of the grapevines and olive trees which sank their (typically) only means of making a living. They often took up mining careers in Chile.

Milanovic will spend a week in Chile and among other things he;ll meet with Chilean President Gabriel Boric who has been in power since March. Ljuba Boric, who is also related to Gabriel Boric, says that the president's great-grandfather Ivo Boric and his brother Sime came from the island of Ugljan (close to Zadar) to Punta Arenas in about 1885.

Institutions from Croatia, a country with 3.8 million inhabitants according to the 2021 census, have been trying to determine the number of Croats in all of South America for some time now, claiming that approximately 600,000 ''members of the Croatian nation and their descendants live in various countries in South America.''

Milanovic says that the recent reports about bombs being in various large shopping centres have nothing to do with the situation in Ukraine

If you've been following the news over the last few months, every now and then there are very strange reports about shopping centres (usually in Zagreb) being evacuated because there have been reports of a bomb being planted there. Odd indeed. They have all been false alarms and for some extremely bizarre reason, it has become somewhat of a trend to claim bombs are being hidden in shopping centres. Odd indeed, yet again. One of the people who made such a claim was a security guard who simply didn't want to come to work. He has since been dealt with by the authorities, and probably regrets not just calling in sick. Hopefully anyway.

This week, the bomb scare/shopping centre stories got a bit more of a spring in their step and more such scares were announced in multiple shopping centres in multiple areas. In sixteen counties, to be exact! Milanovic has been quick to squash the rumours that it has anything at all to do with the Russia-Ukraine war. On Tuesday he said that he thinks that these weird false reports about bombs have nothing to do with the horrific ongoing situation in Ukraine and said that those making these false claims should be located and arrested because creating panic among people like this for no reason is an act punishable by law.

"Find and aprehend these individuals - these are obviously people who don't have these means (bombs) at their disposal, nor do they have anything to do with them, but they have the capacity to sow fear and panic among people, and that's a punishable offence,'' Milanovic told reporters in Dubrovnik. He added that he believes that it has absolutely nothing to do with the war between Russia and Ukraine, as some have been quick to try to claim. He also said that no normal person would show any sort of support to Russia.

Dubrovnik honoured its defenders and marked the 31st anniversary of the darkest day in its history - the siege

The 6th of December 1991 will remain etched deeply into the memories of all those who were there when the JNA attacked the city, and will forever be an unhealed wound for the Pearl of the Adriatic. 

On the aforementioned date back in 1991, the City of Dubrovnik was viciously attacked by the JNA (Yugoslav Peoples Army), it was the culmination of a siege which sought to raze the globally adored UNESCO World Heritage Site to the ground. A similar and unfortunately successful action was seen much more recently in Palmyra at the hands of ISIS. The horrific bombardment of Dubrovnik resulted in international condemnation of the JNA and rightly became a public relations disaster for Serbia and Montenegro, contributing to and furthering their diplomatic and economic isolation and winning them powerful enemies across Europe and the rest of the world. It was a shot in the foot from which the still-estranged Serbia has hardly ever recovered in the eyes of the international community, and rightly so.

You can read much more about that day, the lives that were lost and the tremendous damage that was done by clicking here.

For more on Croatian politics, make sure to keep up with our dedicated section and follow our Week in Croatian Politics articles which are published every Friday.

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Wild Grass That Never Goes Away: Vukovar Volunteer Jean-Michel Nicolier

November 14, 2022 – The 18th of November is around the corner. The day that inspires the most twisted mix of feelings in many of Vukovar's residents. Sadness at the base. Heartbreak, nostalgia, frustration, gratitude. Hope. All of Croatia comes together to commemorate the sacrifice of Vukovar for its homeland. Remembering those who gave their lives to defend our home almost feels like a new experience every time. Reading their names is one dimension; reading the years is an entirely different one. One more painful than the other. A different story stands out every year. This time, we will take a moment to share the legacy of one of the youngest foreign volunteers, Jean-Michel Nicolier.

On the 18th of November 1991, Vukovar fell into the hands of the occupying forces. Our families, neighbours, friends, all those who spent three months locked away in underground shelters, were let out and sent on their way towards Zagreb, Belgrade, Novi Sad, who knows. Some of them were lucky enough to reunite with their loved ones, but many of them learned that their loved ones were gone or couldn’t find them anymore. All of them had to say goodbye to their city. November 18, 19, and 20 were days when many families of the volunteers who came to fight for Vukovar received the worst kind of news. Or the only thing even worse than that – no news at all.

Jean-Michel Nicolier, “the Frenchman,” was born in Vesoul, France, in July 1966. In July 1991, at barely 25 years of age, he travelled to Zagreb to fight for Croatia. He had seen the news of war on TV and decided that he wanted to help. I want to help these people; they need me. I must go, but I'll be back. You know I'm a wild grass that never goes away. Those were Jean-Michel’s words to his mother, who begged him not to go. He was mobilised into a HOS unit and spent two months fighting at Duga Resa. In September, he was among the last groups of volunteers to arrive in Vukovar. He fought in the Sajmište area, where the battle was extremely difficult and constant. On the 9th of November, he was wounded and had to remain hospitalised.

In the hospital, he was interviewed by a French TV crew, and this is how Jean-Michel Nicolier described his days in Vukovar: “I've lost too many friends, I've seen too many people cry too much suffering. I have been advised several times to leave Vukovar and return to France, but I stayed. We lost. I knew it would be difficult, but I didn't think it would be this terrible, especially for civilians. I came to Vukovar as a volunteer. It's my choice, for better or for worse.

Journalist: Why as a volunteer? – Because I think they need help. That's why I chose their side.

Journalist: What does Vukovar mean for you? – A slaughterhouse. A slaughterhouse. Slaughterhouse.”

Nine days later, Jean-Michel Nicolier, the Frenchman, was taken to the Ovčara concentration camp, along with many other volunteers and civilians from the Vukovar hospital. According to Dragutin Berghofer Beli, he stood up even when his name was called at the camp, where he suffered torture. On the night of the 21st of October, he was murdered by Spasoje Petković, nicknamed Štuka, who then proceeded to rob him of his last 20 Francs. The murderer himself confessed to this at the Belgrade War Crimes Court. Claiming that he was a frightened soldier who feared for his life, Petković went from being the defendant to a penitent witness, earning a privileged status, freedom, and the position of a protected witness, which guarantees that he will never be extradited to Croatia.

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Grad Vukovar

Jean-Michel Nicolier’s body is yet to be found. It is possible that he was buried in one of the ditches of the Ovčara mass grave which were moved, or that he ended up in the Danube, but there has been no evidence to confirm either. His family still visits Vukovar, his mother and brother have been in several interviews, and his mother has written letters to Jean-Michel, and about him to the Croatian Government.

Not many knew a lot about Jean-Michel until Višnja Starešina’s documentary film on Siniša Glavašević, Zaustavljeni Glas, came out in 2010. In 2011, the NGO Veterans' Association, Dr. Ante Starčević from Tovarnik, led by Antun Ivanković, took a particular interest in Jean-Michel, his life, and his story. They contacted his family, wrote about him to the president’s office, and eventually ensured his name was listed among the volunteers. Jean-Michel was posthumously awarded the Vukovar-Syrmia County Tribute for love, loyalty, and bravery in the Croatian War of Independence. In 2012 Nevenka Nekić published the book Jean ili miris smrti (Jean, or the Smell of Death). In 2014, the renovated main pedestrian bridge in Vukovar city centre was named after Jean-Michel, and in 2015 his bust was installed next to the bridge. May Jean-Michel rest in peace.
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View of the Jean-Michel Nicolier bridge (right)

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Friday, 4 November 2022

The City - It Is You: Legacy of Vukovar War Reporter Sinisa Glavasevic

November 4, 2022 - 62 years ago in Vukovar, Sinisa Glavasevic was born, who went on to become the most recognisable voice of the city. The city that is us.

After primary and secondary school, he graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo and worked in schools in Lovas and Borovo naselje near Vukovar. He was an editor for the pre-war Radio Vukovar and continued to report from the besieged city for the whole duration of the Serbian aggression against Croatia. Sinisa Glavasevic was the voice of hope, faith, and community in the most difficult times. His reports were made up of not only facts and news but stories, essays, and words of reassurance and inspiration. He was not afraid to call out the Croatian Parliament when he felt abandoned. His Optužnica, based on Émile Zola's J'accuse, might not have made it through the censorship of the national radio, but it was broadcast on Zagreb's 101. 

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Hrvatski Radio Vukovar

On this day 31 years ago, his 31st birthday, while entering the hospital where he went to collect the latest reports on the wounded civilians and volunteers, he was injured by a shell fragment and remained under treatment in the Vukovar hospital. He kept reporting from the hospital and sent his last report on November 18, 1991. On the night of November 19-20, all traces of him were lost. Sinisa Glavasevic and the other wounded from the hospital were brutally murdered at the Ovčara camp for Croatian prisoners. His body was buried at the Zagreb Mirogoj cemetery next to his colleague, a radio technician, Branimir Polovina, who was also killed at Ovčara.

His warm human stories were collected into a book and published posthumously in 1992 under the title Stories from Vukovar. The book has been translated into German, English, and two editions in Esperanto. 24Sata also republished it in 2011. His stories inspired other works of art, such as documentaries and theatre plays. In Vukovar, one of the primary schools carries his name, and his two busts watch over the school and the building of Hrvatski Radio Vukovar.

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We spoke to Robert Rac, the director of Hrvatski Radio Vukovar, who shared his views on Sinisa Glavasevic's legacy. The foundations of the work of fifteen employees of today's Radio, he says, are those set by Sinisa Glavasevic and his colleagues, who were also tragically taken away by the war. His legacy lives on in the journalistic integrity they all share, with the single goal of sharing the truth above everything else. And his words found a way to not only live on in us but in actual tapes found in the ruins of the Radio's building in Vukovar. During the siege, the building was constantly shelled and was largely destroyed. Some of Sinisa's tapes, however, fell through the cracks into the basement, where a citizen found them while looking for something, anything of value left in the fallen city to live off. Not knowing what they were or having the technology to find out, he decided to wrap them up in a plastic bag and store them in his attic. Upon the return of the Radio's employees, they were stunned to find out that the tapes were preserved well enough and contained Sinisa's reports, thoughts, and interviews. They are faithful witnesses of the time. They were digitalised and kept in the archive, and are now publicly available.

It was people like Sinisa Glavasevic who helped the civilians in the occupied city keep going, who reassured them and made them feel like they weren't alone. He was the voice of the people, of the city, of hope. Let us carry on his legacy by sharing today's words of Hrvatski Radio Vukovar, as well as the translation of his essay (translated by Marko Puljić, Saint Louis, USA). 

Siniša was killed, but his voice lives on among us.
Editor, thanks for everything.
"Who will watch my city, my friends, who will carry Vukovar from the dark?"
Us. Because the city is us. (HRV)

A Story About the City

I refrain from searching for all justice, truth, I refrain from attempts to let ideals arrange my personal life, I refrain from everything that until yesterday I considered essential for some good beginning or good end.

I would possibly refrain from myself, but I cannot.

Because who will remain if we renounce ourselves and flee into our fears.

Who will inherit the city? Who will watch it for me, when I am gone, while I am searching in the trash heaps of the human spirit, while I am as it is alone, staggering without myself, wounded, tired, feverish, while my eyes begin to wax before my personal defeat.

Who will watch my city, my friends, who will carry Vukovar from the dark?

There aren't shoulders stronger than mine or yours, and therefore if it isn't too much for you, if there still remains in you a youthful whisper, join us.

Somebody has touched my parks, the benches that still have your names carved into them, that shadow that you gave it at the same moment, and received your first kiss - somebody has simply stolen it all, because how do you explain that not even a Shadow remains?

There isn't that store window in which you admired your personal joys, there isn't that movie theater in which you saw the saddest film, your past has been simply decimated and you have nothing.

You must build anew. First your roots, your past, and then your present, and then if you still have the strength, invest in the future. Do not be alone in the future.

Do not worry about the city, it has been with you all this time. Only hidden. So that the murderer cannot find it. The city - it is you.

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For more, make sure to check out our dedicated Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

Croatian Cannons Used in Homeland War Now Defending Ukraine

September the 21st, 2022 - Croatian cannons and other weaponry which were used to defend the likes of Zadar, Sukosan and Sibenik from Serbian onslaught are now being used once again to help defend Ukraine from Russian aggression.

Croatia's more recent experience with war than any other European country puts it in a better position to help Ukraine defend itself against Russia than most other nations, and to know that the weapons used during the Homeland War which saw Croatia become an independent state and fend off Serbian aggression are now aiding Ukraine in its mission to send the Russians packing is one of those full circle stories.

As Morski/Jurica Gaspar writes, the recently delivered Croatian cannons (M-46, 130 mm caliber) are already being used on the front lines in Ukraine, and these weapons are precisely those cannons which once defended Sukosan, Zadar and Sibenik, and were also an important factor in the Maslenica liberation operation.

''The Ukrainian Army is already using them on the front lines in the Donetsk region. In addition to the M-46 cannons, the Ukrainian Army received a significant amount of ammunition,'' it was announced on the Ukraine Weapons Tracker Twitter page.

''Those Croatian cannons were also with us in Zadar. More precisely in Sukosan,'' explained Zadar Weekly journalist Sinisa Klarica, who himself participated in the Homeland War in the 112th brigade of the ZNG and the 159th brigade of the Croatian Army.

''I saw them when I went to intervene in Debeljak in the 159th brigade. They were right next to the cemetery in Sukosan. At that time, we camouflaged the cannons well, so I'm not sure how many of them there were.

The Croatian cannons that defended Sibenik and were also key in the Maslenica liberation operation, and they're now doing the same job over in Ukraine in some of the areas of the country where the fighting is most intense.

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 18 July 2022

Vukovar 1991 Association of Lawyers Calls on Vučić to Allow Visit to Stajićevo

ZAGREB, 18 July 2022 - The Vukovar 1991 association of lawyers on Monday called on Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić to fulfill his promise and make it possible for the association and former Croatian camp inmates to make the agreed visit to the former Stajićevo prisoner of war camp.

In a press release, the association recalls that six years ago, on 16 July 2016, through the mediation of German lawmaker Josip Juratović and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the then Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić received an official delegation of the lawyers' association Vukovar 1991, which consisted of Zoran Šangut and Pero Kovačević.

At the meeting, they discussed the non-prosecution of war crimes committed in camps in Serbia (Stajićevo, Begejci, Sremska Mitrovica, Niš and Belgrade) against Croatian inmates, and a visit to Stajićevo, the installation of a memorial plaque at the site of the former camp, lighting candles and laying wreaths.

Vučić promised us at the meeting that he would allow a visit to the site of the former Stajićevo camp, the installation of a memorial plaque, lighting candles and laying wreaths in October 2016, the association's deputy head, Pero Kovačević, said in the press release.

He pointed out he had agreed all the details of the official protocol for that visit with Vučić's advisor Veran Matić, but that Vučić had cancelled it when the date of the visit was decided.

Kovačević said that with today's letter, they remind Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić of the unfulfilled promise, calling on him to allow an official visit to Stajićevo, the installation of a memorial plaque, laying wreaths and lighting candles in commemoration of the killed Croatian camp inmates in that and other camps in Serbia.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 31 May 2022

Supreme Court Orders New Retrial of JNA General for Blowing Up Peruća Dam

ZAGREB, 31 May 2022 - Croatia's Supreme Court has quashed a guilty verdict in the case of ex-JNA general Borislav Đukić, who was sentenced to ten years in prison for war crimes against civilian population by Split County Court in late 2020, and has ordered a new retrial.

The second retrial against this Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) general, who was tried and convicted of blowing up the Peruća dam in 1993 during the Homeland War, will again be held in the Split County Court.

The Supreme Court has sustained the defendant's appeal, explaining that the first-instance ruling, delivered by the Split Court, contained contradictory and incomprehensible arguments.

Đukić was arrested in Montenegro in July 2015 and handed over to Croatia in March 2016.

In the first trial which ended in the late 2018, he was sentenced to nine years for war crimes, and in a retrial in 2020 he was sentenced to ten years.

During the 1991-1995 war, Đukic served as commander of a Yugoslav army motorised brigade and Croatian Serb paramilitary forces operating near the border with Bosnia. Evidence presented during the trial showed that in 1993 he had ordered 30 tonnes of explosives to destroy the Peruća dam, located about 50 kilometres inland from the southern coastal city of Split.

The explosion caused damage valued at a total of about 130 million kuna (17.5 million euros). The direct damage was 90 million kuna (120 million euros), while 10 million German marks was spent on repairing the dam.

Although the damage done was severe, workers managed to prevent a major flooding of the areas downstream, which would have endangered the lives of some 50,000 people.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 29 May 2022

Galbraith: International Community was Wrong not to Prevent War in 1990s

ZAGREB, 29 May 2022 - The international community had the wrong approach in the 1990s because it was focused on maintaining Yugoslavia instead of preventing the war, former US ambassador to Croatia Peter Galbraith said on Sunday.

Thirty years ago, the break-up of the state simply wasn't accepted, so when Croatia and Slovenia declared independence, there was a lot of opposition, but it weakened with the break-up of the Soviet Union, he told the press ahead of a conference on 30 years since the international recognition of Croatia.

The international community, including the United States, had the wrong approach then because the problem was not the break-up of Yugoslavia's nor the independence of Croatia and Slovenia, the problem was the war, said the US ambassador to Croatia from 1993 to 1998.

Instead of preserving Yugoslavia, we should have concentrated on preventing the war, which was a big tragedy, he added.

Speaking at the conference, Galbraith said the 1990s were a series of events whose outcome could easily have been completely different. He is glad, he added, that today, as a peaceful democracy, a NATO and EU member, Croatia has become a diplomatically very boring state.

"Today when they ask me about Croatia, they only ask which places to visit and which restaurants to go to", he said.

Galbraith said that Croatia-US relations were not as they were in the 1990s, when the US was at the peak of its geopolitical power. That power has inevitably weakened, which was accelerated by the mistakes of former presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump, he added.

Croatia is part of the EU and NATO, and has no crises. America was here because there was a war, he said.

Galbraith said that before 1993 and the sending of an ambassador, the feeling in the US was that the situation in Yugoslavia was hopeless. Many did not see the difference between what Serbia and Croatia were doing in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which changed thanks to the engagement of the Croatian authorities, he added.

Speaking of Croatia's then president Franjo Tuđman and defence minister Gojko Šušak, he said it seemed they did not fully accept BiH's territorial integrity.

But in the key moment, choosing between continuing to support Bosnian Croats in their conflict with the Muslims and a partnership with the US in the reintegration of occupied territories, they chose the second, he added.

After that decision, the US stepped up its engagement, which led to the Washington Agreement and the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia, Galbraith said.

Commenting on a war crimes indictment against Croatian pilots recently announced by Serbia, he said the proceedings held at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia had been very important, very good, just, and that no one escaped justice.

Galbraith said he therefore did not see how Serbia could think that it had jurisdiction to prosecute crimes that did not take place on its territory.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 27 May 2022

Plenković: Gov't Will Do Its Best to Protect Indicted Air Force Pilots

ZAGREB, 27 May 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday that government officials had met with Croatian Air Force pilots who had taken part in the 1995 Operation Storm, stressing that all available mechanisms would be used to protect them from an indictment from Serbia.

"We discussed the latest developments following media reports that indictments are being prepared in Serbia, at the request of their prosecutor, against four pilots, Air Force commanders at the time of the military and police operation Storm," Plenković said at the start of a government session.

He said that they still did not have any concrete documents or requests for legal assistance but that they would do everything to protect the pilots.

"As before, the government will use all the available mechanisms to protect the Croatian pilots and the dignity of the Homeland War, thus sending a clear message about the fundamental values on which free Croatia is founded," said Plenković.

He said that during the Homeland War no orders had been issued, especially not in the Air Force, that would in any way be directed against civilian targets, repeating that the Homeland War, notably its operations Storm and Flash, had been part of efforts to liberate, protect and reintegrate Croatian territory.

Plenković repeated that with the indictment Serbia "is making a step backward in reconciliation", stressing that he had conveyed his dissatisfaction with the indictment to Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić at a meeting in Davos.

The Serbian war crimes prosecutor has issued an indictment charging four Croatian officers with having ordered, on 7 and 8 August 1995, a missile attack on a refugee convoy, but the prosecutor's office has said that the indictment is not final and that the proceedings currently underway are not public.

According to unofficial reports, the indictment refers to Croatian Air Force pilots Vladimir Mikac, Zdenko Radulj, Željko Jelenić, and Danijel Borović.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Milanović Tells Serbia Indictment Against Croatian Pilots Will Cost It

ZAGREB, 24 May 2022 - Croatian President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that indicting four high-ranking Croatian Army officers for alleged war crimes will cost Serbia, calling out politicians in that country for "unintelligent behaviour" with which Serbia will never succeed in joining the European Union.

Serbia's War Crimes Prosecutor's Office indicted four high-ranking Croatian Army officers for alleged war crimes. They are accused of shelling a refugee column during the military Operation Storm on 7 and 8 August 1995.

"These indictments have occurred despite our years-long attempts to convince them not to play with fire and that it will cost them. I cannot be more polite, I hope they are listening to me. Leave that alone. Otherwise, they should not be surprised by reactions by right-wing lawmakers in the Sabor. The problem is that the majority of people in Croatia think like that," Milanović told reporters.

Asked by N1 television if he was afraid of being indicted for his speech in Glina in 1995 as a possible response to Serbia indicting four Croatian generals, Serbia's President Aleksandar vučić said "the Serbs didn't kill Croatians, it was the Croatians who killed Serbs."

Milanović called on Vučić "not to do that." "I can keep things rhetorically under control to a certain measure. But then this comes from Belgrade and how then can I explain that we pursue a well-intentioned policy?"

Milanović said that these moves by Serbia were "unintelligent behaviour" by a state that is "impoverished and degraded," and that does not have its status resolved anywhere.

"They don't want to join NATO, OK. They will never join the European Union this way. Who needs this? Who is pursuing this policy? Which citizens there is the prosecutor's office addressing?" Milanović said.

He went on to say that he is convinced that 75% of citizens would support his and the Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's common stance about Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and that just as many people in Croatia believe that "Croatian prosecutorial authorities should indict Vučić."

Milanović however said that that should not be done because Vučić is "being tactical." "And then we hear that nobody killed anyone, but instead the Croatians killed Serbs," he added.

"I am sorry for every Serb who was killed. They need not have been. But a huge majority of Serbs fled straight away. That is a fact. Even the tribunal in The Hague confirmed that," said Milanović.

"Serb brethren, come to your senses," Milanović said, adding that he would probably now be proclaimed an "Ustasha." "Last week I was a Serb."

"We have to be clear and just in our relations with Serbia, articulate what we expect of them," he added

Last week the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts called on Serbia to stop inciting animosity against Croatia and prosecuting Croatian citizens, to renounce Greater Serbia propaganda and respect its obligations in line with agreements, such as protecting the reciprocal rights of the Croat minority and ensuring for Croats free political and cultural organising, as Croatia ensures for the Serb minority.

TFor more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Milanović: Special Forces Are the Elite and Must Have a Spotless Reputation

ZAGREB, 20 May 2022 - President and Supreme Commander of the Croatian Armed Forces Zoran Milanović said on Friday on the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the establishment of the Special Forces that members of these units are the elite and their reputation has to be spotless.

"We need to remember that of the 75 of your friends, combatants, Croatian knights, who were killed, thirty of them were born in Bosnia and Herzegovina and half of the remaining 45 probably had their roots in BiH," Milanović said.

"That was a time when Croatia was defended by sons from small communities and towns and the least of them came from downtown Zagreb and other large cities," he claimed. "We must not forget them. We must not forget their children and descendants. They are a part of us in another country and we must not betray them." 

We are not in alliances for them but for us

Milanović said that excellent skills can best be gained in cooperation and interaction with others. "Small nations and small armies cannot advance if they aren't in constant contact with what is on the outside, with what is different and open. That is the fate and imperative of small nations because a small nation that is closed within itself degenerates," he added.

"We aren't in all those alliances for their sake but our own," the president stressed.

National policy and security are an important priority and they are defined by the democratically elected government, concluded Milanović.

The president laid a wreath and lit a candle at a cross in front of a memorial room in the barracks in Delnice in honour of the members of the Special Forces who were killed. Tribute to the fallen soldiers was also paid by Brigadier General Perica Turalija on behalf of the Defence Ministry and Hungary's military attache to Croatia.

For more, check out our politics section.

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