Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Bosnian Serb Entity Building Family Homes for Croatian Serb Quake Victims

ZAGREB, 19 April 2022 - Croatian MP Milorad Pupovac and the director of the Bosnian Serb entity's secretariat for the displaced and migration, Davor Čordaš, on Tuesday signed an agreement on the construction of houses for Serb families whose homes were destroyed in the 2020 earthquake in Croatia's Banovina region.

The agreement is worth HRK 6 million and envisages the construction of ten prefab houses, to be made by the Steco factory in Bijeljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The agreement was signed in the Bosnian Serb entity's capital of Banja Luka.

Prior to that, Pupovac held talks with the entity's prime minister, Radovan Višković, telling the press he expected the houses to be delivered by the end of the summer.

Monday, 21 February 2022

Early Election Would Mean Standstill, Says MP Pupovac

21 February, 2022 - SDSS president Milorad Pupovac said on Monday that Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević had tendered his resignation and that he felt an early election did not suit anyone, including the state, as it would mean another standstill in post-earthquake reconstruction and economic recovery.

"We need a functional and serious government. That means doing all that is necessary for the government to move without deadweight," the Independent Democratic Serb Party leader said on N1 television.

He said the ruling coalition would judge and evaluate the situation and the possibilities of effective government activity.

Asked about the deadline by which a more definitive agreement was expected as to whether the incumbent government would go on and in what make-up, Pupovac said that as far as he and the SDSS were concerned, "this government will go on."

"This government will do all that is necessary to adjust itself both functionally and politically so that it acts without deadweight, so that it acts focused on the targets it set, so that it utilises the sources so that those targets are achieved, and so that chaos in the country stops being produced."

Asked if the SDSS would keep the office of a deputy prime minister if the prime minister accepted Milošević's resignation, Pupovac said the future and functioning of the government had greater priority than who was in the government. "We will assess what is good for us and the government."

As for the vacant office of construction minister after Darko Horvat's resignation on Saturday, Pupovac said the coalition would discuss that very soon.

As for Milošević, Pupovac said he was the last person who would put someone in an awkward position.

"We respect the judicial institutions of this country, both DORH (State Attorney's Office) and USKOK (anti-corruption office)... For us, it's extremely important that everyone involved in this is equally protected, that information isn't leaked, and that confidentiality is not undermined."

Asked about a meeting with Horvat which, according to texts that have been made public, he attended, Pupovac said the meeting was held because it was necessary to discuss a now contested programme on SME development in areas populated by national minorities.

"Interest in that programme was low, it was high only from us. Milošević was at the meeting, too, and there was only talk about how to ensure the funds, whether it was possible to ensure more funds," Pupovac said, adding that it was a regular meeting which MPs can have with ministers.

Asked if that was a way to buy ruling coalition partners, given that it concerned companies connected to political parties and national minorities, he said that was not true. "The purpose of those programmes, as far as the SDSS is concerned, was not to buy a partnership at all."

We are talking about fighting for people's elementary rights and the wish to eliminate injustice and discrimination, he said.

Asked to explain why requests were made for some companies to get funds although they were not eligible, Pupovac said the position of those who made the requests was "to establish adequate regional representation."

He said Milošević had the obligation to eliminate the inequality so that all national minority representatives were represented. Milošević did not incite anyone to commit a crime and has no personal or interest connection to the people in question, he added.

USKOK suspects that Darko Horvat, in November and December 2018, in his capacity as minister of the economy, entrepreneurship and crafts, awarded HRK 2.6 million in grants to businesses in which he had a personal interest and to those for which he was asked to do so a number of times directly, or indirectly via his then aide Ana Mandac, by Milošević,  Regional Development and EU Funds Ministry state secretary Velimir Žunac, the director of the administration for assisted areas, Katica Mišković, and former minister Tomislav Tolušić.

Horvat was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of abuse of office. He was relieved of duty as construction minister by the prime minister at his own request later that day.

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Pupovac: Peaceful Reintegration Helped Restore Inter-Ethnic Trust

ZAGREB, 13 Jan 2022 - Serb National Council (SNV) president Milorad Pupovac said on Thursday that the peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danube region on 15 January 1998 marked "the peaceful end of the war in Croatia" and helped restore inter-ethnic trust.

The peaceful reintegration was based on two peace agreements - the Erdut Agreement, adopted as part of a wider package with the Dayton Agreement, and a document adopted on this date in which the UN Security Council approved the mandate of the UN transitional administration for the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia and defined the status and rights of Serbs in Croatia and their institutions, Pupovac said in Vukovar.

He said that the peaceful reintegration had not only brought peace but had also helped restore inter-ethnic trust.

"The restoration of trust between the majority Croats and the minority Serbs was a prerequisite, then as it is now, for the democratization of the country, emergence from the war and ethnic conflict, and the return of displaced Croats and Serb refugees," Pupovac said, noting that these achievements were sometimes valued too little.

He said that the peaceful reintegration, the Erdut Agreement, and the Letter of Intent had also laid the ground for mutual recognition of and cooperation between Croatia and Serbia. "That is very important for Croatia and the Serb community and for the relationship between Croatia and Serbia."

Those who have in the past years been hoping for "a peacetime Storm", trying to deprive the Serbs of their right to use Cyrillic alphabet and expel them based on criminal prosecution for war crimes, are actually working against the peaceful reintegration and the commitments arising from that process, Pupovac said.

He noted that Croatia, unlike some other countries of the former Yugoslavia, had emerged from the war as a reintegrated country thanks in part to people who led the peaceful reintegration process on behalf of the Serb community, such as the former Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Vojislav Stanimirović, for which he said he never received due recognition from some political circles, except President Tuđman.

Speaking of the anniversary of Croatia's international recognition, which is also marked on 15 January, Pupovac said that it was firmly connected with the issue of minority rights, especially the rights of the Serb minority.

He recalled that international recognition was preceded by the adoption of the constitutional act governing the rights of ethnic minorities, adding that all countries that had been advocating the international recognition of Croatia had demanded the adoption of an appropriate mechanism for the protection of minority rights.

The head of the Joint Council of Serb-majority municipalities (ZVO), Dejan Drakulić, said that the peaceful reintegration process was still ongoing because some issues of importance to the Serb community remained unresolved, citing autonomy in education and certain status issues. 

"Our task is to emphasize the importance of peaceful reintegration and the need to develop a more democratic and more tolerant society," Drakulić said.

The SNV and ZVO held a meeting in Vukovar to mark the anniversary of the peaceful reintegration of the Danube region and the international recognition of Croatia.

The peaceful reintegration process began on 15 January 1996 when the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1037, establishing a transitional administration for Eastern Slavonia. Retired US general Jacques Paul Klein was appointed transitional administrator. The process formally ended on 15 January 1998 with the UN handing over the administration of the region to Croatia.

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

Sunday, 9 August 2020

Daily: Pupovac Says Will Attend Skabrnja Commemoration

ZAGREB, Aug 9, 2020 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) president Milorad Pupovac said in Sunday's edition of the Vecernji List daily that he would attend a commemoration for Croatian war victims in Skabrnja to share the pain of the locals.

"For a long time, I've felt the need to share with my cousins and dear people the pain over the killing in Skabrnja. That's where I come from," he was quoted as saying.

In the interview, Pupovac spoke of his view of the August 5 anniversary of the 1995 military Operation Storm and the messages President Zoran Milanovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic sent from there, which were conciliatory and a big step towards the future.

He also spoke of the criticisms from Belgrade and his sharp reply to Serbian Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic and other politicians in Serbia who called the SDSS "traitors" because Deputy PM Boris Milosevic attended the anniversary.

Pupovac also sharply criticised Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman, saying he was insulting in a comment on Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's statements in the wake of the anniversary by claiming that Serbs in Croatia "don't need a mentor from the side."

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Pupovac: It Is Not My Duty to Deepen Traumas and Conflicts

ZAGREB, Aug 8, 2020 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac said on Saturday that it was not his duty to deepen traumas and conflicts but rather remove misunderstandings and create preconditions for dialogue in the process of reconciliation, which should also involve representatives of Serbia.

Addressing a news conference in Zagreb following the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of Operation Storm in Knin earlier this week and the echoes of the messages sent from there, Pupovac said that it was his duty to contribute to calming down those reverberations, enhancing understanding for the process that had been launched, and to removing misunderstandings.

"In Knin, on the day which Croats see as a day for celebration while Serbs see it as a day for mourning, those two opposite feelings, experiences and perceptions have been turned into flour and water," he told reporters in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg square, stressing that in Knin the process of kneading dough for the bread of reconciliation had been started.

He added that many more words, gestures, and acts would be needed to rid, through the process of kneading, the two opposite feelings of crimes and suffering.

"A significant portion of commemorative gestures of reconciliation can be made with us here in Croatia... For another portion, which has and can have particular weight, that will not be possible," he said, adding that Croatian-Serbian reconciliation in Croatia would always be incomplete without a broader Croatian-Serbian reconciliation, on which the resolution of historical traumas, the establishment of the truth about the fate of missing persons and turning to a new kind of cooperation depend.

Pupovac went on to say that reconciliation could not happen in the past and that suffering and traumas could be faced only by distancing oneself from the worst past and by condemning its evils, which means from the perspective of the future.

Asked what the next steps in the process of reconciliation would be, Pupovac said that his duty was not to make traumas and conflicts deeper.

"It is my duty to remove misunderstandings and create preconditions for dialogue and for understanding regarding the beginning of this process and its continuation which, I am confident, will have to involve representatives of Serbia," he stressed.

In a message to Croatian Foreign and European Minister Gordan Grlic Radman, Pupovac said that Croatian Serbs were not looking for a mentor in Belgrade but rather for interlocutors and partners for what they were doing.

"But we also do not need patronising in Croatia," he stressed, adding that while lecturing others, Grlic Radman should finally take it as his duty to see to it that incidents targeting Serbian nationals vacationing in Croatia stopped.

Asked if he saw a will between Zagreb and Belgrade to open the issue of prosecution of war crimes, Pupovac said that there was such will, regardless of how much recently it had seemed that there was not.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

Pupovac: Anyone Who Thinks State Can Be Excuse for War Crimes Is Seriously Mistaken

ZAGREB, Aug 6, 2020 - Anyone who thinks that the state can be an excuse for war crimes is seriously mistaken, the leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, said in Uzdolje, near Knin, on Thursday, in an address to a memorial ceremony for eight Serb civilians killed there in the wake of Operation Storm 25 years ago.

"Even more mistaken are those who think that peace can be built by ignoring killings like these and without showing empathy for the suffering that people endured," he added.

Pupovac said that the victims had been "perfidiously and inhumanely" killed by those who thought they were doing a big thing and those big things justified such crimes.

Pupovac said that the people attending the commemoration had gathered together to stand up to such thinking and belief, adding that they would continue to organise such memorials to condemn those crimes and encourage the authorities to identify those responsibly and bring them to justice.

"We will continue to gather together in the belief that by respecting the suffering endured by our compatriots, both Croats, and Serbs, we will create a society of peace in which we will close the chapter on the war rather than reopen it every year, a society in which people will be able to live in peace and look to the future," Pupovac said.

War crimes against Serbs seldom prosecuted

SDSS MP Anja Simpraga warned that while the war crimes committed against Croats were recognised and formally commemorated and many Serbs were prosecuted and punished for those crimes, this could not be said of the war crimes committed against Serbs and of their expulsion.

"War crimes against Serbs have been seldom punished, particularly those committed during or in the wake of Operation Storm. The places of their suffering are marked and commemorated by Serb organisations only, and they don't seem to exist for the state and the government. The same is true of the expulsion of nearly 200,000 Serbs during Operation Storm alone, not counting those expelled during Operation Flash and those expelled from many towns outside the war zones," Simpraga said.

She said that there was no public awareness among the Croats of such large-scale suffering of Serbs and no awareness of the need to express regret and empathy.

"Condemnations of war crimes are getting fewer and fewer over the years and are giving way to callousness and unchristian ridicule, hatred of the remaining Serbs, intolerance towards what makes them different from Croats, and violence," she added.

Simpraga recalled that in addition to the 200,000 Serbs who had fled from Operation Storm, nearly 2,000 had been killed during or in the wake of the Croatian military offensive, and "hundreds of villages and a thousand houses" had been devastated. She said it was high time to shed light on the war crimes, what had happened during the war, and the damage that had been done not just to Serbs but to Croatia itself.

"It is necessary to stop the hatred and violence against Serbs and start building a society of tolerance and respect for diversity. It is also necessary to stop keeping quiet about other people's suffering during the war and ridiculing it but rather show respect for the suffering of all (both Croats and Serbs). That's what honourable warriors and wise and honest politicians do and what true priests preach," Simpraga said.

Stevan, Janja and Djurdjija Beric, Milos Cosic, and Sava, Milica, Jandrija and Krstan Sare were killed in Uzdolje on 6 August 1995. No one has been brought to account for these murders.