Wednesday, 7 July 2021

MP Jeckov: There Are Definitely No Segregated Schools in Croatia

ZAGREB, 7 July, 2021 - MP Dragana Jeckov of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) said on Wednesday that there are "definitely" no segregated schools or exclusively Serb schools in Croatia, let alone a segregated state education system.

Jeckov made the statement in parliament following statements in the media by "quasi-reformists of minority education," primarily the one conducted in the Serbian language and Cyrillic script.

"Certain myths need to be debunked," she said, including the one that Serbs in Croatia have separate schools and that they are being taught from textbooks from Serbia, based on the so-called Serbian programme.

"In Croatia, there are definitely no segregated schools, there are no exclusively Serb schools, let alone schools that are segregated from the state education system," said Jeckov.

The truth is that students go to school within the same building, that they usually go in the same shift, that they have extra-curricula activities together. The only difference is that members of the minority community are taught in their mother tongue and only if their parents decide so.

"Model A is used by the Italian and Hungarian and Czech minorities and they enjoy their minority rights to a greater extent than Serbs because their schools are registered as minority schools, unlike those for Serbs," she said.

She said that the Serb minority is not asking for more than others but it hasn't achieved the level of rights that others have, and that there is no alternative to education in the mother tongue and script.

MP Stipo MIinarić, of the Homeland Movement (DP) retorted that she was not telling the truth.

"Schools are segregated. Children are segregated from kindergarten age to secondary school. That is not good for Vukovar, the Serb community, the Croatian people, for anyone. Why are children being segregated?" he asked.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

 

Friday, 25 June 2021

Ending Segregated Education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava Announced an Idea

June 25, 2021 - Is there any possibility of ending segregated education in Vukovar? Mayor Ivan Penava announced Serbian and Croatian education could merge in school and kindergarten levels, but more details are yet to be revealed.

The start of the week saw interesting news that surprised many. As reported by N1, Ivan Penava, the mayor of Vukovar, announced Croatian and Serbian classes and kindergartens could merge together.

Vukovar, often referred to in Croatia as the „Hero City“ for the heavy blow it suffered in the 90s war Croatians refer to as Homeland War, still has a lot of ruins as memories of that ugly past. In the light of national tensions among Serbs and Croats, the segregation of kindergartens and different shifts in schools for Serbian and Croatian classes seem to be a solution to keep the peace.

ivan_penava_n1_screen.jpg

screenshot/ N1

Good idea but more talks needed?

„In Vukovar, parents do not choose the model of education that is imposed by politics, it is nowhere written in public“, said mayor Penava, as reported by N1.

Penava, a former member of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), despite earning a new term in the recent local elections as an independent candidate, enjoyed support from Miroslav Škoro, runner-up candidate for Zagreb mayor elections, and the leader of the Homeland Movement (DP) supports Penava's idea.

„I lived in America for a number of years, in Hungary, I traveled the world... what is the difference between Serbian and Croatian mathematics? Is Argentina in Serbian in the northern hemisphere, and southern in Croatian? I don't get it“, said Škoro adding that segregation was done in malice with a tendency to divide children from the start.

„In Vukovar, the symbol of defense had priorities. Reconstruction of the water tower, and certain moves Penava did well in his last term (he wouldn't win elections if he hasn't), thinks that city needs to move on. I support him 100%“, concluded Škoro.

On the other hand, criticism is erected on national-level politics.

„I don't think that local officials are the ones who need to determine a way in which minority education will be conducted. Political trade is clear here, and I'm glad there is no longer just Serbian-Croatian trading coalition, but also another one“, said Dragana Jecov, a Croatian parliament member from the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) referring to the accusations of the right-wing that current coalition of HDZ and SDSS and is vile political trade.

Interior Minister Davo Božinović also said that while we need to work on erasing national, social, and political tensions, but this is a question that needs to be discussed more seriously.

Additionally, as N1 reported, the Ministry of Education pointed out that different models of education for Vukovar schools exist, and parents can choose which they find most suitable.

Accepting national differences or nationalistic uniformity?

Some improvements have indeed been seen in the city infrastructure, but Vukovar still remains a challenging place to live. Partly due to the tough economic situation, but also because of discrepancies among Serbian and Croatian residents. Earlier in June, there was even a violent incident when a 30-year-old Serbian member of the Grobari football fan group physically attacked a Croatian 13-year-old boy in front of a bakery for having a medicine mask with Croatian symbols.

„Sadly, this kind of thing happened too long in Vukovar, where people attack each other because of national disputes. Media aren't even introduced to some of these events. It is spread a lot, as evident by the constant police patrols around Vukovar high-schools where there are always police cars around“, said Vukovar police to Večernji List daily newspaper.

Such incidents, a misfortunate loose ends of the war, also come from the Croatian side. Earlier in May, a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans in Borovo Selo (close to Vukovar), a scene of heinous war crimes in the '90s), sparking condemnation from both president Milanović and the Croatian Government.

In that light, integrated schools might finally bring positive changes in regards to tolerance and peaceful life for Vukovar citizens. But again, not everyone sees the glass as half full.
Index.hr columnist Gordan Duhaček agreed in his column that Serbs and Croats don't need to go to separate shifts but warns how Penava isn't the guy that should unite them.

„Penava doesn't want to integrate Vukovar schools and end the troubling segregation in a way to ensure a better future for the whole city, but instead to impose his nationalistic, often anti-Serbian narrative as the official one. Penava wants that Vukovar Serbs bow down to his view of the Croatian state“, wrote Duhaček.

Duhaček also reminded the readership of the attempt and fail of the Danube International school that supposed to integrate pupils of both nations, an idea that spawned 16 years ago. But, the project failed, and Duhaček sees both Penava and SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac not feeling too sad about it.

vukovar_watr_tower.jpg

Iconic Vukovar water tower, pixabay

Questions on details

At the end of the week, the situation seems more confusing than clear. Is class integration a good idea? Could it save money for the city financially? What are some actual details of merging Croats and Serbians into one class? Obviously, Škoro is right that 2+2=4 in any math class around the world. But, troubling questions appear in subjects such as language and history. Croats and Serbs sadly have their own, different interpretations of historical facts, particularly when it comes to the last war, and while the speakers of two languages perfectly understand each other, some words do differ, and there is a different accent and spelling in the two formal languages. So, how can these issues be resolved? Would those two subjects remain in different shifts while universal subjects such as biology, math, or physics will listen in one merged classroom? Or will there be a different curriculum that would present both Serbian and Croatian history, Serbian and Croatian literature in that way, making Vukovar pupils more knowledgable in those areas than other pupils in the country?

Or some curriculum consensus on history could be reached, one that would satisfy both the Croatian and Serbian sides and thus truly open a doorway to the better understandings of the two nations in the future in perhaps the most nationally torn city in Croatia?

Obviously, Vukovar city authorities have some tensions with SDSS, but the city also has an expert associate for the development of civil society and national minorities, Siniša Mitrović in one of the City's departments. Did Mitrović manage to gain input from the Serbian minority in Vukovar about this merge? And how fast could the whole thing be realized? This autumn or maybe a bit later?
These are important and interesting questions that can only be answered either by mayor Penava himself or perhaps Josip Paloš, the director of the Vukovar City Education Department.

„Mayor Penava is in a lot of meetings and on fields, and his schedule is full. We will sadly not be able to answer you by your Friday deadline, but we will contact you at the earliest convenience“, said the lady at the Vukovar City PR service when I called them (and E-mailed) with a wish to arrange and conduct a brief phone interview.

While this article may present the current issues surrounding segregated education in Vukovar, this TCN reporter hopes mayor Penava will share more details about his plan on ending segregation in Vukovar schools and kindergarten with joint classes. If done right, this move can indeed be the way to a better, more peaceful future for Vukovar citizens.

Learn more about Vukovar on our TC page.

For more about education in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 3 May 2021

Incident in Borovo Strongly Condemned By Many

May 3, 2021 - The incident that occurred on Sunday morning in Borovo, when a group of young men chanted anti-Serb slogans, was condemned by the HDZ and SDP Vukovar branch, the SDSS, the Joint Council of Municipalities and the county Serb National Minority Council.

"Unfortunately, today's unfortunate event in Borovo is a dark stain on the commemoration of the death of 12 special policemen, it is not what we were left by those who we pay tribute to today. Therefore, we strongly condemn any hate speech, whether by individuals or groups," the Vukovar branch of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) said.

It stressed that "those who gave the most defending the Homeland, gave us freedom and sovereignty, independence and institutions and that is the path we must go down and seek justice for the killed special policeman as the foundation for future peace". Vukovar's HDZ branch said that "the policy of fomenting division led by some political options" was not the path on which a better future could be built.

The Social Democratic Party (SDP) also condemned the incident, saying they are horrified by what they saw on the footage and that such behaviour deserved condemnation and punishment.

A joint statement from the the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), the Joint Council of Municipalities and the Vukovar-Srijem County's Serb National Minority Council read that it was devastating that the incident occurred while police were present.

"We have been advocating for the normalisation of relations between the majority people and the Serb community in Croatia for over 20 years since the peaceful reintegration. We try not to do anything that could worsen relations and take us a step back. We expect the same not only from politicians but also from all relevant factors in the society," it was said.

The Vukovar-Srijem Police Administration said that the identity of the group of men who had chanted anti-Serb slogans in Borovo on Sunday morning had been established, stressing that the group was under the supervision of police office who identified the best time to act.

The incident in Borovo which occurred on the day of the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the death of 12 members of special police forces from Vinkovci, killed on 2 May 1991, and on the day when Orthodox Christian, who are majority in Borovo, celebrate Easter, was also condemned by the government, President Zoran Milanović, the Serb National Council and others.

To read more about news in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

 

Sunday, 28 March 2021

Pupovac: Milanović Destabilising Constitutional Order

ZAGREB, 28 March 2021 - The Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader and member of Parliament, Milorad Pupovac, said on Saturday that President Zoran Milanović was destabilizing the country's constitutional order by violating his constitutional obligations and using threats in an attempt to influence lawmakers.

"An attempt by any branch of government to influence the opinions and decisions of members of Parliament is against the constitutional provisions on separation of powers and the independence of members of Parliament. Milanović violated these provisions in my case and in the case of Veljko Kajtazi (who represents the Roma minority) by trying to influence our opinions, our views, and our decisions, using threats," Pupovac told a press conference.

Pupovac said that Milanović had called Kajtazi and tried to influence him, while later saying that Kajtazi was blackmailed. He added that the President accused him of making decisions for his own benefit and that the USKOK anti-corruption agency should act against him.

"This kind of presumption constitutes absolute destabilization of the legal order and the autonomy of the work of members of the Croatian Parliament. If anyone thinks that my discussions on the Committee on the Constitution and Rules of Procedure or within the SDSS group were subject to anyone's influence or any bargaining, they should prove it," the SDSS leader said.

"And if they do not prove it, while at the same time threatening the state institutions as the representative of the highest state institution in the country, then this constitutes a serious violation of the Constitution," he added.

Pupovac said that Milanović told him by telephone that the other parliamentary representatives of the ethnic minorities should also vote for his candidate for Supreme Court President, Zlata Đurđević, which Pupovac said was an attempt at exerting influence.

Milanović took advantage of Đurđević.

Pupovac rejected the accusations that they had dragged Đurđević through the mud, saying that Milanović was creating "an alternative reality." He said that he thought highly of Đurđević and that he had defended her from right-wing circles who criticized her over her background.

"If anyone dragged through the mud this respectable member of the academic community who agreed to participate in the judicial reform, it was Milanović, with his interpretation of the Constitution and his attitude towards other stakeholders," Pupovac said, adding that Milanović had taken advantage of Đurđević for his own benefit.

Commenting on the statements and text messages he had received from President Milanović, Pupovac said that Milanović used foul, insulting, and belittling language.

Shortly before this press conference, which lasted 50 minutes, Pupovac published on his Facebook account the text messages he had received from Milanović at the time of discussion on the new Supreme Court President's appointment. He said he had decided to make them public after seeing such discourse being used in the public sphere.

In one of the messages that Pupovac published. Milanović wrote: "Shame on you, you wretch! The Serb people in Croatia will thrive once they get rid of you and your thieves." Pupovac said he would not seek an apology.

Pupovac also commented on his cooperation with Milanović during his term as prime minister, saying that, despite promises, they had not managed to have a single Serb-owned house in rural areas connected to the public electricity grid. "So much for his and his government's care about the Serbs." 

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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.

Monday, 3 August 2020

SDSS First to Release Report on Campaign Costs

ZAGREB, Aug 3, 2020 - The Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) has released its final financial report before all other political parties that entered the new Croatian parliament, showing that it spent HRK 420,000 on the election campaign. 

The SDSS competed in Constituency 12, which is designed for the ethnic minorities, and won all three seats allocated to the Serb minority. Dragana Jeckov, Boris Milosevic and Milorad Pupovac were elected into the new parliament.

The party's campaign receipts totalled HRK 421,300, while expenses were slightly lower, at HRK 420,963. The bulk of receipts (HRK 334,500), were donations, with Pupovac donating the maximum possible amount of HRK 30,000, Milosevic 27,500 and Jeckov 25,000.

Since the SDSS has three MPs and is entitled to cost coverage of HRK 135,000 per MP, the party is set to receive HRK 405,000 from the state budget and will manage to cover the bulk of campaign costs.

The political parties that entered the new parliament are required to submit their final financial reports by August 4.

(€1 = HRK 7.5)

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Jutarnji List: SDSS MP Reveals Motives of Operation Storm Speech

ZAGREB, Aug 1, 2020 - The speech by Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) MP Anja Simpraga in the Croatian parliament, in which she described how she had experienced Operation Storm as a child "from the other side", has attracted great attention because seldom has parliament heard accounts of the Croatian military offensive by members of the Serb minority, Jutarnji List daily said on Saturday.

Although the Croatian public, thanks to independent media and the Hague war crimes tribunal, was aware almost from day one of what was happening during the Croatian liberation operation, including war crimes committed by some Croatian army troops, this speech drew attention to the reasons why it is difficult for the Serb minority in Croatia to participate in celebrations of Operation Storm anniversaries, the newspaper said.

"You can see for yourselves in what kind of society we live in, how young people are growing up," Simpraga told Jutarnji List about her motives to address parliament and the public in such a personal speech.

"The fact that I have a chance to describe the circumstances in which I found myself as well as many other children motivated me to say loud and clear what I said from the parliament rostrum," she said.

Almost paraphrasing General Ante Gotovina after his release from the Hague tribunal's detention unit, Simpraga said: "It's time for us to move on and realise that we no longer live in the war."

Simpraga is the deputy head of Sibenik-Knin County. She entered parliament as a substitute for Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic.

Operation Storm crushed a Serb armed insurgency in central and southern parts of Croatia in August 1995, effectively ending the 1991-1995 war. The operation will be commemorated with a ceremony in Knin, the main Serb stronghold during the war, on August 5, and Deputy PM Milosevic will be attending.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Butković: Not Realistic SDSS Will Leave Ruling Coalition

ZAGREB, September 25, 2019 - Minister of the Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure Oleg Butković said on Wednesday it was not realistic at the moment that the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) would leave the ruling coalition as the situation was calming down.

"I believe that at the moment it is not realistic that the SDSS will leave the coalition. Meetings are being held with veterans, talks are being held and I think that the situation is calming down," Butković told reporters ahead of an inner cabinet meeting when asked if the government would fall if the SDSS were to leave the coalition.

Asked what would happen if SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac continued with his rhetoric, Butković said that that sort of rhetoric did no good to him or Croatia.

"If we all want a civilised Croatia, if we want the rule of law to exist, for us all to be equal and tolerant toward each other, then statements should be like that too. I think Pupovac should take account of that and defuse tension in his future statements," Butković said.

With regards to speculation that veterans might organise protest rallies, Butković said he was convinced there would not be any protests.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Pupovac Understands Messages from President's Letter

ZAGREB, September 14, 2019 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac said on Saturday he understood the messages President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović sent him recently in an open letter which enclosed an open letter she sent him in 2016.

Speaking on national radio, Pupovac said: "I don't intend to reply to this kind of letter. I read it well and memorised it well and understood the messages. I understand what it means when the Armed Forces supreme commander sends you a letter, such messages, to me, a member of the Croatian parliament, a member of a national minority."

Earlier this week, the president sent an open letter to Pupovac, informing him that she is closely following his public statements "in which he is criticising the Republic of Croatia in an entirely inappropriate, unacceptable and malicious manner."

Asked if he considered that a threat, Pupovac said the letter was "in the function" of the upcoming presidential election and that Grabar-Kitarović "won't score political points by using me."

He went on to say that right wing extremists were becoming so strong that one no longer knew what was allowed. He said that earlier he voiced his fear that the ideology of hate and violence might spread to such an extent that present-day Croatia might start to resemble the Nazi-allied WWII Independent State of Croatia.

Pupovac said the battle in the current presidential race was waged on "who is closer to the criminal past, who will spit more on Serb representatives, who will add another voice to the anti-minority and anti-Serb atmosphere."

He also commented on the statement by the HVIDRA association of disabled war veterans that the SDSS is an undesirable party in Croatia. "In democratic societies one knows who can ban political parties... Croatia needs peace, Croatia needs all people so that it can pull itself together and start working on its future."

He also commented on Social Democratic Party president Davor Bernardić's statement that the love between Pupovac, whose SDSS is part of the ruling coalition, and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković was inexplicable.

Pupovac said that if Bernardić "expects me to topple Plenkovic or if someone else expects me to topple (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vučić," he must disappoint them because he did not have such political power.

He reiterated that SDSS bodies would decide whether the party will stay in the ruling coalition in the next few days. "For us, it's a serious question of democracy... of preserving the pro-European policy," he said, adding that the decision was not easy as fundamental democratic values were under threat in Croatia.

He said the ruling policy should be preserved and saved from extreme right-wing policies which were trying to come to power. "What we should all do together... is do our best to act politically so that the ideology of hate and violence does not prevail in this country."

More news about Milorad Pupovac can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Plenković: Pupovac Has Distanced Himself from His Previous Statements

ZAGREB, September 12, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac said "in his own style" that contemporary Croatia had nothing to do with the 1941-1945 NDH regime, and that he actually retracted his claims about Croatia being a factor of instability.

"During his press conference yesterday, Mr. Pupovac stated in his own style things which were articulated differently than those of two weeks ago. He said in his own way that present-day Croatia has nothing to do with the NDH, and that Croatia is not a factor of instability."

"He clearly stated that this government and this (parliamentary) majority are not the ones who create a climate of intolerance," Plenković said at the beginning of his cabinet's meeting.

Commenting on his recent interview that caused public outrage, Pupovac said yesterday that no one needs to ask him not to compare present-day Croatia to the WWII-era Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH). "I know the difference very well and that's why I've been living in Croatia for these three decades," the Croatian Serb leader told the news conference.

As for intolerance, Plenković today explained that from Pupovac's point of view, there were people to be blamed for intolerance.

The policy we are pursuing is the policy of (the first Croatian president and HDZ founder) Franjo Tuđman and that policy is one of inclusiveness and reconciliation, Plenković said.

In this context he made it clear that a recent incident in Ceranje Donje, Pupovac's birth place, where insulting graffiti against Serbs and Pupovac appeared, had nothing to do with the policy pursued by his government and the HDZ party.

Plenković said that he could respect different opinions, calling on the public to keep their eyes open to see "who plays which role in this chess game".

The premier underscored that law enforcement and judicial authorities were fast and efficient in dealing with all the incidents that happened in recent months against members of the Serb minority.

The police have identified all the perpetrators under circumstances that were not simple, he said.

All this proves that we function as a state, and this government and the parliamentary majority are working on developing an inclusive society, the premier said.

He also criticised attempts by some political protagonists and parties to polarise the Croatian society and cause divisions.

"This is not my cup of tea," he said.

It is unnecessary and Croatia, which has accomplished all its strategic goals, does not need that, Plenkovicć said, adding that his cabinet is dedicated to improving economic and social standards of citizens.

"That is our duty, and that is also a duty of all our coalition partners," he added.

More news about Milorad Pupovac can be found in the Politics section.

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