Thursday, 13 January 2022

Pupovac: Peaceful Reintegration Helped Restore Inter-Ethnic Trust

ZAGREB, 13 Jan 2022 - Serb National Council (SNV) president Milorad Pupovac said on Thursday that the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region on 15 January 1998 marked "the peaceful end of the war in Croatia" and helped restore inter-ethnic trust.

The peaceful reintegration was based on two peace agreements - the Erdut Agreement, adopted as part of a wider package with the Dayton Agreement, and a document adopted on this date in which the UN Security Council approved the mandate of the UN transitional administration for the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia and defined the status and rights of Serbs in Croatia and their institutions, Pupovac said in Vukovar.

He said that the peaceful reintegration had not only brought peace but had also helped restore inter-ethnic trust.

"The restoration of trust between the majority Croats and the minority Serbs was a prerequisite, then as it is now, for the democratization of the country, emergence from the war and ethnic conflict, and the return of displaced Croats and Serb refugees," Pupovac said, noting that these achievements were sometimes valued too little.

He said that the peaceful reintegration, the Erdut Agreement, and the Letter of Intent had also laid the ground for mutual recognition of and cooperation between Croatia and Serbia. "That is very important for Croatia and the Serb community and for the relationship between Croatia and Serbia."

Those who have in the past years been hoping for "a peacetime Storm", trying to deprive the Serbs of their right to use Cyrillic alphabet and expel them based on criminal prosecution for war crimes, are actually working against the peaceful reintegration and the commitments arising from that process, Pupovac said.

He noted that Croatia, unlike some other countries of the former Yugoslavia, had emerged from the war as a reintegrated country thanks in part to people who led the peaceful reintegration process on behalf of the Serb community, such as the former Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Vojislav Stanimirović, for which he said he never received due recognition from some political circles, except President Tuđman.

Speaking of the anniversary of Croatia's international recognition, which is also marked on 15 January, Pupovac said that it was firmly connected with the issue of minority rights, especially the rights of the Serb minority.

He recalled that international recognition was preceded by the adoption of the constitutional act governing the rights of ethnic minorities, adding that all countries that had been advocating the international recognition of Croatia had demanded the adoption of an appropriate mechanism for the protection of minority rights.

The head of the Joint Council of Serb-majority municipalities (ZVO), Dejan Drakulić, said that the peaceful reintegration process was still ongoing because some issues of importance to the Serb community remained unresolved, citing autonomy in education and certain status issues. 

"Our task is to emphasize the importance of peaceful reintegration and the need to develop a more democratic and more tolerant society," Drakulić said.

The SNV and ZVO held a meeting in Vukovar to mark the anniversary of the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region and the international recognition of Croatia.

The peaceful reintegration process began on 15 January 1996 when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1037, establishing a transitional administration for Eastern Slavonia. Retired US general Jacques Paul Klein was appointed transitional administrator. The process formally ended on 15 January 1998 with the UN handing over the administration of the region to Croatia.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 10 January 2022

PM Condemns Banja Luka Authorities' Decision to Put Up Plaque in Tribute to JNA Major

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday he was "appalled" by a decision by the Banja Luka city authorities to put up a plaque in tribute to JNA Major Milan Tepić, who blew up an ammunition depot in Bjelovar, Croatia in 1991, killing 11 members of Croatian defense forces.

"We are all appalled considering (the incident) and the number of people killed at the time. Therefore we consider any memorial plaque inappropriate and condemn it," Plenković said during a visit to Split.

When Croatian forces liberated the JNA barracks in Bjelovar on 29 September 1991, most JNA soldiers there surrendered, while Tepić refused. Instead, he destroyed the ammunition depot, killing himself, 11 Croatian defenders, and dozens of JNA conscripts.

Tepic, who was in charge of the ammunition depot in the village of Bedenik, had planned to blow up all four warehouses at that location but was prevented from doing so by four Croatian soldiers, whose intervention prevented an even bigger disaster.

Banja Luka Mayor Draško Stanivuković on Sunday unveiled a plaque commemorating Tepić, describing him as "the last Yugoslav national hero." The plaque was unveiled on the occasion of the day of the Serb entity of Republika Srpska, January 9, a holiday that was declared unconstitutional by the BiH Constitutional Court in 2016.

On Sunday, a parade was held in Banja Luka for that day, which is a public holiday in the Serb entity, with the Serb member of the BiH Presidency, Milorad Dodik, saying that "Republika Srpska is our state, regardless of those who deny it to us."

In a comment on the event as well as the Serb entity's aspirations for secession, Plenković reiterated Croatia's strong support to the territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, "which we respect and are helping on its European journey and which we want to be a functioning country."

"We are against any messages that have secessionist and separatist connotations," Plenković stressed.

President of the Serb National Council (SNV), and a Croatian Member of Parliament Milorad Pupovac, also attended the events in Banja Luka on Sunday.

"As for Mr. Pupovac's attendance, he was there only for the official ceremony in his capacity as president of the SNV," Plenković said, adding that "there has been significant support there to the post-earthquake reconstruction of Banovina", a reference to post-earthquake aid to Croatia's Sisak-Moslavina County provided by the Serb entity authorities.

"He neither made any speeches nor did he have any special role there," Plenković said in conclusion, in reference to Pupovac.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Foreign Ministry Sends Protest Note to BiH Over Memorial Plaque in Banja Luka

ZAGREB, 10 Jan 2022 - Croatia's ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina has presented a protest note to the BiH Foreign Ministry over a decision to unveil a plaque honoring JNA Major Milan Tepić in the Bosnian Serb entity capital, Banja Luka, who blew up an ammunition depot in Bjelovar, Croatia in a suicidal action in 1991.

When Croatian forces liberated the JNA barracks in Bjelovar on 29 September 1991, most JNA soldiers there surrendered, while Tepić refused. Instead, he destroyed the ammunition depot, killing himself, 11 Croatian defenders, and dozens of JNA conscripts as well as endangering local civilians.

Tepic, who was in charge of the ammunition depot in the village of Bedenik, had planned to blow up all four warehouses at that location but was prevented from doing so by four Croatian soldiers, whose intervention prevented an even bigger disaster.

Banja Luka Mayor Draško Stanivuković on Sunday unveiled a plaque commemorating Tepić, describing him as "the last Yugoslav national hero." The plaque was unveiled on the occasion of the day of the Serb entity of Republika Srpska, January 9, a holiday that was declared unconstitutional by the BiH Constitutional Court several years ago.

The Croatian Foreign Ministry on Monday deplored the decision by Banja Luka city authorities, saying that "it glorifies a terrorist act by a person who, during the Great Serbian aggression against Croatia, knowingly caused the death of a large number of Croatian defenders and civilians and huge material destruction in Bjelovar."

The ministry said the Banja Luka city authorities thus "identify themselves with the criminal Great Serbian policy" and jeopardize "the process of building mutual trust and good neighborly relations."

Streets in many Serbian towns have been named after Tepić and in September 2017 a monument was unveiled to him in Belgrade.

Serbia's former foreign minister and now Parliament Speaker, Ivica Dačić, said at the time that "as a JNA officer, Tepić, "who had pledged allegiance to the state and answered for the lives of the young men in his unit, personified honor and integrity."

The unveiling of the plaque in Banja Luka was also condemned by the Croatian War Veterans Ministry, which said that the city authorities have thus confirmed that they promote the Great Serbian ideology.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Civilians Killed in Voćin in 1991 Commemorated

ZAGREB, 18 Dec, 2021 - On the 30th anniversary of the wartime killing of Croatian civilians in Voćin, a senior delegation of the Serb National Council (SNV) and a special envoy of Serbia's president on Saturday honoured the victims for the first time as well as laying wreaths at a memorial to killed and missing Serbs.

The commemoration was organised by the SNV, which said it was honouring the Croat and Serb residents of Voćin and neighbouring villages, western Slavonia, killed in December 1991.

That month, withdrawing from Croatian soldiers in the Voćin area, Serb paramilitaries killed 47 Voćin villagers and three Croatian defenders.

Speaking at the memorial to the Croatian victims, SNV president Milorad Pupovac said it was one of the worst crimes in the 1991-95 Homeland War that would be remembered for its "bestiality and brutality."

He expressed "strong and deep regret" for the "unprotected" victims who had "no evil thought for anyone," adding, "The people who did this stopped being human and thereby our compatriots."

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's special envoy for cooperation with Croatia regarding the war missing, Veran Matić, said the Voćin crime marked the crimes that would ensue in the following years.

"Even 30 years after those horrible events, I have the feeling that we have lost a lot of time and failed to do a lot that could have been done in dealing with our evil past," he said.

Those gone missing in the war are proof of the fact that we have failed to find a way to successfully deal with our past and to agree on and cooperate in healing our societies, he added.

"Some of the people who inspired this crime still have a platform for hate speech and they use it unimpeded. Our task is to stop such rhetoric and not to allow such speech so that the victims, their families and our societies can rest, and as a guarantee that crimes will not happen again."

Matić also said Serbia and Croatia should continue to look for the disappeared even though 30 years have gone by.

Pupovac, Matić and local officials also commemorated Serb civilians from western Slavonia killed between 1991 and 1995.

"We are here today to reiterate our commitment to cooperation in shedding light on the fate of the missing, both those gone missing in this area 30 years ago and those gone missing in later years in other parts of Croatia," said Pupovac.

He added that "cooperation in the search for the missing leads us from hostility to partnership, from nurturing feelings of war to developing feelings of peace."

Responding to questions from the press, Pupovac said this year's commemoration in Voćin was a step forward as both Serb and Croatian victims were honoured.

Asked why no one from Croatia's state leadership was present, he said it was not the time to reprimand anyone, other than those responsible for the crime.

For more about Croatia, CLICK HERE.

Friday, 17 December 2021

Zadar County Succesfully Cleared of Mines Left from Homeland War

December 17, 2021 - Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović attended a ceremony in Zadar on Friday marking the completion of mine clearance activities in Zadar County. Thirty-five people were killed in the Zadar County by mines left over from the 1991-95 war.

Zadar County head Božidar Longin was presented on that occasion with a certificate showing that the county is no longer among areas suspected of being infested with mines while Civil Protection Directorate head Damir Trut held a presentation on the mine removal project in Zadar County, reports Antena Zadar.

Thirty-five people were killed in Zadar County by mines left over from the 1991-95 war.

"There were more than 18,000 infantry and tank mines on 680 fields in the county and a large number of houses and commercial facilities and infrastructure were in areas suspected of being mine-infested, which slowed down economic growth and posed a threat to local residents who were unable to return to their homes," Longin said.

Mine removal is a priority that is systematically invested in

Minister Božinović said that mine removal was one of the priorities in the field of security and that it was systematically invested in.

"The success is visible. The implementation of our original plan has made us globally recognizable and has even won us a leader status in mine action and humanitarian demining. Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Syria have asked for our help and expertise. Mine action in Croatia is still very topical, mines still pose a real threat to the full normalization of life in seven counties, where there are still 15,000 mines on an area of 208 square kilometers," he said.

Around seven billion kuna has been spent on mine removal so far and 204 people have been killed in mine-related accidents, with the latest case happening in Karlovac County in March this year.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

 

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Independent MP Vidović Krišto Ordered Out of Parliament Chamber

ZAGREB, 8 Dec, 2021 - Independent MP Karolina Vidović Krišto was ordered to leave the Parliament chamber at the start of the session on Wednesday morning for violating the Rules of Procedure after proposing paying respects to all children killed in the 1991-1995 Homeland War. 

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković rejected her proposal, saying that such matters should be agreed in advance. After repeatedly asking Vidović Krišto to stop talking and cautioning her three times, he ordered her to leave the chamber.

"This is a very delicate matter and Ms Vidović Krišto put me in a very awkward position. Children killed in the war deserve to be honoured and we should certainly do that. We should honour not just the children but all the people who were killed, civilian victims and Croatian defenders. What she did is extremely inappropriate, an act of provocation with which she wanted to put me and everyone else in an awkward situation," Jandroković said.

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Monday, 6 December 2021

Plaque Unveiled in Dubrovnik to Wartime Photographer Pavo Urban

ZAGREB, 6 Dec 2021 - A memorial plaque was unveiled in Dubrovnik under a clock tower where wartime photographer Pavo Urban was killed by shrapnel during the fierce shelling of Dubrovnik's old town on 6 December 1991.

The ceremony was held on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the heroic defense of Dubrovnik during the Homeland War and Dubrovnik Defenders Day. Urban's family attended the unveiling ceremony which was conducted by Mayor Mato Franković and the prime minister's envoy, Agriculture Minister Marija Vučković.

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(Photo: Grgo Jelavic/PIXSELL)

Minister Vučković underscored that Urban's photographs are remembered because the world saw the culturecide that occurred in Dubrovnik and Croatia.

"Urban's photographs bring documentary directness but also an incredible artistic experience," the agriculture minister said.

Mayor Franković said that Urban gave the most valuable thing he had, his life, in exchange for the truth and to bear witness to Dubrovnik's suffering and destruction and to present it for the world to see.

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The last photographs ever taken by Pavo Urban, before he was killed during shelling in Dubrovnik on December 6, 1991. Photos: Pavo Urban.

The program marking the 30th anniversary of Dubrovnik's defense ends on Tuesday with the launch of a book by Nikola Obuljen, "How we Negotiated with the Enemy".

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For more, check out our dedicated lifestyle section.

Monday, 6 December 2021

Online Campaign Launched for 30th Anniversary of Massive Shelling of Dubrovnik

ZAGREB, 6 Dec 2021 - SENSE Transitional Justice Center has launched a video about the 6 December 1991 massive shelling of Dubrovnik, and the video is part of the interactive narrative "Targeting History and Memory".

SENSE Transitional Justice Center is the successor to SENSE News Agency dedicated to documenting and making permanently accessible the facts about wars in the area of former Socialist Yugoslavia, established beyond a reasonable doubt at the ICTY in The Hague.

The shelling of the Old City of Dubrovnik was qualified in International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY)  indictments and judgments as to the "destruction or deliberate damaging of institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, arts and science, historical monuments, and works of art and science."

The five-day online campaign about the destruction of Dubrovnik was launched on 4 December and brings about the contents of the ICTY's investigation, documents, and trial about the war atrocities committed by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serbian and Montenegrin paramilitaries during the siege of Dubrovnik in 1991 and 1992. 

The five-day internet campaign can be watched on FacebookYouTube, and the SENSE Transitional Justice Center's official website.

30th anniversary of an all-out assault on Dubrovnik

The siege of Dubrovnik culminated in an all-out assault on 6 December 1991 when the JNA and Serbian and Montenegrin paramilitaries targeted the medieval walled town with all types of weapons, killing 19 defenders and civilians and wounding another 60 people. Thousands of shells fell on the historical center, nine palaces were burnt to the ground and 461 buildings were severely damaged that day.

During the siege, this Adriatic town lived mostly without electricity or freshwater. The JNA swept through the surrounding villages looting houses and razing them to the ground. Villagers fled to Dubrovnik or to the islands, some of the elderly who could not flee were taken off to war camps in Morinj, Montenegro, or to Bileća in Serb-controlled Bosnia and Herzegovina.

During the war in a wider Dubrovnik area, 116 civilians and 430 Croatian soldiers were killed and several hundred were injured. As many as 443 Croats were taken to detention camps, and as many as 33,000 had to flee their homes during the siege and the JNA attacks.

Several commemorative events will take place in Dubrovnik to mark the 30th anniversary of the all-out attack.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 22 November 2021

Plaque Commemorating Croatia and Slovenia's Cooperation in 1990s War Unveiled

ZAGREB, 22 Nov 2021 - The scars and traces of the 1990s war and Slobodan Milošević's insane policy are felt even today, Croatian PM Andrej Plenković said in Slovenia on Monday, at the unveiling of a memorial to the cooperation of the governments of the two countries at the time of their struggle for independence.

The memorial plaque in Otočec Ob Krki was unveiled by the two countries' current prime ministers, Janez Janša and Plenković, and their prime ministers of 30 years ago, Franjo Gregurić of Croatia and Alojz Peterle of Slovenia.

"We remember all the horrors that happened during the Great Serbian aggression of the Milošević regime, and the crucial role in it of the then Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), both in Slovenia and in Croatia," said Plenković.

As of mid-1991, there were no longer JNA troops in Slovenia's territory, while a part of Croatia's territory was occupied until 1995 and the military and police operations Flash and Storm, Janša said.

"We suffered the consequences of that aggression practically throughout the 1990s, and the scars and traces of that period and Slobodan Milošević's insane policy are unfortunately felt to this day," Plenković added.

Janša said that "it is important to have a good neighbor in difficult situations" and that Croatia and Slovenia were good neighbors to one another at the time.

Gregurić said that understanding and cooperation made it possible for businesses to reopen despite the war, for trade to function as well as transport, "which to us was very important because there were de facto major barriers to transport connectivity due to the war in Croatia, not only with Serbia but the Eastern Bloc as well."

"Our customs and police services agreed very quickly and there were no impediments to the transport of any goods and services between Croatia and Slovenia. To us it was very important to have a free passage and a corridor to the West," the former Croatian PM said, thanking Slovenia for taking in a portion of Croatian refugees, and Plenković and Janša for their successful cooperation.

Slovenia's six-month EU presidency is nearing the end and Slovenia has been a partner to Croatia on its journey to accession to the Schengen and euro areas, said Plenković.

"Slovenia has been not only a friend and partner that supports us, but it has also been an EU chair actively helping us make progress in the months to come," Plenković said.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Vukovar Remembers Victims of War Crimes Committed at Velepromet and Ovčara

ZAGREB, 20 Nov, 2021 - A requiem mass was said and wreath-laying ceremonies were held on Saturday on the premises of the Velepromet storage facility,  which was converted into a concentration camp by the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and Serbian paramilitaries and rebels during the siege of Vukovar in 1991. 

An estimated 10,000 people were detained in the "Velepromet" buildings from late 1991 to March 1992 when this camp was closed, according to statistics kept by former detainees' association.

Of those 10,000 detainees, some 700 were killed, and the head of the association Danijel Rehak said today that this was the biggest execution site in Vukovar.

He said that the former detainees had lodged a plenty of reports against perpetrators of atrocities a Velepromet and in Vukovar, and he accused the Croatian prosecutorial authorities for insufficient efforts to prosecute those war crimes.

On Saturday afternoon, residents of Vukovar and families of the missing and fallen defenders and civilians will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the executions at former Ovčara farm.

Ovčara was another site of atrocities committed by the occupying forces on 20 and 21 November 1991. The exact number of the people killed at Ovčara, a former pig farm, is unknown, but 194 cases have been documented before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Of those, the youngest victim was 16 years old and the oldest 77. The majority of victims were patients transported from the Vukovar general hospital to that farm, several kilometres away from the town.

Vukovar was peacefully reintegrated into Croatia in January 1998. The peaceful reintegration began in January 1996 with the assistance of the UNTAES (UN Transitional Authority in Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and western Sirmium). Croatia's parliament decided in 1999 that Vukovar Remembrance Day would be observed on November 18, the day of the town's fall.

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