Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Vukovar Rock Climbing: Biggest Climbing Wall Coming to Town

February the 8th, 2022 - Fancy trying out your skills on the up and coming Vukovar rock climbing wall? The biggest rock climbing wall in all of the Republic of Croatia and in this part of the region is set to find its home in this often overlooked Eastern Croatian city which is still synonymous with the Homeland War.

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Crnjak writes, ongoing inflation and rising costs across all fields have contributed to slowing down and throwing spanners into the works of the Adica forest park project in Vukovar, which is currently without any accommodation units, but in the middle of next year, Vukovar will get a brand new fun tourist attraction, an adrenaline park with the largest rock for climbing in this part of the region.

The "Magic Forest" project, which encompasses the Vukovar rock climbing wall is worth 30 million kuna in total and is part of the Intervention Plan of the City of Vukovar. It is all being co-financed by EU funds, and in addition to enriching the lives of local people, it will give tourists a new reason to visit this Eastern Croatian city. In addition to being aimed at families, tourists eager for an adrenaline rush or two are also expected. Professional competitions will also be able to be held there.

"Vukovar has a lot to offer tourists, and now we're starting to incorporate what we lacked, entertainment that is an important motive for tourists and added value in the valorisation of the city's tourism offer," said Marina Sekulic, the director of the Vukovar Tourist Board.

In addition to these facilities, Adica should have had accommodation facilities, bungalows and a campsite, but this was abandoned at this stage due to unpredictable construction costs as a result of the current situation with inflation. Sekulic noted that it is a pity that these segments haven't yet been implemented, but the projects are ready and implementation is possible in the future through some other funding models.

Last week, the mayor of Vukovar, Ivan Penava, signed a contract with the contractor for the Magic Forest with the Presoflex gradnja (construction) company from Pozega.

"With this project worth 30 million kuna, we'll get two new facilities, one is a wooden promenade along the river Vuka spanning the length of almost one kilometre, while the other is a new sport and entertainment adrenaline park which will consist of high and low static polygons, climbing rocks which will be 20 metres high and a 470-metre-long zip line that will cross the Vuka River,'' Penava explained.

According to him, the Adica project and the new Vukovar rock climbing wall will contribute to the creation of new jobs in the City of Vukovar, and with all of its new entertainment offers and recreational facilities, it will have a positive impact on the entire tourist and catering and hospitality offer.

For more, check out our lifestyle section.

Thursday, 18 November 2021

I Would Like Us to Think Only About Vukovar These Days, Mayor Says

ZAGREB, 18 Nov 2021 - The Mayor of Vukovar, Ivan Penava, said on Thursday that Vukovar and the sacrifice of its defenders in the Homeland War 30 years ago should dominate media reports in Croatia today.

"I would like us to think only about Vukovar these days, for our thoughts to be with those who are no longer with us, and to pay respects to everyone who helped in the defense of Vukovar and Croatia," Penava told reporters before a commemorative gathering outside the Vukovar hospital.

"We should also recall that the city was razed to the ground, that thousands of its residents were killed, that the JNA General Staff were never brought to justice as those who issued orders. This is a huge shame, which only shows what kind of people we are and how we respect the people who were killed in this city. This sends an ugly message about us because we are all responsible for this situation," he added.

"I hope that those who were killed still have their families to remember them, and if not, we are here for them," the mayor said in an emotional statement.

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

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Ivan Penava Elected Homeland Movement President

ZAGREB, 9 Oct, 2021 - Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava was elected president of the Homeland Movement on Saturday at an extraordinary assembly of this opposition party, saying he accepted the challenge to "claim Croatia back from those who took it."

Penava was the only candidate for the position and was elected unanimously.

He said he did not want the Homeland Movement to be just another party "because there's no more time for that."

"We are not here because this is the Croatia that thousands of generations fought for. We are here because we have no other homeland... We stood up against hopelessness and despondency, against a creeping occupation and hypocrisy. We stood up against those who have turned Our Beautiful (Homeland) into Their Sorrowful, a state which is not even their homeland," Penava said in his speech.

Croatia is not ruled by citizens, the government does not listen to them, he said, telling "self-aware Croatians, citizens... Don't listen to those who don't listen to you, don't choose those who don't choose you."

Penava also had a message for his former party, the ruling HDZ, saying "the policy they are pursuing is not the policy" of Franjo Tuđman, the party's founder and Croatia's first president.

He said the Homeland Movement would build Croatia only through work, commitment and honesty. "With this government, Croatia has no future because the best of us, our children, are leaving."

The Homeland Movement elected a new president after breaking up with its founder and former leader, Miroslav Škoro, who stepped down in July "for personal reasons."

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

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Saturday, 18 September 2021

Mayor: It’s a Disgrace Nobody Has Answered for Vukovar Crimes

ZAGREB, 18 Sept, 2021 - Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava said after a commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Vukovar on Saturday that the incumbent and all previous Croatian governments should be ashamed of the fact that nobody had answered for the city's destruction in 1991 and the thousands of people killed there.

"If we disregard the rulings of the international tribunal in The Hague and for the Ovčara atrocity, nobody has yet been brought to account for Vukovar and that is a big disgrace for this government and all previous governments," said Penava.

Asked by reporters if today was an appropriate day to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Battle of Vukovar, Penava said that everyone would have their own opinion on the matter but that he welcomed it as a day honouring Vukovar's defenders and the 204th Brigade.

He said that he had listened to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's speech today, in which, he said, Plenković spoke about positive examples of the government's care for Vukovar but failed to mention problems, such as those regarding the local economy and suspended investments in the local wood-processing sector and hotel industry, which, he said, the government led by Plenković was responsible for.

"What saddens one the most, and what the government led by Plenković has inherited from the previous governments, is the shameful fact that nobody has been brought to account for the fact that Vukovar was razed to the ground in 1991, while the parliamentary majority regularly votes confidence in both the Supreme Court and the Chief State Prosecutor, thus supporting the policy that has turned its back on the Vukovar victims," said Penava.

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Friday, 25 June 2021

Ending Segregated Education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava Announced an Idea

June 25, 2021 - Is there any possibility of ending segregated education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava announced Serbian and Croatian education could merge in school and kindergarten levels, but more details are yet to be revealed.

The start of the week saw interesting news that surprised many. As reported by N1, Ivan Penava, the mayor of Vukovar, announced Croatian and Serbian classes and kindergartens could merge together.

Vukovar, often referred to in Croatia as the „Hero City“ for the heavy blow it suffered in the 90s war Croatians refer to as Homeland War, still has a lot of ruins as memories of that ugly past. In the light of national tensions among Serbs and Croats, the segregation of kindergartens and different shifts in schools for Serbian and Croatian classes seem to be a solution to keep the peace.

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screenshot/ N1

Good idea but more talks needed?

„In Vukovar, parents do not choose the model of education that is imposed by politics, it is nowhere written in public“, said mayor Penava, as reported by N1.

Penava, a former member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), despite earning a new term in the recent local elections as an independent candidate, enjoyed support from Miroslav Škoro, runner-up candidate for Zagreb mayor elections, and the leader of the Homeland Movement (DP) supports Penava's idea.

„I lived in America for a number of years, in Hungary, I traveled the world... what is the difference between Serbian and Croatian mathematics? Is Argentina in Serbian in the northern hemisphere, and southern in Croatian? I don't get it“, said Škoro adding that segregation was done in malice with a tendency to divide children from the start.

„In Vukovar, the symbol of defense had priorities. Reconstruction of the water tower, and certain moves Penava did well in his last term (he wouldn't win elections if he hasn't), thinks that city needs to move on. I support him 100%“, concluded Škoro.

On the other hand, criticism is erected on national-level politics.

„I don't think that local officials are the ones who need to determine a way in which minority education will be conducted. Political trade is clear here, and I'm glad there is no longer just Serbian-Croatian trading coalition, but also another one“, said Dragana Jecov, a Croatian parliament member from the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) referring to the accusations of the right-wing that current coalition of HDZ and SDSS and is vile political trade.

Interior Minister Davo Božinović also said that while we need to work on erasing national, social, and political tensions, but this is a question that needs to be discussed more seriously.

Additionally, as N1 reported, the Ministry of Education pointed out that different models of education for Vukovar schools exist, and parents can choose which they find most suitable.

Accepting national differences or nationalistic uniformity?

Some improvements have indeed been seen in the city infrastructure, but Vukovar still remains a challenging place to live. Partly due to the tough economic situation, but also because of discrepancies among Serbian and Croatian residents. Earlier in June, there was even a violent incident when a 30-year-old Serbian member of the Grobari football fan group physically attacked a Croatian 13-year-old boy in front of a bakery for having a medicine mask with Croatian symbols.

„Sadly, this kind of thing happened too long in Vukovar, where people attack each other because of national disputes. Media aren't even introduced to some of these events. It is spread a lot, as evident by the constant police patrols around Vukovar high-schools where there are always police cars around“, said Vukovar police to Večernji List daily newspaper.

Such incidents, a misfortunate loose ends of the war, also come from the Croatian side. Earlier in May, a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans in Borovo Selo (close to Vukovar), a scene of heinous war crimes in the '90s), sparking condemnation from both president Milanović and the Croatian Government.

In that light, integrated schools might finally bring positive changes in regards to tolerance and peaceful life for Vukovar citizens. But again, not everyone sees the glass as half full.
Index.hr columnist Gordan Duhaček agreed in his column that Serbs and Croats don't need to go to separate shifts but warns how Penava isn't the guy that should unite them.

„Penava doesn't want to integrate Vukovar schools and end the troubling segregation in a way to ensure a better future for the whole city, but instead to impose his nationalistic, often anti-Serbian narrative as the official one. Penava wants that Vukovar Serbs bow down to his view of the Croatian state“, wrote Duhaček.

Duhaček also reminded the readership of the attempt and fail of the Danube International school that supposed to integrate pupils of both nations, an idea that spawned 16 years ago. But, the project failed, and Duhaček sees both Penava and SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac not feeling too sad about it.

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Iconic Vukovar water tower, pixabay

Questions on details

At the end of the week, the situation seems more confusing than clear. Is class integration a good idea? Could it save money for the city financially? What are some actual details of merging Croats and Serbians into one class? Obviously, Škoro is right that 2+2=4 in any math class around the world. But, troubling questions appear in subjects such as language and history. Croats and Serbs sadly have their own, different interpretations of historical facts, particularly when it comes to the last war, and while the speakers of two languages perfectly understand each other, some words do differ, and there is a different accent and spelling in the two formal languages. So, how can these issues be resolved? Would those two subjects remain in different shifts while universal subjects such as biology, math, or physics will listen in one merged classroom? Or will there be a different curriculum that would present both Serbian and Croatian history, Serbian and Croatian literature in that way, making Vukovar pupils more knowledgable in those areas than other pupils in the country?

Or some curriculum consensus on history could be reached, one that would satisfy both the Croatian and Serbian sides and thus truly open a doorway to the better understandings of the two nations in the future in perhaps the most nationally torn city in Croatia?

Obviously, Vukovar city authorities have some tensions with SDSS, but the city also has an expert associate for the development of civil society and national minorities, Siniša Mitrović in one of the City's departments. Did Mitrović manage to gain input from the Serbian minority in Vukovar about this merge? And how fast could the whole thing be realized? This autumn or maybe a bit later?
These are important and interesting questions that can only be answered either by mayor Penava himself or perhaps Josip Paloš, the director of the Vukovar City Education Department.

„Mayor Penava is in a lot of meetings and on fields, and his schedule is full. We will sadly not be able to answer you by your Friday deadline, but we will contact you at the earliest convenience“, said the lady at the Vukovar City PR service when I called them (and E-mailed) with a wish to arrange and conduct a brief phone interview.

While this article may present the current issues surrounding segregated education in Vukovar, this TCN reporter hopes mayor Penava will share more details about his plan on ending segregation in Vukovar schools and kindergarten with joint classes. If done right, this move can indeed be the way to a better, more peaceful future for Vukovar citizens.

Learn more about Vukovar on our TC page.

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

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Vukovar City Council Says No Conditions to Expand Serb Minority Rights

ZAGREB, Oct 28, 2020  - Vukovar City Council concluded by a majority vote on Wednesday that conditions have not yet been reached to expand ensured individual rights and to regulate collective rights for members of the Serb minority who live in that town.

The conclusion was adopted following several hours of debating on the achieved level of understanding, solidarity, tolerance, and dialogue among Vukovar residents - members of the Croat majority population and the Serb national minority. The conclusion received the support of 15 councilors while 6 voted against it.

The conclusion notes that in conditions "when fundamental human rights are still neglected for a vast majority of Vukovar residents of all ethnicities, who opposed the Great Serbia aggression in 1991, and that is the right to life, human dignity, and human freedom, because of the systematic deferment of launching proceedings against perpetrators of war crimes, the necessary preconditions have not been achieved to recognize new special rights to the Serb national minority within the framework of the equal use of the language and script."

The Council for the Serb National Minority of the City of Vukovar commented on the proposed conclusion in writing earlier, saying that Mayor Ivan Penava has not made sufficient effort to mend relations between Croats and Serbs in Vukovar which, the council said, can be seen in the fact that the proposed conclusion is identical to the one adopted last year.
 
The council also complained that Mayor Penava is constantly warning of impunity for war crimes committed in Vukovar in 1991 against the majority of people while never referring to crimes committed against Vukovar Serbs. The Hungarian and Ukraine minorities' council supported the draft conclusion.

The City Statute obliged the City Council to discuss the state of human rights in Vukovar each October, or at least once in two years, and to adopt a decision on that basis.

Today's City Council meeting was held without reporters, who were given an audio recording of the meeting with the explanation that such a decision was made due to the deteriorated epidemiological situation.

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Sunday, 8 December 2019

Bratislava Names Street After Vukovar, Marking the Bond Between Cities

December 8, 2019 - The capital of Slovakia is the first city outside of former Yugoslavia to name a street after the Croatian hero city, Vukovar!

N1 and the Croatian State Office for Croats Abroad report that the honor of unveiling the street nameplate in the Devínska Nová Ves Municipality on Friday went to Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava and the Mayor of that municipality, Darius Krajčir, who initiated the idea and also has Croatian roots.

"The Danube River connects Bratislava and Vukovar, Vukovar is a symbol of all Croats in the world, and this act is an expression of true respect and friendship towards the heroic city," said Mayor Krajčir, stating that the municipality of Devínska Nová Ves has always been a municipality with a Croatian population, and through history has still been called Croatian.

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Central State Office for Croats Abroad

Mayor Penava expressed great gratitude but also pride because this Slovakian street now bears the name of the Croatian hero city. 

"This is not just about the street, but about what is behind it. This act speaks to Croats who came here 500 years ago and managed to preserve their language and culture, their consciousness about their nationality and Croatian roots, about the Homeland War, the symbolism and power of Vukovar and its significance for all of the Croatian people. My heart is full to be among my people in such a beautiful setting,” he noted.

The Croatian ambassador to Slovakia, Alexander Heina, also could not hide his satisfaction. 

"When a street in Croatia is called Vukovar, it is an act of recognition, but an action we expect. But when something like this happens outside the borders of Croatia, it is something special, something that needs to be recognized, because it proves the truth about the destruction of Vukovar and what happened during the Homeland War outside of Croatia,” Heina emphasized.

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Central State Office for Croats Abroad

A reception and commemorative program were organized for guests from Croatia in the Municipality of Devínska Nová Ves along with a visit to the Museum of Croatian Culture, built with donations from the governments of the two countries in Devínsko Novo Selo.

Just a few days ago, another issue was positively resolved for the Croatian national minority in Slovakia, which is a quality and long-term solution to the status of the building of the Museum of Croatian Culture in Slovakia. Societies and associations of the Croatian national minority in Slovakia have thus obtained legal certainty for the long-term use of the building for 99 years, which has become and remains the center of Croatian events, joint meetings and activities. A lasting solution to this issue is of great importance to the Croats in Slovakia.

To read more about made in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

CORRECTION: The first version of this article stated that Bratislava was the first city outside Croatia to name a street after Vukovar, as is written in the official PR material by the Government Office for Croatians Abroad. We've since fact-checked that statement, and found that Belgrade, Mostar, Skopje, Petrovaradin, and Bačka Palanka (at least those are the towns we're aware of when writing this correction) also have streets named after Vukovar. We are thus correcting that mistake.

 

Friday, 18 October 2019

Vukovar: Conditions Not Met to Grant Serb Minority Special Rights

ZAGREB, October 18, 2019 - The conditions for granting special rights to the Serb minority and for use of the Cyrillic alphabet in Vukovar have not been met, Mayor Ivan Penava said in the Vukovar Town Council on Friday while presenting proposed conclusions on the degree of understanding and dialogue between the town's Croat and Serb communities.

The proposal sparked an emotionally-charged debate which at one point escalated to the brink of an incident. The conclusions were eventually voted in by a majority of councillors.

The conclusions say that the two communities have reached a degree of understanding, solidarity, tolerance and dialogue that ensures cooperation and a co-existence, but that the prerequisites have not been met to enhance the scope of individual and collective rights for the Serb minority in Vukovar.

The conclusions also note that the fundamental rights of a large majority of the town's residents of all ethnic backgrounds who opposed the Serbian military aggression in 1991, such as the right to human life, dignity and freedom, are still neglected because the prosecution of war criminals is systematically delayed, and that the necessary conditions for the recognition of more special rights for the Serb minority, such as equal use of its language and script, have not been created.

The conclusions say that in light of these facts enhancing the scope of rights beyond those guaranteed by the Vukovar Town Statute and the statutory decision on the official use of the language and script of the Serb minority in Vukovar would be considered as showing disrespect and lack of understanding for the citizens of Vukovar of all ethnicities, which might adversely affect their co-existence in the town.

The conclusions, proposed by Mayor Penava of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), were adopted by 15 votes in favour, three councillors of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) were against, while two councillors abstained from voting.

After the mayor read out the text of the proposed conclusions, a debate followed which at one point reached the brink of an incident.

SDSS Councillor Srđan Kolar said that the debate was going in the wrong direction and called for dialogue. He presented Mayor Penava with a copy of the Town Statute written in Cyrillic, which was formally inaugurated by the Serb National Council (SNV) in Zagreb on Thursday.

Penava threw the Statute onto the floor and then picked it up, showing it to the press and saying that this was an act of aggression by the SNV and its head Milorad Pupovac.

Deputy Mayor Marijan Pavliček, of the Croatian Conservative Party, took off his T-shirt displaying the number of people killed in the Serbian aggression and handed it over to Kolar.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 12 October 2019

Vukovar Mayor Penava Considering Running for HDZ President

ZAGREB, October 12, 2019 - Vukovar mayor Ivan Penava is considering running for president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party as a way to see to it that war criminals are finally punished.

"This is the first time that I'm talking about running in intra-party elections. The anniversary is approaching and I had to decide what the smartest thing to do was from the aspect of resolving the fate of the victims. When I decided that protest rallies are counterproductive and that it's no good to wait for a year with no results, I had to think of the best course of action," Penava says in Saturday's issue of the Večernji List daily.

Penava is considering running for HDZ president as the only way to put the focus on and resolve the problem of unpunished Homeland War crimes given that, he says, state institutions have done nothing about that in the year since the big rally held in Vukovar to protest against the slow prosecution of war crimes.

After Davor Ivo Stier, Miro Kovač and likely Tomislav Karamarko, Penava could be the fourth counter-candidate to incumbent HDZ president Andrej Plenković in intra-party elections next spring, Večernji List said.

Prime Minister and HDZ president Andrej Plenković said on Saturday he had not noticed that Vukovar mayor Ivan Penava had decided to leave the party, and commented on Penava's statement that he is considering to run for HDZ president by saying that "it's good to have an ambition."

Asked by the press in Osijek if the dissatisfaction in the ruling party was indeed so big, given that Penava might be the fourth candidate for the party president's position, and if he considered himself partly responsible, Plenković said he was "certainly responsible for the fact that, when I took it over, the HDZ was 19 million kuna in the red and now it's considerably in the black and financially consolidated."

"I'm responsible for the fact that the HDZ won the parliamentary and local elections, the European elections as well, although we didn't win the planned five but four seats. The economy is growing, the investment rating, European funds, the international reputation... I feel very responsible for this status of Croatia, the government and the HDZ."

More HDZ news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Vukovar's Hotel Dunav Sold, New 200 Million Kuna Hotel to be Constructed

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 4th of May, 2019, Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava and the CEO of the Swiss company Immo Invest Partner, Džek Djordić, signed a contract on the sale of the Dunav (Danube) Hotel in Vukovar on Saturday, and the Swiss company has thus announced the construction of a new four-star hotel, in which it will invest a massive 200 million kuna.

"This is a strategically important property in Vukovar, the building of the former Dunav Hotel, which has attracted a lot of interest from the public," stated Penava, pointing out that the building is located in an extremely valuable location at the very mouth of the Vuka along the Danube, but also because it involves a building that has not been in function for nine years now.

He added that the city, owing to the fact that the hotel had remained totally out of use for a long time, bought the former Hotel Dunav in order to sell it to a hotel business that had already established its branch office in Vukovar. The city will do everything to make the investor feel welcome with their investment which is strategic and considered to be at the state-level.

Deputy Mayor Marijan Pavliček recalled that the City of Vukovar had purchased Hotel Dunav for 10.3 million kuna, while a price of 10.7 million kuna was asked for at the public tender, and the aforementioned Swiss company offered 11.3 million kuna and paid the difference in accordance to the higher requested price.

"The investors are obliged to collect all of the necessary permits in the next eighteen months after which the parcel will be handed over to their ownership, after which a seven-year legal deadline for the construction and commissioning of the facility comes into force," Pavliček said, adding that the investors have promised a significantly shorter implementation deadline, more specifically until the year 2023.

Pavliček emphasised the fact that this is the biggest investment after the Homeland War in the tourist sector of Vukovar, which will open up welcome new jobs.

Immo Invest Partner's CEO Džek Djordić announced the construction of a four-star hotel with about 120 rooms, 240 beds, and which will include several restaurants, offices and a multimedia space in which about 200 million kuna will be invested, and the hotel should be open in 2023.

Immo Invest Partner Board Member Petar Đorđić thanked the mayor and his deputy for their engagement in the realisation of this deal and said that all those involved are great optimists and that the entire investment will be realised within the anticipated deadline.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and lifestyle pages for much more.

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