Thursday, 29 August 2019

Plenković Says All in Croatia Are Supposed to Create Conflict-Free Social Climate

ZAGREB, August 29, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday stated that the protection of the rights of the Serb minority in Croatia was regulated according to the highest European standards and that the government remained committed to developing a tolerant and conflict-free social climate.

Plenković said at a cabinet meeting that the protection of minority rights in line with the highest standards is the legacy of the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman.

Hence, he added, it is important that everyone in Croatia acts responsibly and all are supposed to "create an atmosphere that is tolerant and conflict-free", otherwise, if not curbed, conflicts can turn into a spiral of hate.

He reiterated that his cabinet and the parliamentary majority are pursuing a policy of inclusiveness of all ethnic minorities and of protection of their rights and they want all members of ethnic minorities in Croatia to feel well and safe.

Plenković reiterated that the government had condemned recent incidents and also called on political stakeholders to avoid inappropriate and inconsiderate statements.

Plenković recalled that Croatia is a reputable country in the international community and its position has never been so strong as nowadays.

"Our policy is aimed at building normal and good-neighbourly relations, resolution of all issues stemming from the period of the Great Serbia aggression launched by the (Slobodan) Milošević regime, and we are for solving those issues in a civilised manner: through dialogue, talks, negotiations," Plenković said, dismissing again as unacceptable any attempts to compare the contemporary Croatia to the 1941-1945 Independent State of Croatia (NDH).

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Pupovac Says No Statements until Everything is Discussed, Analysed

ZAGREB, August 28, 2019 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) president Milorad Pupovac would not comment on Wednesday on Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's assessment that Pupovac's comparison of Croatia with the WWII Nazi-styled Independent State of Croatia and calling it a factor of instability in the region was inappropriate and unacceptable.

"We won't make statements until we have discussed and analysed everything," Pupovac told Hina, declining to comment on Plenković's assessment and the widespread condemnation of his statements in Croatia.

"We consider extremely inappropriate, even unacceptable, the statements by our coalition partner that would point to the conclusion that Croatia is a factor of instability in Southeast Europe and that present-day Croatia should be compared with the NDH regime. We consider that to be absolutely untrue and this should be said clearly and I resolutely reject that," Plenković said after a meeting of the leadership of the ruling HDZ party on Monday night.

In an interview with the website last weekend following recent attacks on Serbs in Croatia, Pupovac said the situation in the country was not good in terms of peace, security and respect for the constitution, the law and international agreements.

"This type of historical revisionism in which one wants to rehabilitate Ustashism in the European context and accuse everyone else - Yugoslavia, the socialist order, the communist movement, other nations on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbs and others - is the matrix on which this is happening in Croatia. And that contributes to Croatia becoming a factor of instability on the territory of the former Yugoslavia," Pupovac was quoted as saying.

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

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Croatian MEP, Presidential Candidate Accuse Pupovac of Raising Tensions

ZAGREB, August 25, 2019 - A Croatian member of the European Parliament, Ruža Tomašić, as well as a presidential candidate, Miroslav Škoro, on Saturday criticised the Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac of "adding fuel to the flames" following the incidents in two cafes near Knin.

Following Pupovac's statements that the situation in Croatia's society resembled the times in the aftermath of Croatia's war of independence and that he would inform international institutions of the violations of minority rights, MEP Ruža Tomašić says on her Facebook profile that every violence should be condemned and perpetrators should be brought to justice, however, the politicisation "is counterproductive".

Tomašić says that Pupovac's rhetoric more and more resembles that of by Croatian Serb rebel leaders -- Jovan Rašković, Milan Babić and Mile Martić -- "who intimidated members of the Serb minority in Croatia and incited them to turn against their homeland".

Škoro says on his Facebook account that Pupovac's rhetoric looks like statements and views of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

"Instead of defusing the tensions created in the incident, Pupovac adds fuel to the flames, and wants to score political points from the attacks against Croatian citizens, which deserves absolute condemnation."

Both Škoro and Tomašić criticise the ruling majority of keeping silent to Pupovac's claims.

The 21 August assault against guests in a cafe in the village of Uzdolje near Knin is qualified by the Sibenik county law enforcement and prosecutorial authorities as an act of causing riot.

The police are searching for masked thugs who inflicted injuries to several people, including a 9-year-old boy, and damaged the interior of that cafe on Wednesday evening while in its guests were watching a TV broadcast of a football match between the Belgrade-based Crvena Zvezda and the Swiss club Young Boys. A few guests sustained light injuries and a 17-year-old injured boy was hospitalised in the Knin hospital for some time for his injuries.

In the Đevrske cafe thee guests were exposed to verbal attacks that night.

More news about the Knin incidents can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Pupovac: President Has Come into Conflict with Constitutional Court

ZAGREB, July 19, 2019 - The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, said on Friday that by supporting Mayor Ivan Penava with regard to the Constitutional Court decision on bilingualism in Vukovar, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had come into conflict with the Constitutional Court.

"Coming into conflict with the Constitutional Court, without any adequate explanation or invoking the legality or the provisions of the Constitution, is a serious problem for the functioning of key institutions in Croatia, that means the Office of the President and the supreme judicial institution in Croatia," Pupovac told reporters in parliament.

Reporters asked him to comment on Grabar-Kitarović's statement on Thursday that she supported Mayor Penava and the citizens of Vukovar who, as she said, "have for more than a quarter of a century suffered injustice resulting from the inexplicably sluggish and ineffective institutions." They were also interested in his view on the fact that, in addition to the president, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Interior Minister Davor Božinović also sided with the mayor on the use of Cyrillic script in the eastern town.

"It is obvious that at the moment we have different opinions," Pupovac said and added that "even when there are different opinions, and the responsibility is shared, they need to be discussed."

Pupovac said that the Constitutional Court decision that the rights of the Serb national minority in Vukovar have to be improved with regard to bilingualism is very clear, "whether someone is happy with it or not."

"It is very clear regarding what needs to be implemented in that regard and that needs to be discussed. Any further watering down of that decision is watering down the role of the Constitutional Court and order in Croatia," Pupovac said.

He denied that this would influence the SDSS MPs and their vote of confidence in the ministerial nominees in parliament and underscored that the government reshuffle was debated as a special topic. He said that the coalition partners would discuss the Constitutional Court decision after the confirmation of the new ministers.

Pupovac said that some of the Constitutional Court decisions were obligatory, for example with regard to seals or issuing documents in Cyrillic upon an oral request.

"Those decisions are obligatory and there can be no debate about the Constitutional Court's findings. Other sections of the law on the official use of language and the provisions of the Constitutional Court on the rights of national minorities and the provisions of the Constitution can be debated without causing conflict or tension," he said.

Pupovac said that the people who have started commenting on the provisions of the Constitutional Court were threatening "conflicts in which they participated in a few years ago."

Asked whether he would react similarly as he did with the Ustasha salute in Jasenovac and now pass over this implementation of the Constitutional Court decision, Pupovac said that this is not the only case that needs to be put to the test whether something can be passed over.

"This is something that has not existed since yesterday. This matter is closely and seriously connected with the very beginnings of this country and is still taken to be the foundations of this country. You are not questioning those beginnings," concluded Pupovac.

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

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Coalition Supports Government Reshuffle, Opposition Wants Elections

ZAGREB, July 11, 2019 - The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, on Wednesday said that the announced government reshuffle was a welcome move that will improve functionality and strengthen the government.

"Improved functionality and strengthening the government, in the opinion of our caucus and party, is a welcome move and in that regard we support the stand of the HDZ (Croatian Democratic Union). We are waiting for the prime minister to do what is necessary, that means internal consultations, and for him to decide and assess what needs to be done, after which we too will be informed, I guess," Pupovac said, whose party is part of the ruling majority.

As far as the timing of the reshuffle is concerned, Pupovac believes that there is no need to wait until the autumn. Considering speculations that the number of ministries will be reduced, Pupovac recalled that there had been experiments with fewer ministries, but that did not improve the government's functionality. He said the prime minister will decide on the number of ministries.

Asked whether the reshuffle was possible by Friday or whether parliament would convene for an extraordinary session, Pupovac said that "there is not enough time for serious work" to be done by Friday.

Asked whether the government was burdened by scandals involving ministers, Pupovac said "a lot burdens the government, various circumstances in society." "What we as partners consider to be important is political strengthening, strengthening the government and the political scene in the country because it seems to us that this is a crisis point that needs to be considered and dealt with," he added.

Reporters asked if that meant that ministers Goran Marić and Gabrijela Žalac and others should be replaced. Pupovac said that the prime minister should be asked that. "When the time comes for talks on that, we will say our opinion, he added. Pupovac dismissed speculation that the SDSS would take over the Public Administration Ministry.

The Opposition in parliament on Wednesday called for a snap election instead of a government reshuffle as announced by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. MP Gordan Maras (Social Democrats) said that Plenković's government is the most corrupt since Croatia gained independence.

Nikola Grmoja (MOST) considers that Plenković's hands are tied. This government will probably hold out for the full term, unless the HNS (People's Party) and minority MPs estimate that it would be better for them to leave, yet Croatian citizens will have nothing to gain from that.

"We called for a new election long ago, for allowing the people to decide and for not agreeing to political bartering in the parliament," he said.

He believes it is scandalous that someone who is not fit to be in government can sit in the parliament, as former minister Lovro Kuščević will.

Silvano Hrelja of the Pensioners' Party (HSU) said that he would like the prime minister to have the courage, in the interest of Croatian citizens, to conduct an ambitious government reshuffle and find people who are willing to work in the public interest.

"It would be good for Croatia's mental health if we stopped dealing with scandals and for someone to take the wheel and steer those ministries in the right direction," he said.

As far as Kuščević's returning to parliament is concerned, Hrelja recalled that parliament had on several occasions debated whether mayors and municipal leaders should be allowed to run for parliament and whether they should automatically return to parliament. "That all needs to be defined with election legislation," said Hrelja.

More political news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Pupovac: We Mustn't Settle only for EU Membership

ZAGREB, May 23, 2019 - The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) and its top candidate for the European Parliament, Milorad Pupovac, said at the main campaign rally in Glina on Wednesday that Croatia must not settle only for EU membership but success which, as a member state, it would generate for its citizens and for Europe, underlining that the Serb people in Croatia needed success.

He said the people of the Banija region needed success too so they could say that "after years of failure and suffering, with their votes, they can achieve success for Serbs in Croatia and for Croatia."

"We want a civilised Croatia, a Croatia in which the voice of intolerance won't dominate, a Croatia in which no voices which spread the message of fear or hatred will dominate. Croatia will then resemble the country it was before joining the European Union, a country of Croatian and European ideals," said Pupovac.

Serbs in Croatia see the EU as a success project which depends on how much each member state puts into that project, he added.

Non-party candidate from slate 24 Dejan Jović said the candidates on the slate advocated a united and increasingly strong Europe.

"Our wish is for Europe to spread to all those countries which wish to become EU member states. We don't want any solid walls between the countries in the EU and those outside, and we believe that's in the interest of Croatia, the Western Balkans and the EU," he said.

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

Saturday, 11 May 2019

SDSS Leader Says Party's Goal to Expand Freedoms

ZAGREB, May 11, 2019 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac on Saturday attended an event at a memorial park in Vukovar commemorating people killed there from 1941 to 1943 during World War II.

Answering reporters' questions after the commemoration, Pupovac said that other political parties' campaigns for European Parliament elections were almost invisible compared to the SDSS's.

"We will try and work to make it stay that way, because our goal is not only to win a seat in the EP but expand the space of freedom and free people from fear as well as help Serbs in Croatia gain acceptance in the public sphere and in areas where they live," said Pupovac.

"We believe that by doing so we are strengthening Croatia as a democratic country."

He added that Serbs fostered the tradition of antifascism. "We support all who understand the meaning of antifascism and who recognise it in the foundations of 20th-century Europe, as well as in the foundations of 21st-century Europe and Croatia. We will work on that with everyone, whether they be Serbs, Croats or of some other ethnic background or political affiliation," he said.

Asked to comment on President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's visit to Macelj, Bleiburg and Huda Jama to commemorate people killed there in the aftermath of World War II on May 8, the Day of the Liberation of Zagreb, Pupovac said: "The victory over the fascist coalition must be in the first place for everyone, including the president of the republic, and one should also find a way to commemorate people killed in the aftermath of WWII, but with the clear knowledge of what happened and why," he said.

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

Friday, 3 May 2019

SDSS Says Party Billboards Promote Freedom, Against Hate

ZAGREB, May 3, 2019 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac on Friday commented on recent incidents in which SDSS billboards were vandalised, including with Ustasha symbols, saying that the billboards and their message were meant to free people and society from fear and promote freedom as well as that he would not report the incidents to the police because he no longer wanted to remind them of what their job was.

"Our billboards and messages are against fear and for freedom. They are against hate and are meant to help free this society from hate. The Cyrillic script on the SDSS billboards that some are bothered by is a script that wants to be not only a means of communication but a means of liberation of our society from the prejudices and hate that have been spreading for years and to which nobody is reacting," Pupovac told a news conference.

The SDSS party, which is running for the first time in elections for the European Parliament, has put up billboards with the slogan "Do you know what it is like to be a Serb in Croatia?", with the word 'Serb' written in the Cyrillic script.

One of those billboards, put up in Split, was recently vandalised, with the words 'Serb' and 'SDSS' having been blotted out and with messages added such as 'NDH', "For the homeland, ready" and "Start your tractors", an allusion to Serb refugees fleeing Croatia during 1995's Operation Storm.

Pupovac warned that the Cyrillic script, one of the first Slavic scripts, could not gain acceptance in Croatia. "To us that script is a script of freedom and we will use it as such to help free this society from those who wish to... restrict the freedoms of others and of the entire society when it comes to differences and possibility of choice," he said.

He noted that the SDSS had decided to run in EP elections to expand the space of freedom for voters who lived in regions where they did not dare declare their ethnic background or vote in line with their beliefs.

Commenting on HRAST MP Hrvoje Zekanović's statement that he regretted Pupovac did not flee to Belgrade on a tractor in 1995, Pupovac said that he was not afraid. "Neither should you be afraid because those people are cowards. Instead of carrying flags of freedom, they carry a flag of hate and symbols of crime."

The SDSS leader said that he would not contact the police over the destruction of SDSS billboards because he was "fed up with reminding the police of what they should do."

He also said that some things would not be happening if top state officials would say loud and clear what was acceptable in the country and what was not.

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

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Serb Minority Leader Pupovac Runs for European Parliament

ZAGREB, March 30, 2019 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac said on Saturday that the participation of his party in the forthcoming European Parliament election was emancipating for the Serbs in Croatia.

"Participation in the forthcoming European Parliament election is emancipating and liberating for the Serbs. In doing so, we can help change the atmosphere in Croatia, help people free themselves from fear and stereotypes, and have a greater sense of freedom. If we manage to achieve that, we will be in the European Parliament and in the European atmosphere no matter how many votes we win. And if we do win one seat, which is what we are striving for, that will be a huge achievement," Pupovac told Croatian Radio in an interview.

Asked whether he would go to Brussels if he won a seat or he would give up his seat as the leader of the MOST party, Božo Petrov, had announced, Pupovac said he had no less obligations than Petrov. "My focus is on the success of the slate and the party and on the success of the people on the slate and less on my own success," he added.

Speaking of the reasons why the SDSS was running in the election on its own, Pupovac said: "The HNS (Croatian People's Party) initiated talks with us to run together in a coalition, but then they changed their mind and decided that they could give us only one or two places on the slate, which we could not accept."

Pupovac said that his recent threat of leaving the ruling coalition was serious. "We reached a line we couldn't and shouldn't cross. The line is still here and we're still walking on it. We don't want to cross it and that's what our message was about. We analysed the political circumstances and activity of the SDSS and generally the exercise of rights by Serbs in Croatia, the state of democracy and democratic values on the one hand and the implementation of operational programmes for the minorities in Croatia, including the Serbs, on the other," the SDSS leader said.

"Attacks on constitutional and democratic values by far right, historically defeated forces in Croatia have become too strong over the past year and too widespread in the political and public sphere," he added.

Pupovac said that the problem lay in a conflict between policies aimed at restoring values that were essentially undemocratic. "The policies that were defeated in the Second World War and the policies of the war in the 1990s, and the lack of preparedness on our part as the coalition and government. I say 'our' on purpose because we cannot deny our responsibility for this regardless of how much we are actually involved in the government. The lack of preparedness to recognise what is going on and respond to what is going on. We as the ruling coalition and as the government should have recognised these phenomena and responded to them in time."

He explained why he supported the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković. "That's why we joined the coalition and what we were working on during the first two years in office - to remove chauvinistic phenomena and radical, exclusive historical revisionism from the public and political mainstream, especially the denial of war crimes committed by the (Nazi-allied) Ustasha movement during the Second World War."

Pupovac said that the SDSS had threatened to leave the coalition unless the policies were changed. "If we have agreed to restore electricity and water supply in areas where Serb refugees have returned, then this agreement should be strictly observed, rather than have someone at a lower level reduce the agreed amount of money," he said.

He noted that the restoration of electricity and water supply, as agreed under the operational programme, had begun last year, adding that "neither the government of Zoran Milanović nor of Jadranka Kosor, and especially the government of Tihomir Orešković, paid any attention to that."

The SDSS leader explained why Prime Minister Plenković's wish for a single commemoration ceremony at Jasenovac, the site of an Ustasha-run concentration camp during the Second World War, was unlikely to come true this year either.

"The question of negationism and radical historical revisionism by those who would want to completely change the 20th century history of Croatia, to make something white out of black, make something clean out of something dirty, make something true out of lies and turn the truth into a lie. At a time when every effort is made to say that Jasenovac did not exist, and such people are allowed on public television, in public libraries, pastoral centres, a diocesan centre, it is not realistic to expect us to say, 'well, that's nothing,' while at the same time the Bleiburg myth continues to be fostered the way it is. These two things cannot go together," Pupovac said.

Pupovac said it was unacceptable to him that 2 million kuna (270,000 euro) was annually allocated for the Jasenovac Memorial Centre and 40 million kuna (5.4 million euro) for the Vukovar Memorial Centre.

"These are the reasons why we must seriously discuss how to change the practice of commemorating events from the Second World War and the war that broke up our common state. If we find that, we will be together again," Pupovac said.

He also spoke of his attendance at a ceremony that commemorated NATO's bombing of Serbia. "I was there to pay tribute to the people who were killed in NATO's bombing campaign in 1999, just as I attend commemorative events elsewhere," Pupovac said.

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

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.

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