Monday, 20 April 2020

Virtual Museum About Humanitarian D. Budisavljević in Preparation

ZAGREB, April 20, 2020 - The film "The Diary of Diana B." will premiere on TV on April 22, commemorating the escape of the last group of internees from the WW2 Jasenovac camp, and a project "From Film to Museum", dedicated to Diana Budisavljević, a great humanitarian who helped save children during the war, is underway.

The Hulahop production company said that the film would premiere on TV on the first channel of the Croatian Radio Television (HRT), on the occasion of the remembrance day for all victims and survivors of that Ustasha camp, and the same evening it will be broadcast on the first channel of Radio Television Serbia.

The future virtual museum will showcase unpublished material collected and created over many years of historical research and work on the film, and the completion of the project is planned for autumn.

"The Diary of Diana B." is a feature-length documentary "about the best people in the worst of times", among whom was certainly Diana Budisavljević, who together with a few friends organised an action that saved over 10,000 children from certain death by the end of World War II.

"The Diary of Diana B." premiered at last year's Pula Film Festival, where after eight minutes of applause from the audience it won as many as six awards, including the most important one - the Grand Golden Arena for Best Festival Film.

The film has so far won a total of 15 awards, and it played in cinemas all over Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, where it was viewed by over 65,000 people.

More Jasenovac news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Jasenovac, Operation Flash Commemorations to Be Held

ZAGREB, April 16, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp would be commemorated appropriately in Jasenovac on April 22, and that the anniversary of the 1-3 May 1995 Operation Flash would be commemorated as well.

Plenković said at the beginning of his cabinet's meeting that the culture minister and other ministers were working on the organisation of the Jasenovac commemoration while the ministers of the interior, war veterans and defence were working on organising the commemoration of the military and police operation that liberated the areas of western Slavonia held by Croatian Serb rebel forces.

Plenković noted that the commemorations would be held in line with restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Saturday, 28 December 2019

Croatian Politics 2019: A Year in Review

What follows is a review of events in Croatian politics in 2019, as reported by TCN. If you would like to refresh your memory about the events which has led us here, read the reviews for the three previous years (2016, 2017, 2018).

The year started with a high-profile failure by the government. Months after it was announced that Croatia would buy used Israeli F-16 fighter planes, the US government vetoed the sale and the whole project fell through. Despite earlier warnings from experts that the deal was in question, ministers continued to claim that everything was alight. However, after a meeting between high-ranking officials from the United States and Israel, the truth was revealed. Ministers lost their nerves and the government launched an immediate investigation, which expectedly ended without any real results, and also announced that it would re-start the process. To show its level of seriousness, it even established a commission! Twelve months later, the process of deciding which aircraft to buy still hasn't move any further on and is not expected to end for at least another year.

The migrant crisis continued to be in the news this year. The inflow of migrants over the borders with Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia increased somewhat, together with media coverage about alleged brutality of Croatian police and illegal pushbacks of migrants to Bosnia. The authorities were quick to deny everything, but the sheer number of documented cases makes it apparent that at least some of the allegations are founded.

Efforts to limit media freedoms continued this year and some reporters were even briefly arrested. Journalists, NGOs and international organisations stood up to these attempts, but the final score is still unknown.

Repression continued in other ways as well, with courts ruling that peaceful protesters should go to prison, Croatia's human rights situation being criticised from abroad, ethnically-motivated assaults (several of them) taking place, ombudswomen’s warnings not being heard, journalists receiving instructions from the president on what to do, and diplomats spreading hate...

Historical revisionism was in full force once again this year. As a result, representatives of Jews, Serbs and anti-fascist organisations once again boycotted the government’s annual commemoration at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp.

European elections were held in May (with even Pamela Anderson giving recommendations to Croatian voters). While the ruling HDZ party had high hopes earlier in the year (and was supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who attended one of its rather controversial rallies in Zagreb), the actual results were much tighter and were interpreted by everyone as a success for the opposition (particularly SDP) and a disappointment for the government.

June brought us a few days of excitement when it seemed possible that prime minister Plenković might just succeed in his life-long dream of getting a top EU job. Despite denying he ever wanted such a thing, he was rumoured to be trying to become president of the European Commission (or president of the European Council, or perhaps something else). In the end, he had to return to Croatia empty handed, again denying his alleged attempts.

Unlike Plenković, foreign minister Marija Pejčinović-Burić was more successful in the area of career development. In June, she was elected secretary-general of the Council of Europe. She promptly resigned her post in Croatia and has not been heard about since. Another happy politician is Dubravka Šuica, who has been appointed Croatia’s commissioner in the European Commission.

Mostly good economic news continued. Public debt is at its lowest level in decades, the European Commission concluded that Croatia no longer suffered from excessive economic imbalances, and GDP growth is holding up.

One of the companies which was in the public focus this year was Croatia Airlines, Croatia’s national flag carrier. Its business results were dismal and the search for possible strategic partners was on, but without any real results. The government eventually decided to cover some of the debts, but as the year comes to and end, there is no long-term solution in sight. In the meantime, Zagreb Airport continues to lose airlines using its services.

The construction of an LNG terminal on the island of Krk has apparently started out with strong support from the US government, after many years of delays and announcements. The project is funded from the state budget, since there was no interest among anyone to actually use the terminal. The government claims that there will be interest once the terminal is built, but it would not be the first major government-funded project in Croatia’s history to fail to deliver on its promises.

The construction of Pelješac bridge continues to go at an even faster pace than expected (despite occasional Bosnian protests), mostly thanks to the efforts by the Chinese construction company which won the tender, which also brought about a marked improvement in the relations between Croatia and China. Unfortunately, the construction of the access roads leading up to the bridge has not progressed nearly as fast, with tenders being decided just several months ago. It is quite possible that, when the bridge is built, it will be unusable for a while because there will be no roads leading to it.

Emigration continues amid Croatia's demographic crisis, although somewhat slower than in previous years, probably as a result of the fact that most of those who could have left have already done so. The authorities talk about demographic revival, but nothing much has happened so far.

Political scandals were as numerous as ever. The regional development minister had an accident while driving without a driving license, the agriculture minister forgot to list all his assets on an official statement, the administration minister had his own scandals which were too numerous even to count, and the state assets minister had problems of his own. The Prime minister strongly supported his ministers before some of them resigned, and then he changed his mind and dismissed the rest of them.

The ruling coalition remained stable this year, despite occasional rumours of impending collapse. Ultimatums were rejected, resignations demanded, talks announced, decisions to stay in coalition made, threats given... Just the usual stuff.

As expected, the border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia has not been resolved this year. Slovenia was disappointed with the EU’s decision not to get involved in a dispute between its two members. The chances that this issue will feature in our review for 2020 are quite high.

In October, the European Commission announced that Croatia has fulfilled all the technical conditions to join the Schengen area. However, the final decision will require the unanimous support of all EU member states, and Slovenia does not seem ready to give its approval until the border dispute with Croatia is resolved. 

Another major project is the introduction of euro in Croatia. After a lot of talk, the government has finally sent an official request. The process will certainly take years and opinion is divided as to whether it is a good idea or not.

One of the highlights were the trade union's activities. Earlier in the year, the unions managed to collect enough signatures for a referendum against the government’s pension reform and an increase in the retirement age. The government capitulated and revoked already approved laws (although it previously warned that such a decision would be a disaster).

The other major trade union success was the primary and secondary school strike later in the year. After almost two months, the government capitulated and gave the unions more or less everything they had asked for.

One of the highlights of the next six months will be Croatia’s EU presidency. The government is promoting it as a great success, although all EU member states sooner or later get their chance to hold the rotating presidency. While Croatia's plans are ambitious, their delivery will probably be more modest.

The major event at the end of the year was the first round of Croatia's presidential elections.

While the post is largely ceremonial, elections are held every five years and still manage to occupy public attention for months. Three major candidates launched their bids: incumbent president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (officially an independent candidate who in reality is HDZ), former SDP prime minister Zoran Milanović, and singer Miroslav Škoro, who presented himself as a candidate of change, despite having been an MP, a diplomat and a former HDZ member.

The first round was held on December 22. Zoran Milanović won with 29.6% of the vote, followed by Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović with 26.7%. Škoro was third with 24.5%. Milanović and Grabar-Kitarović will take part in the run-off on January 5.

Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Serbian Film About Jasenovac Causing Tensions

ZAGREB, November 12, 2019 - The letter sent by a US official to Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek, which was published by the Serbian Kurir newspaper and concerned the shooting of a film about Jasenovac, was not an official request forwarded to the Croatian government but the diplomat's private e-mail correspondence, the Croatian Culture Ministry said on Monday.

Minister Obuljen Koržinek has already explained that the ministry is not the address to which the film director should forward his requests about the film shooting, the ministry said.

The pro-government tabloid Kurir recently ran a copy of an email which the State Department envoy for Holocaust issues, Thomas K. Yazdgerdi, had sent to Minister Obuljen Koržinek in March this year, asking her to support the film project "Dara from Jasenovac", the filming of which has already begun with the support of the Serbian government.

"The letter a copy of which was run by the Serbian media is not an official request by the U.S. Administration to the Croatian government. It is private e-correspondence of the U.S. diplomat who paid several visits to Croatia in connection with the culture of remembrance and the Holocaust," the Croatian ministry said in its response to Hina's query.

Minister Obuljen Koržinek said she explained to Mr. Yazdgerdi that her ministry was not the address to send requests regarding the shooting of the film. The filmmaker should probably contact the Croatian Audiovisual Centre (HAVC) for such requests, if the crew needs permissions to film scenes at locations in Croatia, the minister said.

Furthermore, the right address to obtain information and facts about the past of Jasenovac is the public institute that runs the Jasenovac Memorial Site (JUSP Jasenovac). Jasenovac was the WW2 concentration camp run by the Ustasha regime from 1941 to 1945.

"According to information available to us, neither the director nor the producer have ever contacted HAVC or JUSP Jasenovac, and the film will be shot only in Serbia," the ministry said.

Considering frequent attempts in the Serbian public to manipulate the topic of Jasenovac and the number of the victims as well as attempts to deny crimes committed against Croats during the (1991-1995) Homeland War and continuous attempts to link the democratic Croatia and the 1941-1945 Independent State of Croatia (NDH), Minister Obuljen Koržinek conveyed her doubts to the U.S. special envoy for Holocaust issues regarding the film project.

"Following recent media comments in Serbia and also a part of the Croatian media scene, it is evident that this is one more attempt to abuse the topic of Jasenovac, which should always be condemned," reads the statement issued by the ministry.

The film crew said on November 2 that the project was expected to be finished by the end of the year and that the premiere was planned for May 2020 to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Jasenovac concentration camp.

The film was financially supported by the Serbian government and the Serbian Film Centre with 2.3 million euro.

More news about Jasenovac can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day Commemorated at Jasenovac

ZAGREB, August 2, 2019 - A memorial ceremony was held on Friday at the Roma cemetery in Uštica, about 100 kilometres southeast of Zagreb, for more than 16,000 Roma killed in the Jasenovac concentration camp during the Second World War.

The commemoration, organised by the Roma organisation Kali Sara and the Council of the Roma Minority in Croatia, was held on International Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day, or the Porajmos, which is marked in Croatia on August 2.

Attending the commemoration were Deputy Prime Minister Davor Božinović on behalf of the government, Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect Ivan Žinić as President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's envoy, Deputy Parliament Speaker Sinisa Hajdaš Dončić, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić as well as members of the diplomatic corps.

After prayers, Božinovic and MP Marija Mačković laid wreaths and paid tribute to the Roma victims.

Addressing those gathered, the representative of the Roma community in the Croatian parliament, MP Veljko Kajtazi, said that he was pleased that after seventy years, people started talking about the Roma victims of the Ustasha-run Jasenovac concentration camp.

He added that he could not be completely satisfied with the status of the Roma community in Croatia but that he hoped that the operating programme for the Roma would be implemented in cooperation with the government before the end of its term.

"We hope that with the assistance of the City of Zagreb and the Croatian government next year we will open a Roma Memorial Centre here," Kajtazi said and added that Roma in Croatia can significantly contribute to Croatia's economic development along with other citizens.

More news about the Jasenovac concentration camp can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Bet Israel, Religious Communities Mark Holocaust Remembrance Day in Jasenovac

ZAGREB, May 2, 2019 - The Jewish community of Bet Israel and other religious organisations in Croatia paid tribute to the Holocaust victims at Jasenovac, the site of a World War II concentration camp, on Thursday marking Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The ceremony commemorated "six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust as victims of Nazi Germany and its helpers" and "Jews who took part in armed resistance across war-torn Europe," Bet Israel's president Aleksandar Srećković said.

He said that Jasenovac was the site of the worst atrocities committed against the Jewish people in the region during WWII.

"Racial, ethnic and other biological differences are irrelevant, but society creates them and often uses them to justify hatred, oppression and killing of others, using racism as an argument in promoting stereotypes and prejudices along the lines of 'us and them'," Srećković said.

"It is our duty to keep reminding ourselves of that time. It is our duty never to forget what one person is capable of doing to another in the name of higher causes and in the name of an ideology that forgot the ethical values which we all invoke," he added.

The Serb Orthodox Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, Porfirije Perić, said that people, regardless of their differences, belong to the same, human species.

"The line that divides good and evil does not run between nations, states or races. The line that divides good from evil is in the heart of every one of us. It is there that the battle is fought and where a decision is made on whether we are human or not," Perić said.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Požega, Antun Škvorčević, said that several million Jews had been killed during WWII as part of an inhumane system of violence and persecution, and that a certain number of them had met their end in Jasenovac.

"Feeling the full gravity of misused human freedom and impotence in the face of the destructive irrationality of crime, we stop at the challenge of innocent victims. It is precisely because of them that any word of revenge, any expression of hatred or manipulation with their number is inappropriate for commemorations in Jasenovac. It would be a testimony of being captured by evil, yet another humiliation of the victims," Škvorčević said.

Writer and scientist Jasminka Domas, who conducted the commemoration, said that respects should be paid out of humility. "Forgiveness is individual, just as is responsibility for the world we live in. Without hiding behind politics and ideologies, we should turn to the good and dignity of every person while we still can," she said.

The prayer service began with pupils from a Jewish primary school from Zagreb and a Catholic primary school from Požega lighting six candles for six million Jews killed in the Holocaust and remembering the names of people killed in the genocide in WWII Croatia.

More news about Jasenovac can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

State Commemoration Held at Jasenovac

ZAGREB, April 14, 2019 - The official state commemoration for the victims of the WWII Ustasha-run Jasenovac concentration camp was held at the Jasenovac Memorial Site on Sunday under the auspices of the Croatian parliament, with the families of the victims and top state officials attending.

Wreaths and flowers were laid at the Stone Flower monument by victims' families and representatives of the state authorities, numerous embassies, counties, towns and municipalities as well as institutions and associations.

The commemoration was attended by Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, a number of ministers, Zagreb mayor Milan Bandić, and Roma MP Veljko Kajtazi, who also attended a commemoration on Friday, organised by associations of ethnic minorities and antifascists in memory of the breakout of Jasenovac inmates.

There were no speeches by officials and politicians at this year's official commemoration. Instead, actors interpreted testimonies of inmates Helena Pachl Mandić and Erwin Miller.

Speaking to the press, the prime minister said, "We came to pay our respects to the victims of the Ustasha-run camp Jasenovac, to all the inmates, to those who, 74 years ago in April, broke out, when, unfortunately, many were killed."

"We are here once again to condemn the crime and the regime under which such camps existed, and to say that today we must work on inclusion in society, on reducing divisions, on tolerance and dialogue, on nurturing the culture of remembrance and on the education of young people about important moments in Croatian history, notably from World War Two," Plenković said.

Therefore, I'm glad that we have created a new history curriculum which has been received well by everyone, experts as well as politicians, he added.

He regretted that today's commemoration was not a joint one and recalled that its date was set mainly by the Jasenovac Memorial Site Council, which includes members of ethnic minorities.

"I'm not glad there are two commemorations, but we are talking and I believe these talks will bear fruit next year," Plenković said, reiterating that it would be healthy and good for society and the emancipation of these topics in present-day Croatia.

"I don't see this as a topic with two sides," he said when asked about the commemoration held on Friday. "I think the circumstances are markedly different since the moment representatives of Jews, Serbs, Roma and antifascist associations decided to hold a separate commemoration."

Regarding the government's policy, he said "our common wish is to commemorate these events appropriately, with much respect for the victims and with the wish to work, only through dialogue, talks and the culture of remembrance, on preventing something like this from happening again."

Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak said in Jasenovac on Sunday it was important to have a national consensus on jointly commemorating the victims of all totalitarian regimes, and called for finding a joint platform on how to commemorate them so that "it becomes a place of unity, not a place of division."

Speaking to the press at the official commemoration for the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp, Divjak said the focus should be "on victims, and we should realise together that this is not just part of history, we must pay special attention so that history doesn't repeat itself."

Divjak said she disagreed with the assessment by Ognjen Kraus, president of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, that the government was more concerned about this year's commemoration for the Bleiburg victims than the one in Jasenovac.

As for the small number of high school students visiting the Jasenovac Memorial Site, Divjak said education about the 20th century must be much clearer and more extensive. The new history curriculum is much more advanced concerning WWII, she added.

"Totalitarian regimes, including the totalitarian regimes on Croatian territory, are particularly highlighted. On the other hand, concentration camps and death camps are clearly put in the curriculum, and Jasenovac is something that should have its place in the regular programme," said Divjak.

Additional funds will be set aside for eighth graders as of the next school year so that they can visit the Jasenovac Memorial Site if they wish to do so, she added.

"That doesn't mean it's obligatory, but it is encouraged given that funds are set aside and the ministry makes a special recommendation. Even more importantly, the history curriculum is implemented under a national standard and equally for all students in Croatia," said the minister.

More news about Jasenovac can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

President Lays Flowers for WWII Victims at Jasenovac

ZAGREB, April 14, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović visited the Jasenovac Memorial Site on Saturday and laid white roses at the Stone Flower monument to the victims of the WWII concentration camp, continuing her custom of doing so a day before the official commemoration.

"In our homeland, World War Two still brings out painful memories of the numerous victims. By laying a wreath in memory of the victims of the Jasenovac camp and standing in silence by this stone flower, I pay my deepest respect for all the victims who were killed in the camp," the president wrote in the memorial book.

"Let this always be only a place of respect, but also a place which will warn us how important it is to raise young generations for peace, unity and solidarity among people and nations. We can't change the past, but we can build the future in a better way for a more beautiful and more humane life of all the people in Croatia and around the world."

Instead of the president, her chief of staff Anamarija Kirinić will attend Sunday's commemoration with representatives of the government and parliament.

A commemoration was also held on Friday, in memory of the breakout of the Jasenovac inmates, organised by ethnic minority associations and antifascists who, for the fourth year in a row, honoured the victims of the Ustasha regime separately from state officials.

More Jasenovac news can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Plenković Sorry There Isn’t Joint Commemoration in Jasenovac

ZAGREB, April 13, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Saturday it would be healthy for Croatian society to have a joint commemoration in Jasenovac, adding that his government had invested a lot of effort to have that happen, but that the other side also must make some effort.

Plenković dismissed accusation which the head of the Coordinating Body of Jewish Municipalities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, made at a separate commemoration, that historical revisionism in Croatia was continuing and that, because of the inaction of state institutions, the extreme right was becoming increasingly aggressive.

Plenković said he was making a lot of effort so that the victims were commemorated in the right way and that the Ustasha regime was unambiguously condemned.

He said it would be healthy for Croatian society to have a joint commemoration, stressing that it takes two side for that to happen.

He also rejected criticism from his coalition partner, the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) that the government had not done enough to reduce the negating of the Holocaust and prevent revisionism.

More news about Ustasha revisionism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Ministry Rejects Claims about Dissuading Ambassadors from Going to Jasenovac

ZAGREB, April 13, 2019 - The Foreign Ministry on Friday dismissed accusations by the leader of Croatian Jews that it had called foreign ambassadors to talk them out of attending a commemoration for the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp held today by representatives of ethnic minorities and antifascists.

Earlier today, the head of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, accused "high level people" in the ministry of calling foreign ambassadors in Croatia to talk them out of attending the commemoration.

The state will commemorate the victims on Sunday. Separate commemorations have been held for the past four years as representatives of ethnic minorities and antifascists blame the government for tolerating the far right and the glorification of the Nazi-style Ustasha regime in WWII Croatia.

The ministry said it had invited several ambassadors to Sunday's commemoration but fully rejected claims that it had tried to dissuade them from attending the one held today. "We believe that, in any case, the victims of that as well as any other regime should be honoured," it told Hina.

Today's commemoration was attended by embassy representatives of Israel, the Netherlands, Spain, the UK, Serbia, Slovenia, Germany, France and Australia as well as by Council of Europe human rights commissioner Dunja Mijatović.

The commemoration was organised by the SABA alliance of antifascist fighters and antifascists of Croatia, the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, the Serb National Council and the Kali Sara Croatian Roma Alliance.

Sunday's commemoration will be attended by top state officials.

More news about the Jasenovac commemorations can be found in the Politics section.

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