Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Serb Minority Party SDSS Remains Part of Ruling Majority

ZAGREB, March 26, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said Monday that a meeting with the president of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, was good and that the SDSS would remain part of the ruling majority, reiterating that it would be good to hold a single commemoration ceremony at Jasenovac and adding that the government was still considering whether or not the restructuring of the Uljanik dock was sustainable and if not "other solution will be found."

"We talked about all aspects of cooperation and the functioning of the parliamentary majority. Clearly, certain things concerning the implementation of operative programmes of minority issues can me further advanced, I am open to that. We will do our best to have everything on the level of individual departments done faster and more efficient and the SDSS is still part of the ruling majority," Plenković said commenting on his meeting with Pupovac held earlier in the day, which he described as "good."

Plenković also commented on two commemorations in Jasenovac. "Because of the reverence the victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp deserve and the condemnation our government and I personally made with regards to the Ustasha regime, it would be good if all of us went to Jasenovac together, because the commemoration is whole only is representatives of the Serbs, Jews, Roma, Croats and anti-*fascists associations are there. I see that as an effort to try to take a stand towards all totalitarian regimes without any dilemmas. I will again go to Jasenovac," Plenković said.

Plenković also said he did not have time to read about what Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said about Operation Storm, adding however that Operations Storm, Flash and the Homeland War were the foundations of modern-day Croatia which enabled the reintegration of areas that had been occupied for over four years.

Reporters also asked the PM about the situation in the Uljanik and 3. Maj docks, adding that the government was still considering whether or not the restructuring of the Uljanik dock was sustainable and if not "other solution will be found."

More news about the status of Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Prime Minister Regrets There Won't Be Joint Jasenovac Commemoration

ZAGREB, March 24, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in an interview with Croatian Television (HTV) that he had been in touch with Milorad Pupovac, leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), which is part of the ruling majority, and that they had agreed to hold a meeting next week. He added that he regretted there will not be joint Jasenovac commemoration.

In the interview, Plenković commented on a number of current topics, including his relationship with Pupovac. Pupovac has said on several occasions that his party is considering leaving the ruling coalition and recently he said that this had to do with hate speech that was being encouraged by the ruling structures.

At a party meeting held on March 11, the SDSS decided that it would not leave the ruling coalition, authorising Pupovac and the party's parliamentary group to discuss the situation with the coalition partners.

"I think that I, this government and the HDZ have been committed to enhancing the protection of the rights of all ethnic minorities in Croatia," Plenković said in the interview, adding that it was excellent that minorities were part of the ruling majority, which, he said, had been the ambition of his government from the very start.

Plenković said he and Pupovac had developed a kind of dialogue and relationship in which they could discuss matters openly, see if they understood each other and if there were elements of which he, as prime minister, was not entirely aware, which, he added, was also possible. "If there are such elements, we will discuss them and deal with them together," said Plenković.

Responding to the interviewer's remark that this year again there would be two separate commemorations at Jasenovac, the site of a WWII concentration camp, Plenković said that he would be glad if there was one, joint commemoration. "Unfortunately, judging by the current situation, that won't happen," he said.

The SABA alliance of antifascist fighters and antifascists of Croatia, the Serb National Council (SNV), the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities and the Kali Sara Croatian Roma Alliance will organise a separate commemoration for the victims of the Jasenovac concentration camp on April 12.

This will be the fourth year in a row that separate commemorations are organised at Jasenovac.

Speaking of the reasons for the separate commemoration, SNV vice president Saša Milošević said recently that "the state did not take the necessary measures to stop or at least reduce the negating of the Holocaust and genocide committed during World War II and revisionism."

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

Thursday, 21 March 2019

President to Visit Jasenovac Memorial on Her Own

ZAGREB, March 21, 2019 - Commenting on statements by representatives of ethnic minorities that again this year again they would not attend the government-sponsored commemoration of victims of the World War II Jasenovac concentration camp, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said that she regretted "ideological divisions and that we are constantly going back to the past instead of focusing on issues of everyday life" and that she would therefore go to Jasenovac "to pay tribute to the victims in silence" again this year.

Speaking of the problems of everyday life one should focus on, Grabar-Kitarović said: "They are the problems of 3. Maj dock workers and their families, subcontractors, the Uljanik Group, and all other businesses in the country - micro, small and medium-sized - as well as big state-owned companies, let alone pensioners' problems."

"I'm quite upset that we are putting those divisions in the centre of political debate," she said during a visit to Rijeka.

Grabar-Kitarović went on to say that everyone had recognised that regimes such as Fascism, Communism and Nazism were criminal. "Tribute should be paid to all victims," she said.

"I said that I would attend the Jasenovac commemoration if we all go together. We all commemorate the victims and everyone does it in their own way, which makes no sense. I will go there to bow in silence to the victims because they deserve that," Grabar-Kitarović said.

Asked about the situation in the ailing Uljanik shipbuilding group, the president said that analyses were being made as to whether the group should file for bankruptcy or be restructured. "I hope a restructuring of some kind will be chosen because... the shipbuilding industry is one of the strategic Croatian industries, however, it cannot continue the way it has operated so far," she said, adding that Croatian shipyards evidently could not compete with Asian shipyards and had to specialise and find a niche, to rely on domestic experts and know-how and to start building smaller vessels.

As for announcements that Zagreb University would grant an honorary doctorate to Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić, which has been strongly criticised by some political parties, Grabar-Kitarović said that the decision concerned "the relationship between Bandić and Zagreb University, and universities are autonomous."

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

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Serbs Join Boycott of Government’s Jasenovac Commemoration

ZAGREB, March 20, 2019 - The Serb National Council (SNV) on Monday joined the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia in boycotting the official commemoration for the victims of the WWII Ustasha concentration camp of Jasenovac for the fourth year in a row, scheduled for April 14.

"The state did not take the necessary measures to stop or at least reduce the negating of the Holocaust and genocide committed during World War II and revisionism," SNV vice president Saša Milošević told the Serb minority newspaper Novosti.

Milošević said that by tolerating hate speech, downplaying the suffering of the people and implementing an inadequate education policy, the state had directly helped that such incidents become dominant in Croatia's society.

Given the great difference in opinion, we cannot and should not go to Jasenovac together. Milošević said adding that the Serb, the Jewish and the Roma minority, as well as the anti-fascists would hold their own commemoration on Friday, April 12.

The head of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, said earlier in the day he would not attend the government commemoration for the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp, while the head of the SABA alliance of antifascist fighters, Franjo Habulin, said SABA would decide on Thursday whether to attend a joint commemoration.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković last week invited representatives of SABA, the Jewish community, Serbs and Roma to take part in a joint commemoration. Kraus said the Jewish community would not accept.

"Nothing has changed over the past year. Nothing new has happened," he told the press, citing historical revisionism and the government's stance on the Ustasha salute "For the homeland, ready."

"There is a wish to be together as well as arguments against it," Habulin said, adding that a joint commemoration would be useful.

"It would be a sort of coming closer to opening the possibility for talks and for resolving the problems concerning historical revisionism and the negativism which has accumulated over 20 years and more in Croatia, which isn't good," he said.

An argument against a joint commemoration would be the fact that nothing has been done over the past year and SABA members believe the situation is worse than last year, added Habulin.

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

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Jewish Community Will Not Attend Joint Jasenovac Commemoration

ZAGREB, March 19, 2019 - The head of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, said on Tuesday he would not attend together with the government this year's commemoration for the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp, while the head of the SABA alliance of antifascist fighters, Franjo Habulin, said SABA would decide on Thursday whether to attend a joint commemoration.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković last week invited representatives of SABA, the Jewish community, Serbs and Roma to take part in a joint commemoration. Kraus said the Jewish community would not accept.

"Nothing has changed over the past year. Nothing new has happened," he told the press, citing historical revisionism and the government's stance on the Ustasha salute "For the homeland, ready".

"There is a wish to be together as well as arguments against it," Habulin said, adding that a joint commemoration would be useful.

"It would be a sort of coming closer to opening the possibility for talks and for resolving through talks the problems concerning historical revisionism and the negativism which has accumulated over 20 years and more in Croatia, which isn't good," he said.

An argument against a joint commemoration would be the fact that nothing has been done over the past year and SABA members believe the situation is worse than last year, added Habulin.

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

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Zagreb Mayor, Israeli Ambassador Pay Tribute to Jasenovac Victims

ZAGREB, February 20, 2019 - A delegation of the City of Zagreb, led by Mayor Milan Bandić, and Israeli Ambassador Ilan Mor, on Wednesday visited Jasenovac to commemorate victims of the WW2 Ustasha-run concentration camp.

During the visit, Mayor Bandić said that the Nazi-style Ustasha regime "was neither independent nor democratic or Croatian" and that it was "a dark stain in Croatia's history".

Bandić underscored that during the Second World War, most Croatians sided with the anti-Fascist coalition, explaining that a majority of anti-Fascist units in the area of former Yugoslavia were actually set up in Croatia.

The newly-appointed Israeli ambassador said that this was his first visit to the Jasenovac Memorial Site.

The diplomat added that Jasenovac should be a place of education of young generations so that evil was not repeated.

From August 1941 to 22 April 1945, Jasenovac operated as a death camp where men, women and children were killed because of their religion, ethnicity or ideology. The list of victims contains the names and other information on 83,145 people - 39,570 men, 23,474 women and 20,101 children under the age of 14. The most numerous victims of the camp were Serbs, Roma, Jews and Croats.

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

Monday, 11 February 2019

Catholic, Orthodox, Islam and Jewish Leaders to Pray Together at Jasenovac?

The Catholic Church leadership in Croatia is continuing with the initiative to bring various religious communities together in paying respects to the victims of World War II. After the recent commemorative prayer event for Holocaust victims held in front of the Zagreb cathedral, led by Cardinal Josip Bozanić, the archbishop of Zagreb, there is now a new initiative for the organisation of the first joint prayer meeting at the site of the Jasenovac concentration camp, which should bring together Orthodox episcopes, Catholic bishops, rabbis and muftis from Croatia, and was launched by the Bishop of Požega, Antun Škvorčević, reports Večernji List on February 11, 2019.

Bishop Škvorčević visited recently the rabbi of the Bet Israel Jewish Religious Community, Kotel Da Don, with whom he spoke about the issue of remembering the victims of the Jasenovac camp and the participation in the commemorations organised by the Croatian government. The bishop informed the rabbi about the programme that the Požega Diocese organises each year at Jasenovac. He suggested the possibility of the joint participation of several religious communities in the event at Jasenovac. Rabbi Kotel Da-Don accepted this proposal, according to a report by the Catholic Information Agency.

This means that leaders of religious communities would hold a separate gathering, i.e. they would not participate in the traditional political commemoration of Jasenovac victims. The Catholic and Orthodox sides also support such an initiative. As soon as he became the Orthodox bishop of Pakrac, Jovan Ćulibrk made it clear that the Jasenovac liturgy should not have anything to do with the politics. "When we approach Jasenovac with sincere respect for the victims, without ideological, national or political exclusivity or manipulation, with openness to the truth, then it can become the place of our encounter.”

“I am glad that Jovan is acting in this way, giving hope that it will not be long before we start remembering not just the victims who belonged to own people but also the victims belonging to other peoples killed under any flag and because of any reason,” said Bishop Škvorčević. “The Požega diocese tries to serve this goal”, said Škvorčević, who has built excellent relationships with the Pakrac bishop Jovan.

The first gathering of religious leaders at Jasenovac, also involving leaders of the Islamic and Jewish community, would send a joint message to their faithful and the world.

Translated from Večernji List (reported by Darko Pavičić).

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

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Pupovac Commends Minister's Initiative for School Visits to Jasenovac

ZAGREB, February 6, 2019 - The MP of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, on Wednesday commended Science and Education Minister Blaženka Divjak's initiative to make it an obligation for primary schools to organise visits to the Jasenovac memorial complex, and condemned attempts at restricting freedom of the press.

"In 2017, only nine schools visited that awful World War II execution site, and last year there were more visitors from Italy than Croatia," Pupovac said in parliament.

"Today, children don't know what's right and what's wrong anymore and whether the salute 'For the Homeland Ready' and the glorification of the Ustasha regime is allowed or not," he added.

Speaking of freedom of the press, Pupovac said that some MPs were "trying to stifle it from parliament benches."

He was alluding to the opposition Živi Zid party, whose conflict with the owner of a daily newspaper turned into a conflict with one of its journalists who in her article about the party's finances quoted from a report by the State Auditor's Office. "You're settling accounts with the employee and not with the employer. You should attack flaws in the system and not employees," Pupovac said.

He expressed concern over the fact that the HRT public broadcasting service had brought 33 lawsuits against other media outlets in recent months. "Why? Because they were fighting against fake news or hate speech? No, but because someone noticed elements of censorship in certain cases. That's why we are considering prohibiting (the HRT) from mentioning our name."

More news on the Jasenovac memorial complex can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Croatian Government Pays Respect to Holocaust Victims

ZAGREB, January 27, 2019 - The Croatian government on Sunday joined in marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27, which commemorates the 1945 liberation of the biggest Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, saying that the protection of every person's dignity was a joint duty and obligation towards Holocaust victims and underlining the importance of educating young people about the mindless tragedy of the Jewish people across occupied Europe.

"International Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorates the darkest period in human history - the systematic persecution, genocide and horrible suffering, primarily of the Jewish people, as well as of other victims of the Nazi regime. As a notion, the Holocaust is the full negation of humanity as well as of all cultural and civilisational attainments and fundamental moral values of humankind," the government said in a statement.

Recalling that International Holocaust Remembrance Day provides an opportunity to pay tribute to the millions of innocent women, men and children killed only because their religion or ethnic background were different, the government called for educating young people about the suffering of innocent victims and the tragedy of the Jewish people across occupied Europe.

This also refers to education about the 1941-1945 Independent State of Croatia (NDH) and the Ustasha-run concentration camp of Jasenovac and other places of suffering, where thousands of Jews and members of other ethnic groups, as well as Croatian antifascists and democrats, were killed, the government said.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day also provides an opportunity to pay tribute to the 117 Croatian Righteous Among the Nations, who during World War II risked their own lives to save Jewish fellow citizens, the government said.

Only young people who have been made aware of and have been taught lessons from the past will be able to build a modern society, free of any hate and intolerance, in line with democratic and European values, reads the government statement. "Further strengthening the freedom and equality of all people as well as protecting the inalienable dignity of every person should be a joint duty and obligation towards all Holocaust victims," the government says.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1 November 2005. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated 6 million Jewish people.

Croatia has actively participated in commemorating the Holocaust as well as in Holocaust education and research through its membership of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) and many other initiatives.

More news on the Ustasha regime in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

Zagreb Archbishop Condemns Horrors of Jasenovac and Holocaust

On the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of Holocaust Victims, a prayer-commemorative gathering was organised by the Zagreb Archdiocese and the Hatikva Jewish Information and Educational Centre in front of the Zagreb Cathedral. The event was attended by the Archbishop of Zagreb Cardinal, Josip Bozanić, reports HRT on January 26, 2019.

“The memories in Judaism and Christianity connect the past and the present because, while we remember the victims of inhumane treatment and the attempt to destroy the Jewish people, we encounter the secret of evil, but we are not looking at it only in the framework of the past, but we are aware of it in the present as well,” emphasized Cardinal Bozanić.

“The ideology of racism, directed against God and man, was born in the falsehoods about the man and the Jewish people, spread by hatred, and turned into an inexpressible measure of suffering, which neither words nor images can express,” added Bozanić.

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Bozanić also recalled the suffering of the Jewish community in Croatia. “We need to pay special attention to what has happened in our midst, in Croatia, emphasising without any reservation the truth about the horrors of Jasenovac and other camps, where innocent people suffered. Now, 74 years after the end of the Second World War, we also remember the great suffering of the Croatian Jewish community, especially the Jews in Zagreb, which are deeply woven into the life of our city. Of 11,000 Jews, less than 2,000 survived.

He added that it is entirely unacceptable to allow any form of anti-Semitism to be awoken today, although such ideologies exist even now. “They are growing based on the untruths with devastating results of the conflict, intolerance and hate, with the consequences of suffering not just for individuals and certain groups but also the entire peoples.”

The Centre leader Julija Koš said that the rabbi was not present in Zagreb and that she was there as his representative. She read a song saying that each Holocaust victim has his or her name because for the Jewish people the name of the person is the identity, which can be brought back by our memory. “Today's event is so important that its meaning cannot yet be comprehended. Each sentence of the Cardinal's address contains a message what we need to do to heal the society, and messages for future generations that will be more similar to other young Europeans,” said Koš. “Teachers and parents will see where we have lost 25 years of upbringing for good and where we let many forces lead the youth towards the evil that has passed a long time ago,” she said.

Some of the descendants of the perpetrators are aware of the truth, some are not, but none of them are guilty, she said, adding that in other European countries more descendants are aware, while there is a small part of those who advocate for their forefathers who committed the crimes. “In Croatia, we have a small percentage of these, but they are sometimes very loud," added Koš.

Answering the question about the Catholic Church providing venues for the promotion of books that deny the Holocaust, Kristijan Lepešić said that this event had marginalized them. “The most important thing is that this is the largest such event we have seen in Europe. This is a major step forward for the Catholic Church not just in Croatia, because Cardinal Bozanić is a member of the Roman Curia, and I think this is the best way to marginalise the forces that promote such books,” said Kristijan Lepešić.

The event was attended by ministers Marija Pejčinović Burić and Nina Obuljen Koržinek, as well as Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandić and Speaker of Parliament Gordan Jandroković.

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day is marked on January 27, in memory of the day in 1945 when the Soviet Red Army liberated the largest and the most notorious Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, where more than a million and a hundred thousand people were killed. During the Holocaust, more than six million Jews were killed.

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

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