Monday, 11 March 2019

SDSS Party Decides to Stay in Ruling Coalition

ZAGREB, March 11, 2019 - The Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) decided at a leadership meeting on Monday that it would not leave the ruling coalition, authorising its leader Milorad Pupovac and the party's parliamentary group to discuss the situation with the coalition partners.

The party's Presidency today discussed relations within the coalition and the party's status in the coalition, deciding that it has reached a line which it cannot cross for the sake of defending basic democratic values, rule of law, freedom of the press, Croatia's international commitments, the rights of the Serb minority and everything that has been agreed with the government and signed and adopted in operational programmes concerning the Serb minority, the chairman of the SDSS parliamentary group, Boris Milošević, told the press after the meeting.

MP Dragana Jeckov said that the Presidency had authorised Pupovac and the SDSS parliamentary group to discuss the situation with the coalition partners, "those who still care about these values and issues."

Pupovac declined to speak to the press. Last week he indicated in several statements that the SDSS was considering leaving the governing coalition.

Coalition leaders are due to meet on Tuesday.

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

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Will Pupovac Leave Ruling Coalition?

ZAGREB, March 6, 2019 - Public Administration Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) political secretary Lovro Kuščević said that the ruling party was not afraid of a scenario in which the current coalition with the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) would cease to exist, and also believes that the SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac has no reason to be upset over the burning of an effigy of him at a Mardi Gras carnival in the southern coastal town of Kaštel Sućurac on Sunday.

Pupovac believes that the event was not about the popular carnival culture of mocking those in power but rather about a culture of deepening hate and prejudice and incitement to violence, and said that he was now at the line which he did not want to cross, which prompted media to speculate about the end of the HDZ-SDSS coalition.

Kuščević said today that he did not see any reasons for Pupovac's anger. "I think that Croatia is a society in which the protection of ethnic minorities is at a high level," Kuščević said. "We are event at a higher level when it comes to media freedoms and non-existence of censorship."

"I don't think that there is any serious reason for this well-functioning coalition to be severed," he said while arriving for a meeting of the inner cabinet in Zagreb.

The government is not afraid of any scenario, and it will do its job well until the end of this term, and also the next term, says a confident Kuščević.

Kuščević says that it is also irrelevant that apart from the Pupovac effigy, a Plenković effigy was also set on fire. This is a carnival, a Mardi Gras festival and I pay no attention to it except to the fact that this is a carnival event, he explained.

As for the case of reporter Đuršica Klancir, whose identity was established by the police at her workplace for the purpose of a civil lawsuit against her, Kuščević said the police did their job, media did their job. In this context he said that a level of media freedoms in Croatia is at an enviable European level.

The leader of the Labour and Solidarity Party, Milan Bandić, on Wednesday commented on an announcement by MP Milorad Pupovac that he might leave the ruling coalition, saying that there is no need for fear because Pupovac would not do that. "He won't leave that coalition," Bandić said outside City Hall.

Asked whether he thinks that intolerance of ethnic Serbs was on the rise in Croatia, Bandić said that Zagreb is a "multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-confessional city." "I condemn individual incidents immediately and there is no need to interpret them as the rule," he added.

MP Branko Hrg (the Croatian Democratic Christian Party) and a member of the ruling coalition said that even if Pupovac's announcement of leaving the coalition was serious, it would not destabalise the ruling coalition that would lead to a snap election.

In the situation when decisions in parliament are adopted by 80 or 81 votes in favour, Pupovac's departure from the coalition would not lead to destabilisation, Hrg told reporters outside Government House.

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

Monday, 4 March 2019

Serb Leader Pupovac Comments on Burning of His Effigy

ZAGREB, March 4, 2019 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader and member of parliament Milorad Pupovac said on Monday that he was offended by the burning of an effigy of him at a carnival in the southern coastal town of Kaštel Sućurac on Sunday, which he sees as incitement to violence in an atmosphere of hate that is tolerated by the state's top authorities.

"This is a signal for those who represent the state and society and not for that mindless crowd. Instead of expanding the boundaries of its freedom Croatian society is choking with hate, as shown at this carnival," Pupovac told Hina commenting on Sunday's incident.

A parody of a recent attack on Serbian water polo players in Split was played out during the carnival as well.

Pupovac believes that the event was not about the popular carnival culture of mocking those in power but rather about a culture of deepening hate and prejudice and incitement to violence.

"That was not an amusing, inventive Dalmatian carnival that provokes the government. Unfortunately, it was a manifestation of nationalism and chauvinism," said Pupovac whose effigy was burned for the second time in three years in Kaštel Sućurac.

He added that as a Dalmatian he was deeply offended by the fact that one of the richest segments of popular tradition had been reduced to spreading hate and inciting violence against those who were weaker and different.

"But that's not their fault. That is the fault of those who have created that atmosphere, who aren't doing anything to condemn or change that sort of atmosphere," said Pupovac.

More news on the position of Serbs in Croatia 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.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Serb Leader Accuses Vukovar Mayor of Inciting Violence

ZAGREB, January 18, 2019 - By posting a video of ethnic Serb secondary school students who did not stand up for the Croatian anthem at a football match played in Vukovar last year on the local government website, Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava violated the Children's Wellbeing Act, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Personal Data Act and other laws, further inciting an atmosphere of violence, Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac told a press conference in the Croatian parliament on Friday.

Commenting on the case of a student of a Serb-language technical school in Vukovar who had been beaten up by football hooligans, Pupovac said that the problem of violence targeting members of the Serb community and students was not new.

"There are groups, including the one that attacked this student, who resort to violence and who are tolerated in the town. This happened several times over the past year," Pupovac said.

This incident is the result of the behaviour of that group of football fans being tolerated and the fact that Penava has additionally incited such an atmosphere by marking the Serb students of Nikola Tesla Technical School as people who do not respect Croatia and who are viewed in the context of the SDSS policy of maintaining the continued and, as Penava put it, creeping aggression against Croatia, Pupovac said.

Police said on Thursday that one minor was slightly injured in a fight that broke out at a bus stop in Vukovar on Wednesday, apparently between two rival groups of football fans, one involving two minors and the other three. The person injured was a Serb student of Nikola Tesla Technical School.

Pupovac said he did not believe that the separated Croatian and Serb schools in Vukovar were the problem. "Why is this not happening in Istria where there are also minority schools? Why is this happening in Vukovar? Because there are people who are constantly stoking up an atmosphere of war and who treat and portray any demands by the Serb community for rights that belong to them under the constitution, law and international agreements as an attack on the constitutional order and aggression."

He said that the failure by the children in question to stand up for the Croatian national anthem could not be regarded as an attack on the constitutional order. "This requires working with those children. The way in which Mayor Penava acted is certainly not the way. As for football fans, national anthems and expectations of how fans should behave in such situations, we'd better not discuss that. When it comes to schools in which one group of children stands up for the national anthem and the other does not, that is a serious problem," Pupovac said.

Asked to comment on the demand by MP Hrvoje Zekanović that Croatia should block Serbia's EU accession negotiations, he said: "What if I, as a representative of the SDSS, had demanded that Croatia's accession to the EU be blocked until all issues concerning the Serbs were resolved, including the issue of Serbs gone missing during the war, prosecution of war crimes, unpaid pensions, demolished housing, Serbs who were driven out during the war and have not returned to their homes? Did I do that? I didn't. I was among the most active advocates of Croatia's entry into the EU, and my party and my other colleagues, minority MPs, helped Croatia become an EU member, otherwise Croatia would still be waiting on the EU's doorstep."

Pupovac said he would sue Hrvatski Tjednik weekly for running a cover showing him holding the severed head of Ivan Šreter, wartime head of the Western Slavonia crisis management committee who disappeared without a trace after being abducted by Serb rebels in 1991. "Only a twisted and sick mind can implicate me in a murder," he said.

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

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Serb National Council in Croatia Celebrates Christmas

ZAGREB, January 6, 2019 - The Serb National Council (SNV) gave a reception on Sunday on the occasion of Orthodox Christmas at which SNV president Milorad Pupovac said it was necessary to pull out of the quagmire of Serbian-Croatian historical topics and that they gathered today with one goal - the good of the Serb community in Croatia, the good of Croatia and for the best possible relations between Croatia and its neighbours.

"For the good of the Orthodox, Catholic and all faithful with whom we live in our country. Peace from God, Christ is born!"

Pupovac said 2018 was "a year of noise in the communication channels with our neighbouring countries" and that it was necessary to do more this year, not just in the exercise of Serbs' rights in Croatia, but also in the advancement of inter-ethnic relations and tolerance.

"We must also do everything in our power to take the relations between Croatia and Serbia, but also Bosnia and Herzegovina and our other neighbours, out of the period of bad decisions because they, it's clear to see, don't benefit anyone, while harming everyone. This year we will dedicate ourselves to that. Both we deputies and Serb institutions in Croatia. We believe that in our government and the governments of the neighbouring countries, we will encounter not just open interlocutors, but serious and committed partners," said Pupovac.

"We will also be dedicated to pulling ourselves out of the quagmire of our Serbian-Croatian, and on this day, I will say Catholic-Orthodox, historical topics. We must not underestimate any one of them, nothing of that, nor look on them with contempt or run away from them, not those related to the experience of the joint state, not those related to World War II and NDH (Independent State of Croatia), not the issue of the tragic break-up of the joint state in war."

Pupovac said the danger to the future of "each of us, each of our peoples" should be underestimated even less "if we continue to interpret moving in the quicksand of our past as progress."

"Yes to re-examining the past, but no to renewing historical evil or celebrating it," he added.

The support which members of the Serb ethnic minority give the parliamentary majority and the government is no small thing considering Croatian-Serbian relations in the 20th century, and through this support they are genuine political and social stakeholders who take part in the regulation of all issues pertaining to minority rights, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Sunday at a Serb National Council reception for Orthodox Christmas.

Christmas "is an opportunity to strengthen faith in peace, solidarity and tolerance as well as unity in the resolution of issues that are important to all our fellow citizens," he said. "Faith in a better tomorrow unites our citizens regardless of ethnicity or religion, and Christmastime is another opportunity for strengthening cooperation and respect."

Understanding and tolerance are the foundations of Croatian society and the government's activity, Plenković said, adding that he was especially pleased that for the third year in a row the government had the support and confidence of all ethnic minority MPs, including Serbs, who "are directly participating in the adoption of public policies."

"That's no small thing because we all know well that the history of Croatian-Serbian relations in the 20st century was fraught and not simple," Plenković said, adding that those relations are directly affected by the quality of Zagreb-Belgrade relations. "Just as the lasting reconciliation between France and Germany didn't happen overnight, it will take more time for the still fresh wounds in the relations between Croatia and Serbia to heal."

He said the issue of persons gone missing in the 1990s war was especially painful and a burden to those relations. "Failure to resolve this issue is markedly slowing down the reconciliation process because it keeps us in the past and prevents us from turning to building a future."

Plenković said returns were another issue which should be completed in all directions. "There's also the question of truth, because without truth there's no dealing with the past, without truth there's no reconciliation, there's no building a common future," he said, adding that "Croatian society needs reconciliation, tolerance, mutual respect."

He said minorities should support the parliamentary majority and be a part of it because it was the only way they could help the government and the parliamentary majority regulate even better the legal, material, financial and institutional issues related to minority rights.

That's the path we will continue on and it's the path which can give Serbs in Croatia a good status, the exercise of their rights and their place in our society, which we should build together as a society and a state in which trust is built together, civil rights are respected and minorities' particularities and identity which make society richer are acknowledged, Plenković said.

Christmas should be the foundation of understanding and mutual respect of all Christian believers in Croatia, he added. "Because faith and hope in a better and more just tomorrow for our families and all of Croatian society are common to us all. So let this Christmas be an incentive to all Christian believers for dialogue, cooperation and the building of a society based on tolerance and trust."

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

Sunday, 9 December 2018

Croatian Serbs Worried about Recent War Crimes Arrests

ZAGREB, December 9, 2018 - The Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader and a member of the Croatian Parliament, Milorad Pupovac, said that local Croatian Serbs who work or used to work in the town administration in Vukovar had been exposed to pressure since 1997, and added that the purpose of the recent arrests in that eastern Croatian town was to cause disturbance and legal insecurity.

Considering the concrete case of the arrest of a few citizens of the Serb background and the issuance of the indictment against two of them, we can say that such forms of pressure have been performed since 1997 by a certain number of people from Vukovar, whose identities are known, against a certain number of citizens of Serb origin who used to work or are now working in the town administration or in other institutions, Pupovac said at a news conference he held in Vukovar.

On early Thursday morning, five ethnic Croatian Serbs from Vukovar were taken in for questioning early on suspicion of committing war crimes in Vukovar in 1991. The SDSS and the Joint Council of Serb-majority Municipalities (ZVO) expressed concern on Thursday after their arrest. The interior ministry said on Friday that police and the Osijek County Prosecutor's Office had completed an investigation, pressed charges and handed over to prison authorities two men, former members of Serb paramilitary units, aged 63 and 64, who are suspected of committing war crimes against civilians in the Vukovar neighbourhoods of Petrova Gora and Sajmište in September 1991. The suspects were arrested in Vukovar on Thursday on the suspicion that, as members of the Petrova Gora Territorial Defence units, in September 1991 they took part in the unlawful detention and torture of local civilians.

Pupovac today criticised the current Vukovar mayor and his advisers for being the first of the local office holders to take helm of that campaign against local Serbs which had been in place since 1997.

The SDSS leader went on to say that making use of the judiciary as a tool for causing legal insecurity was against the Constitution and laws. He said that exploiting traumatic and serious problems from war crimes trials for the purpose of acquiring and strengthening political power is also against the Constitution and amoral, and that it is dishonest to exploit the deaths of other people for the purpose of staying in power.

Pupovac calls for the judiciary to prosecute those who were responsible for the victims among the Serb people from July to November 1991 in Vukovar. In this context, he said that the father of one of the two Serbs who were now indicted for war crimes, had been taken captive in Borovo Commerce in October 1991 and executed on 4 November on the bank of the Danube. If his son is guilty of something, his guilt should be established, however, those responsible for the death of his father should also be held to account, Pupovac said.

He reiterated the dissatisfaction of the Serb community with the performance of the Croatian judiciary when it comes to the prosecution of war crimes committed against its members. "We will not point an accusing finger at anybody, we will not do anything to mount pressure on the judiciary, but we are going to use international and local legal tools to seek justice for those who were accused although they were innocent and for those who were killed, or arrested and abused by those who now enjoy the legal protection of the order of the Republic of Croatia," said Pupovac.

Interestingly, Pupovac supports the current government in parliament.

More news about the Serb national minority in Croatia can be found in our politics section.

Sunday, 9 December 2018

PM Andrej Plenković: Finance Minister Zdravko Marić Won't Leave Government

Amid rumours that the finance minister, Zdravko Marić, is set to step down from his position within the Croatian Government as soon as next month, PM Andrej Plenković has been having his refusal to outright deny the claims scrutinised, with some believing that this means Marić's departure was imminent and due to take place in early 2019. It seems however, that Marić isn't going anywhere.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 9th of December, 2018, HDZ President and PM Andrej Plenković said on Saturday that Finance Minister Zdravko Maric isn't going to leave the government.

"There will be no departure," Plenković told journalists after the he was questioned about whether or not he'd talked to Marić himself about his alleged departure from the cabinet before the end of his mandate, as was being circulated by some media outlets.

The Prime Minister, upon being questioned about the criticisms of controversial SDSS President Milorad Pupovac regarding recent arrests in Vukovar, said that he didn't listen to that press conference, adding that the current government is not interfering with the work of the police or with the work of DORH in any manner whatsoever.

He pointed out, in order to quell people's natural suspicions that "there are no invisible political hands" holding any influence over this process.

When asked about the elections for the European Parliament, PM Andrej Plenković stated that the party would be "almost sure" on their own and that at least five mandates can be expected. "We'll win convincingly in those elections," he said briefly.

Concerning the controversy around the procurement of Israeli F-16 aircraft, Plenković reiterated that everything that the Republic of Croatia did in this process was done systematically, thoroughly, and in fine detail, and that open issues, if there are any, exist solely between Israel and the United States of America, and are nothing to do with Croatia or the part Croatia played in the process.

He confirmed that he visited Zagreb's mayor Milan Bandić was taken to hospital yesterday morning, adding that Bandić claims to be feeling good and that he believes that he will recover and be back on his feet quickly.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for more on PM Andrej Plenković, the Croatian Government, and updates from both domestic and European politics in Croatia.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Police Find Attacker on Serb Minority MP Pupovac

ZAGREB, October 4, 2018 - Zagreb Police have completed an investigation against a 36-year-old man and brought him to court on suspicion that on September 28 he committed a misdemeanour offence by throwing food remains at an MP for the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, at Zagreb's Dolac farmers' market.

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Pupovac Calls for War Crimes Prosecution

ZAGREB, September 29, 2018 - Speaking at a commemoration for Serb civilians killed during and in the aftermath of the military Operation Storm in the Knin area in 1995, Serb National Council (SNV) president and Serb minority MP Milorad Pupovac said that all criminals have to be punished and denied accusations that he or his Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) were working so that war crimes committed against Croat civilians in Vukovar aren't prosecuted.

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