Sunday, 4 August 2019

Ahead of Operation Storm Anniversary, New Tensions Between Croatia and Neighbours

ZAGREB, August 4, 2019 - Where have 400,000 Serbs and Yugoslavs from Croatia gone, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić asked Croatian officials on Saturday, ahead of events marking the 24th anniversary of the Croatian military and police operation Storm.

Relations between Belgrade and Zagreb become tense every year in August when the operation whereby Croatia in 1995 won the war against the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) and local Serb rebels, is commemorated.

Croats consider the operation a legitimate action that liberated then occupied parts of the country while Serbians see it as an act of ethnic cleansing of their ethnic kin from Croatia.

Vučić asked Croatian authorities to explain how it was possible that of the 582,000 Serbs and 106,000 Yugoslavs in Croatia's 1981 census, only 184,000 declared themselves as Serbs in 2011.

The Serbian president is confident that by 2021, there will be fewer than 150,000 Serbs left in Croatia.

"If you say that 100,000 have emigrated for economic reasons, what about the other 400,000? How will you explain that?" asked Vučić.

He reiterated that for Croatia the day of Operation Storm was "a day of joy" while for Serbia "it is one of the saddest days in the country's modern history."

"We must not be ashamed of our tears, we should respect others' victims but unlike before, we must also respect our, Serb victims, talk about them and not downplay them," Vucic told reporters in Belgrade.

Serbia-Croatia relations have been deteriorating in recent years, mainly because of opposite positions on Operation Storm and the plight of Serbs in Croatia, Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) president Milorad Pupovac said this past Thursday, adding that it was necessary to conceive a policy of remembering all the victims which would enable people to live normally.

Pupovac, a Croatian MP, said Croatia-Serbia relations had been bad since 2011 and that, aside from different interpretations of Operation Storm, "a serious problem for Serbs in Croatia" was the absence of sentences for war crimes, persecutions, the destruction of villages, and the prevention of returns.

This year Operation Storm has also caused disputes in relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, after President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said that it had saved Bosnia and Herzegovina's northwestern Krajina region from genocide and that she would like the neighboring country never to forget who gave it a hand in the most difficult times.

A former commander of the Bosniak Army of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Hamdija Abdić Tigar, dismissed Grabar-Kitarovic's statement, claiming that it was Bosniak troops that had liberated parts of Croatia.

"The hell they saved us... We kept this region safe for them the whole time. What would have happened had we been defeated? Where would Croatia be today? Its border would be running along the Karlovac-Karlobag-Virovitica line," said Abdić.

The 24th anniversary of Operation Storm will be marked on August 5 and as in previous years, the central commemoration will be held in Knin, the former stronghold of Croatian Serb rebels, and it will be attended by the highest state officials.

On August 5 Croatia also observes Victory Day, Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans' Day.

More news about the Operation Storm can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 3 August 2019

SNV Sympathises with All Who Do Not Forget Their Loved Ones

ZAGREB, August 3, 2019 - On the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the 1995 Croatian military and police operation Storm, the Serb National Council (SNV) on Saturday issued a remembrance statement calling for a minute's silence and expressing sympathy with all who remember their family members, neighbours and friends killed in that operation.

"We express sympathy over the lost and abandoned homes. Even though we are not part of the collective memory established by the state, it is up to us to say the victims' names and the names of their villages and towns without fear and with dignity, and to remember them freely," reads the statement, signed by SNV president Boris Milošević.

The SNV leader noted that the war in Croatia did not end with Operation Storm, or with the murder of the last old man or the departure of the last tractor, and that it also did not end with Croatia's accession to the EU.

"The war has never been more alive and the news of its end travels slowly," the SNV says, adding that the news of the war's end has still not reached Croatian courts, members of parliament, schools and those who do not know what to do with themselves in peacetime.

"The war is not over and Serb children who have to bear the stigma of criminals in their schools and feel the guilt for its destructive consequences are the ones who know it best," the SNV says.

It warns that in such circumstances it is not only Serbs, killed and expelled during the Storm and Flash operations and tortured and abducted during the war, who are being forgotten, also forgotten are Croat civilians killed in the war. Their suffering becomes equally invisible and unreal in a society in which the war and war myths become values in themselves while ethnic and religious backgrounds are treated as life achievements, reads the statement.

The SNV has fought and will continue fighting for a remembrance policy in which there will be room for all victims and all those who today suffer injustice due to their ethnic and religious affiliation, the statement says.

"We will eventually have to look at ourselves in the mirror as a society regardless of how much we fear our own reflection," the SNV says, adding that the sooner this is done, the better it will be for the freedom and equality of all people in Croatia.

"The necessity of that act is reflected in the fact that violence was sown in society long ago and is evident in schools, in political speeches, in the media and in the street. History will repeat itself to all those who do not see the connection between the glorification of the war and an almost complete absence of solidarity and empathy," the SNV said.

More info about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 2 August 2019

President Says Operation Storm Saved Bosnia

ZAGREB, August 1, 2019 - President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Thursday that Croatia's Operation Storm saved Bosnia and Herzegovina and that she would like the neighbouring country never to forget who gave it a hand in the most difficult times.

She was speaking at a ceremony at the Defence Ministry on the occasion of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, Croatian War Veterans Day and the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm, at which 266 soldiers were promoted and more than 100 were awarded.

"Looking at you all fills me with special pride. Seeing young people who are willing to continue on the path of Croatian defenders in serving the homeland guarantees that in these stormy times full of new challenges, on Croatia's bulwark, stand the defenders of its freedom, security and future," said Grabar-Kitarović.

She said the 1995 Operation Storm was a watershed that marked the arrival of peace in a war-torn Croatia and that it was followed by operations in BiH where, she added, Croatian forces, with many victims, broke the Serbian aggression and prevented new Srebrenicas.

The president recalled last week's terrorist attack in Afghanistan in which Croatian lance corporal Josip Briški was killed and two members of the Croatian contingent in the Resolute Support mission were wounded. All three were decorated.

The president said nearly 24 years had passed since the last Croatian defender was killed in battle. "Like Josip Jović, the first defender killed in the Homeland War, lance corporal Briški gave his life for peace, defending Croatia far from its borders."

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said the Operation Storm anniversary was a celebration of the greatest victory of the Croatian army and police in the Homeland War, but also a day to remember the defenders who built their lives into the foundations of the state for present-day peace and freedom.

"An enormous sacrifice was made for our freedom," he said, adding that this year's Operation Storm anniversary would be "significant and sad because of our Josip Briški, who died serving the homeland and all of humankind in the struggle for peace, freedom and security in the world."

Krstičević said Briški's death proved that peace and security had no price and that it was therefore necessary to continue to develop and strengthen the Croatian army and the homeland security system.

More info about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia Strengthening Cooperation in Search for War Missing

ZAGREB, July 30, 2019 - Locating and identifying the remains of those gone missing in the war in the former Yugoslavia is primarily a humanitarian issue and must not be the subject of political dispute between countries in the region, Croatia's representative told his counterparts from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia in Sarajevo on Tuesday with whom he signed protocols to speed up that process.

Croatian Assistant Veterans' Affairs Minister Stjepan Sučić, the head of Serbia's office for missing persons, Veljko Odalović, and the director of the Institute for Missing Persons in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nikola Perišić, signed documents on the implementation of a previously agreed protocol on cooperation in the search for missing persons.

Croatia is still searching for 1,892 people who went missing during the 1990s Homeland War, yet the previously signed agreements have not produced any progress for that issue to finally be resolved, Sučić recalled. "When the time for action comes, disputes emerge," he added.

The missing, however, are primarily a humanitarian problem that must be separated from other outstanding issues between countries in the region, he said.

Today's signing is a "small step forward" and we aren't expecting "anything spectacular if good will doesn't exist and if that issue is not treated without any politics or relating it to other outstanding issues," Sučić said.

The existing agreement on tracing the missing signed with Serbia need to be reviewed as do the rules of procedure so that they are in line with the law on missing persons recently adopted in the Croatian parliament because it is necessary to protect the rights of missing persons and their families too, he said.

Perišić said that the documents signed today define the method of cooperation and exchange of information, including the exhumation and handing over of remains.

There are still about 12,000 people considered to have gone missing during the wars in the entire area of the former Yugoslavia and morgues throughout the region contain the remains of about 4,000 people that have not been identified.

He added that in Bosnia and Herzegovina alone there are about 7,200 missing persons and without institutional cooperation that search would be an impossible mission.

Odalović said that Serbia is prepared for cooperation without any restrictions so that the issue of those gone missing during the 1990s wars can be resolved, but considering the nature of all those conflicts, that problem cannot be solved without regional cooperation.

"There has to be a regional search mechanism" Odalović said, adding that country borders must not be an obstacle in the search for the war missing.

More news about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

Homeland War Museum Opened in Karlovac - Turanj

On Friday, the Homeland War Museum was officially opened in Turanj, a village near Karlovac where the collection of the Homeland War arms and equipment has been preserved as an open-air exhibition for a while.

Now the entire museum, including the exhibition within the building, has been opened to the public by the Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović.

At the museum opening ceremony, she reminded everyone that Turanj was not only one of the many locations where Croatia was defended during the war, but that it was also an important symbol of victory for all of Croatia.

The President reminded everyone that the imagined border of the so-called Greater Serbia was supposed to be Virovitica-Karlovac-Karlobag, and that because of the shape of Croatia, the biggest danger was around Karlovac.

However, she added that "Croatia wasn't broken here - rather, Turanj became the symbol of victory for Croatia". The President also said that it's important to cultivate the culture of remembrance, and expressed her hope that the Homeland War Museum will become one of the key symbols of the memory of the Homeland war, along with the water tower of Vukovar.

Tomo Medved, Minister of Veteran Affairs, said that the museum is mostly directed towards the younger generations, as a permanent reminder of more recent Croatian history and the strength, determination and bravery of Croatian soldiers. The Homeland War Museum has already become a part of the visit made by eighth-graders to Vukovar, Turanj, Knin and Okučani, which is a part of obligatory history lessons. Medved added that the Museum should also serve a tourist purpose, as it will be in all tourist catalogues and maps of the region.

Minister of Culture Nina Obuljen Koržinek visited the museum and said that it's very modern, and that she hopes that it will soon become one of the most visited museums in that part of Croatia. The total investment into the Museum was almost 27 million kuna, and the Ministry of Culture participated with eight million kuna.

The building that houses the museum was named "Hotel California" during the worst days of destruction, and it has been conserved in such a delapidated state, which made it the exhibit in the museum itself. In addition to the indoor exhibition, the open-air collection includes 23 makeshift armored vehicles and several planes used during the war.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Parliament Commemorates Srebrenica Genocide Victims

ZAGREB, July 5, 2019 - A commemoration on the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide, when more than 8,000 Bosniak men and boys were killed by Bosnian Serb forces, was held at the Croatian parliament and a message was sent out that a crime of that nature must never occur again.

The commemoration, during which the names were read out of 33 victims whose remains will be laid to rest on July 11, was organised by the Association of Bosniak Homeland War Veterans and the member of parliament who represents a group of minorities, including the Bosniaks, Ermina Lekaj Prljaskaj.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Željko Reiner said that commemorations for the Srebrenica victims reopened old wounds.

Twenty-four years after the atrocity, its dimensions are still being uncovered because in 1995 thousands of innocent people were killed in the most massive crime and genocide after World War II. They remain in our collective memory of the brutality of individuals who demonstrated their inhumanity. The truth is important for the sake of the victims and their families because any denial hides the seed of future wars and crimes, said Reiner.

Only the truth and admission of responsibility for crimes pave the way to a catharsis, Reiner said.

Hamdija Malić of the Association of Bosniak Homeland War Veterans said that the Srebrenica tragedy occurred because of the aggressive and criminal policy of Slobodan Milošević, who, he said, could have prevented it with a single phone call to criminal Ratko Mladić yet he did not do so.

Killing more than 8,000 people in several days is an unprecedented crime after World War II, he said, accusing international politicians in power at the time of failing to do anything to prevent the atrocity despite having witnessed the tragedy of the Croatian town of Vukovar.

He said that it was tragic that the Serb Orthodox Church encouraged Great Serbian paramilitary forces that killed, raped and expelled non-Serbs and burned their homes.

We thank Croats and the Croatian Parliament for having a big heart and for recognising the participation of 25,000 Bosniaks in the Homeland War, of whom 1,100 were killed, Malić said.

The commemoration in the parliament was also addressed by Lekaj Prljaskaj, an envoy for the Croatian president, Mirjana Hrga, and Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić.

Nermin Mujkanović, who was a child at the time and survived the Srebrenica genocide but lost two older brothers in it, spoke at the commemoration about those events.

More news about the relations between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Šibenik-Knin County Financing Film About General Ante Gotovina

Ante Gotovina is much more than just a household name like that of an actor or a singer. This hero of the Homeland War was proclaimed innocent at The Hague and released back in 2012. He returned to Croatia and embarked on a normal life before becoming somewhat of an entrepreneur. Thesedays, Gotovina no longer dons a general's uniform, but instead deals in the raising of tuna through his own company.

As Gotovina enjoys the quiet life now, the stories of his heroic past in the face of war have never faded, and a film about him is set to be filmed with Šibenik-Knin County's very welcome financial support.

As Morski writes on the 28th of May, 2019, Šibenik-Knin County Prefect Goran Pauk has signed a co-financing contract for a feature film and the "General" TV series.

"This contract stipulates that Šibenik-Knin County is obliged to provide financial support in the amount of 100,000 kuna to the project of a feature-length film and drama television series called "General'', by the screenwriter and director Antun Vrdoljak in the production of Kiklop filma d.o.o. and Croatian Television,'' reads a quote from Šibenik-Knin County.

In the explanation, it is argued that the theme of the film and TV series is the Homeland War, to which Croatian cinematography still owes a lot, given the historical achievement of the creation of the democratic and independent Republic of Croatia, the fulfillment of a centuries-old dream of the Croatian people.

The film and TV series covers the the war and the life of General Ante Gotovina and his generation of Croatian defenders, detailing both the good times and the extremely bad ones.

"Most of all, because of those who have given us and all future generations the liberty that we've inherited today, the Croatian Defense Forces," they argue in their clarification of their decision to fund the film on Gotovina's life and deeds.

To briefly recall, filming was completed in Šibenik on January the 30th this year, and Šibenik native Goran Višnjić plays General Ante Gotovina.

Make sure to follow our dedicated lifestyle page for much more.

Sunday, 12 May 2019

Rudolf Perešin MiG-21 Put on Display Outside Defence Ministry

ZAGREB, May 12, 2019 - A ceremony was held outside the Defence Ministry building in Zagreb on Sunday to formally mark the return of a MiG-21 fighter jet with which Croatian pilot Rudolf Perešin defected from the Yugoslav Air Force in October 1991.

Perešin flew the plane from a Yugoslav Air Force base near the northwestern Bosnian town of Bihać to Klagenfurt, Austria, which was seen as an act of moral victory at the start of Serbian military aggression against Croatia in 1991. The plane was returned to Zagreb earlier this month and will remain on display outside the Defence Ministry until the end of May, after which it will be relocated to the Croatian Air Force base at Pleso.

Addressing the ceremony, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that the plane was one of the main symbols of the 1991-1995 Homeland War, adding that its return after 28 years of quiet diplomacy and government efforts was a mark of honour to all Croatian veterans and their families.

"The story of Rudolf Perešin and this plane is a story of freedom. It must remain with us forever. The message Rudolf Perešin sent in October 1991 to Croatian defenders, the entire Croatian nation and the entire world, is a message of freedom, courage, strength, boldness and patriotism. That message is again with us here today," the prime minister said.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said: "This plane is a living piece of history and a symbol of the start of the Croatian Army and the Croatian Air Force, a symbol of victory, resistance against aggression and the fight of the Croatian nation for its independence. Its return is of an immeasurable value to our country."

Rudolf Perešin decided to leave the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA) on 25 October 1991, undertaking a risky flight from Bihac to Klagenfurt. He was later quoted by media as saying: "I am Croatian, I cannot and won't shoot at Croatians."

Perešin was killed on 2 May 1995 during Operation Flash in the Western Slavonia region when his MiG was shot down by Serb anti-aircraft artillery. His remains were found only two and a half years later, and he was given a formal burial at Zagreb's Mirogoj Cemetery in 1997.

More news about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 10 May 2019

24 Years After War, Croatia Gets 1,687 New War Veterans

Almost 24 years after the Homeland war ended, Croatia has 1,687 new war veterans. New veterans have been able to prove they should be recognised as such nearly a quarter of a century after the end of the war due to the new War Veterans Act, which has reopened the possibility of acquiring the status, even though the earlier deadline was 2009. The number of new veterans is expected to grow further because the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior have received a total of 10,600 requests for recognition of this status, reports Novi List on May 10, 2019.

The Ministry of Defense has announced that it has received a total of 9,529 requests by May 3. Out of this, 2,579 applications have been processed, and 1,367 have been accepted. This means that the remaining 1,382 claims have been declined, i.e. in these cases, citizens have failed to prove that they should get the war veteran status. The Interior Ministry announced it had received 1,071 requests. “The status has been confirmed for 320 people, while 391 requests have been denied. Other claims are still being processed,” said the ministry.

The two ministries have processed 3,470 of the 10,600 requests so far, which is slightly more than one-third. So far, 47.3 per cent of the claims has been accepted, while slightly more than half have been rejected, which means that, if the ratio is maintained, Croatia could eventually have about five thousand new war veterans. Given that claims can still be filed, this will not be the final number.

When the government passed the new law in December 2017, and Veterans Affairs Minister Tomo Medved reclassified the War Veterans Register, it included 505,694 veterans, but that number has now grown by 1,687.

The new law foresees that the war veteran status, in addition to members of the Armed Forces, including the National Guard, the Croatian Army, officials of the Defence Ministry, police officers, officials of the Interior Ministry, and the Croatian Defense Forces, “can be recognised for members of the People Protection units, If they were engaged for at least 100 days in the period from July 30 1991, to December 31 1991.”

Citizens who have taken advantage of this opportunity and ensured the war veteran status in the latest wave may expect certain benefits when it comes to their everyday life, i.e. the right to health care and to a privileged position in getting a job in state services. If they become unemployed, they have the right to special compensation. The law which entered into force in 2018 has also reduced the retirement age for veterans. They also have a minimum guaranteed pension which is higher than the one for other retired citizens.

Translated from Novi List (reported by Jagoda Marić).

More Homeland War news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Victims of Operation Flash on Both Sides Commemorated

ZAGREB, May 2, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović told reporters on Wednesday in Okučani at a ceremony marking the 24th anniversary of a combined military and police offensive, known as Operation Flash, which ended nearly four years of Serb occupation of the Western Slavonia region, that Operation Flash had finally liberated Croatian territory and enabled the reintegration of the entire Croatia.

"Today with special reverence and dignity we are marking the military and police Operation Flash which launched the final liberation of Croatian territory and reintegration of the entire Croatia," said the president. She expressed deep sympathy for the families of those killed and missing.

Asked to comment on the 22 Serb victims who were killed in Medari during Operation Flash, the president said: "We mourn every victim and all victims deserve commemoration, regardless of their nationality."

Also present was Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković who said Croatia commemorated all those who died during Operation Storm.

The ceremony in Okučani was also attended Defence Minister Damir Krstičević, Interior Minister Dražen Božinović, Veterans Minister Tomo Medved and other top officials.

The operation was launched on May 1 and ended on May 3, 1995. During less than 32 hours, Croatian troops and police regained control of 500 square kilometres of land, including the main west-east motorway and the railway line leading to Eastern Slavonia.

About 7,200 troops and police officers took part in the liberation of Western Slavonia, of whom 42 were killed and 162 wounded. It was the first time during the 1991-1995 Homeland War that the Croatian Air Force had used airstrikes on a larger scale, and the enemy was further surprised by tanks that were brought in by rail and deployed in combat.

Okučani is located about 130 kilometres southeast of Zagreb. During the war it was the centre of the Serb rebellion and a staging area for terrorist attacks in Western Slavonia.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković visited Okučani on Tuesday on the eve of the 24th anniversary of Operation Flash.

Serb Orthodox priest Dragan Antonić officiated a religious ceremony in Okučani on Wednesday after which Independent Democratic Serb Party vice president Boris Milošević told the press he had come to Okučani to remember the victims and senselessness of the war.

Although announced, SDSS president Milorad Pupovac did not attend the event.

Asked about the message from Okušani, Milošević said this was exclusively a religious event.

After the religious ceremony, a prayer was held in Medari to commemorate the 22 Serb civilians killed in Operation Flash.

More news about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.

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