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.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Pupovac: SDSS Has Not Yet Decided Whether to Leave Ruling Coalition

ZAGREB, September 11, 2019 - The head of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, said on Wednesday that the party had not yet decided whether to leave or stay in the ruling coalition. He also explained his statement in which he likened present-day Croatia to the WWII-era Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH), which was condemned by the government and coalition partners, the president and large sections of the public.

"The SDSS Presidency is meeting today to discuss what we have discussed with our coalition partners, including the prime minister. It is up to the Presidency to decide what to do," Pupovac told a press conference in the Parliament building.

He announced further talks with the coalition partners to identify and remove "all obstacles to the political stability of the country and the coalition and to the normality of the Croatian society". The answer to the question of whether the SDSS will stay in the ruling coalition will be known after that, he added.

Commenting on demands for him to apologise for his NDH statement, Pupovac said he has been called different names in the past 30 years and has never asked for an apology.

"I am not a Chetnik, but I will never ask for an apology from those who think or say that I am, from those who classify me as a criminal and murderer. I can only say that I am not and will never be that and will never ask them for an apology," Pupovac said.

He added that he would neither ask for an apology those who classified him as a collaborator of the government in Belgrade.

Asked why he never condemned statements about the Croatian government coming from Belgrade and Serbia, Pupovac said he could not be held responsible for those messages. "I am not a whipping boy for the poor relations between Croatia and Serbia and for the messages that are sent," he said, adding that he was trying to ensure on both sides that there were no such messages any more.

The SDSS leader also commented on his statement that Croatia is a factor of instability in the region. "I gave that statement to Radio Sarajevo and it contained an addition. Croatia is not generally a factor of instability because every country has its own elements of instability. Unfortunately, at the time I made the statement, Croatia had a serious problem with the state of inter-ethnic relations, hate and violence against members of different groups, primarily ethnic Serbs. Other countries have deeper and more serious foundations of instability than Croatia but it has a situation in which it happened and that, together with historical revisionism, affects the situation in the region. The situation in which I made that statement was dramatic," said Pupovac.

Asked about hate messages sprayed on a road sign at the entrance to his place of birth, Pupovac said that he did not intend to comment on them.

At the start of the news conference, Pupovac read out a statement in which he commented on his statement regarding a comparison between Croatia and the NDH.

"Anyone can ask me to distance myself from the condemnation of the NDH and from evident attempts to restore or downplay the Ustasha ideology in today's Croatia, but no one should expect me to do that. I am willing, and have been, to cooperate with the broadest circle of political and non-political actors in an effort to make Croatia a country of peace for everyone living or wishing to live in, a country of tolerance for everyone and a country striving towards prosperity and a better future, instead of a bad past," Pupovac said.

He said that there was potential in the government and the ruling coalition, in the parliament and a significant part of parliamentary groups, and that he believed in the readiness for cooperation and strong action against intolerance, violence and extreme revisionism.

"No one needs to ask me not to compare present-day Croatia to the undemocratic NDH and its criminal Ustasha ideology because I know the difference very well, that's why I've been politically active for three decades," Pupovac said after not addressing the public for two weeks.

"A lot of people were particularly disturbed by my concern about the growing hate towards Serbs. They were particularly disturbed by my fear that if it continues to grow and turns into physical violence it could restore in current-day Croatia the state of hate characteristic only of the period of the quisling NDH," he said and added that even two weeks after that statement, reactions to it had not calmed down, which encouraged him.

"My concern and fear are less intense now than they were more than two weeks ago because never before have so many influential voices condemned bringing today's Croatia in any connection with the Ustasha-led NDH. Regardless of the differences caused by the echoes of those voices, I would like to think that they are all an expression of a deep moral sense that today's Croatia should not and must not have any connections with the ideology of hate and violence, and that if they do exist, they need to be severed," he underscored.

Pupovac called on everyone who reacted based on that moral feeling to jointly remove the Ustasha letter 'U' from the facades of our buildings, adding that uniforms and insignia with the Ustasha salute 'For the Homeland Ready' should be put away and that penalties should be imposed if it is chanted or written and accompanied by death threats.

He called on everyone to "stop being blind and deaf" to messages such as 'Kill Serbs!' and to condemn any incitement to violence.

"I call for an end to historical revisionism that goes to such an extent that members of the quisling or occupying forces killed at the end of World War II are given state and religious honours while the victims of the Ustasha concentration camp in Jasenovac, the death camp in Jadovno or the Glina church, are denied and memory of them is insulted. If we do that, we will sever any connection with that dishonourable period and even more dishonourable regime and no one will be able to, either out of sincere or manipulative motives, insult the moral feelings of us as members of the political community that we belong to," Pupovac concluded.

More SDSS news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Plenković Wants to Hear from SDSS about Possible Departure from Coalition

ZAGREB, September 4, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday, regarding the possible departure of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) from the ruling coalition, that he would first like to hear that party's opinion.

Asked by reporters during a visit to Virovitica whether he had met with the head of the HVIDR disabled war veterans association, Josip Đakić, given that the HVIDR was insisting that the SDSS leave the coalition, Plenković said that they would discuss the matter, but that first he wanted to hear the opinion of the SDSS.

Plenković said it was inappropriate for the HVIDR to dictate who his HDZ party should form a coalition with. "This will be decided by the HDZ and its partners from the parliamentary majority," the prime minister told the press after a meeting of the Council for Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem. "We're not dictating others what to think or what messages they should send to the public," he added.

Asked if President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had the full support of the HDZ organisations in the Slavonia region, given that independent presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro is popular there, Plenković said that she enjoyed the support of the entire HDZ. "I don't see who could bring that into question and how."

Plenković said that the settlement on the restructuring of the former Agrokor conglomerate must be honoured. "The settlement will certainly be honoured by the newly-formed Fortenova Group, and the obligation to pay the border debt, as agreed under the settlement, will be honoured," the PM said, adding that this was not questionable and that neither the Fortenova Group nor suppliers had doubts about it.

He said that it was important that the management and suppliers reach an agreement and that the government would help them agree on the pace of payments. He said that Economy Minister Darko Horvat was in talks with the management and suppliers and that he was sure that a solution would be found.

The meeting of the Council for Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem concluded with the signing of 17 agreements for development projects in the region, worth 233 million kuna (31.5 million euro).

Plenković said that the next Council meeting would be held in Vukovar in the autumn.

More political news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Veterans Demand Pupovac to Apologise

ZAGREB, August 30, 2019 - The HVIDR-a association of Homeland War veterans on Friday stated that it demanded a public apology from Milorad Pupovac over his "reprehensible statements", or Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Andrej Plenković should sever the coalition with Pupovac's SDSS party.

HVIDR-a, an association of disabled war veterans, is accusing Pupovac of crossing the line with his recent interview with the web portal in which this Croatian Serb leader accused Croatia of turning into a factor of instability and claimed that some Catholic dignitaries and war veterans played an important role in promoting intolerance toward other ethnic groups and in reviving Ustasha ideology.

The association says that Pupovac's statements comparing present-day Croatia to the Ustasha regime were reprehensible and inappropriate.

The association also calls on relevant agencies to investigate whether Pupovac's statements have harmed Croatia's reputation.

We insist that Milorad Pupovac should promptly extend his apology to all citizens in Croatia. If he fails to do so, we call on PM Andrej Plenković to decide on discontinuing the coalition with the SDSS party, reads a press release issued by HVIDR-a, which is led by Josip Đakić, a HDZ member of the national parliament.

On Thursday evening PM Plenković said he had met with the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader and that he understood his concern about recent attacks on Serbs and that he expected the perpetrators to be punished. Plenković added that no climate of intolerance towards ethnic minorities exists in Croatia.

"We met and we talked," Plenković told reporters in Varaždin, adding that Pupovac "expressed his concern about these incidents, and I understand him as he is a representative of the Serb minority."

Plenković reiterated that it was his choice that ethnic minorities should be part of the parliamentary majority and that he stood by.

More political news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

“No One Can Be Above Constitutional Court Rulings”

ZAGREB, July 16, 2019 - The Vukovar branch of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) said on Monday that no one can be above decisions of the Constitutional Court and also criticise Mayor Ivan Penva for "collectivising the guilt of all Serbs in Vukovar" which they cannot accept.

Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava said on Sunday that dialogue and cooperation among local residents and ethnic Serbs in that eastern Croatian town was at a satisfactory level and any increase in the volume of rights of that ethnic minority would deteriorate the relations among local communities. Penava underscores that the first priority is to solve the problems caused in that town in 1991 when the area fell into the hands of Serb rebels supported by the then Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). "We cannot forget and ignore the huge injustice inflicted to us in 1991."

Penava's statement ensued after Constitutional Court President Miroslav Šeparović told a news conference this past Friday that the court recommended that the city council in Vukovar adopt changes to their statute whereby Serb councillors can ask now also orally for the delivery of documents and papers in their mother tongue and in the Cyrillic script. Currently, the request has be submitted in a written form.

The Council is given a deadline until October to make those changes and adopt other necessary decisions that will enhance the Serb minority's right to use its language and script.

Penava insists that the current state of affairs in Vukovar "has not ripened" for steps forward in any direction

The SDSS says in its latest press release that local Serbs cannot renounce their rights which they exercise in compliance with the Constitution.

We expect the implementation of our rights in accordance with laws, the local SDSS says in its press release.

On the other hand, the Croatian Conservative Party (HKS) said that any enhancement of the rights of the local Serb community in the town of Vukovar "opens a Pandoara's box".

More Vukovar news can be found in the Lifestyle 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, 18 May 2019

Football Coach Miroslav Blažević’s Death Notice Published after Voicing Support for Serb Party

A fake death notice for famous Croatian football coach Miroslav Blažević appeared on social networks. The unknown author wrote that Blažević passed away on Wednesday, May 15, and that the funeral would be held on Saturday, May 18, at the Mirogoj Cemetery in Zagreb. The death notice lists as bereaved family members the leader of Serbs in Croatia Milorad Pupovac and members of his Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and the Speaker of Croatian Parliament Gordan Jandroković, together with their derogatory “nicknames”, reports Jutarnji List on May 18, 2019.


The death notice was published on the day when SDSS released an ad for the upcoming European Parliament elections in which Blažević appears. "People used to chant about me: ‘Ćiro, you faggot!’ And now I hear you say this about Pupovac. You chanted it to me because you loved me, and I do not know why you are saying that to him. But I know I will support him. Listen to what your Ćiro has to say. All people are equal,” says Blažević in the video. Ćiro is Blažević’s popular nickname.

The legendary football coach, who was the manager of Croatian national team at the 1998 World Cup in France, where Croatia won third place, received the news about his “sudden death” in a coffee shop together with journalist Robert Zuber, who was interviewing him for a new episode of the "Re: vision" show. Jutarnji List and Al Jazeera Balkans produce the show, and the topic of this episode is the European elections.

“During the recording, one acquaintance showed Blažević the death notice, and you could see on his face he did not take it lightly. Still, we continued filming the interview. He said he had nothing to lose and that his honour was untouched,” says Zuber.

Shortly after that, the interview was interrupted again when a passer-by showed Blažević a middle finger, which was probably also a reaction to his support for SDSS. Blažević said he knew the man in question and described him as an “extremist Croat.”

There was another interruption, but this time a more positive one. Ivan Turudić, president of the Zagreb County Court, was passing by the cafe. He saw Blažević and congratulated him on taking part in the ad.

Blažević commented on the death notice. “Son, I am dead, you are talking to a ghost,” he said laughingly and added that he would like to meet the person who made the death notice and squeeze his hand. He said that he was not sorry about the decision to film the video.

“Many people did not understand my message, which is, in the first place, well-intentioned and peaceful. I expected such reactions, but I did it anyway to help the people I love the most – the young Croats for whom I hope this has opened their eyes a bit and taught them that this is the only route towards an easier life for them, but also those people who think they are on the other side,” said Blažević, adding that the message was not understood by extremist Croats, one of whom he once used to be.

In the end, he remarked that he forgave everyone who did not understand his message, including the passer-by who showed him a middle finger.

Translated from Jutarnji List (reported by Matija Boltižar).

More news about European elections 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.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Croatia’s European Nature Depends on Status of Serbs

ZAGREB, April 26, 2019 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac, the party's prime candidate for the forthcoming European Parliament elections, said on Friday that the status of Serbs was an issue that impacts the European nature of Croatia.

Presenting the party's programme for the elections, Pupovac said that the SDSS was the only political party representing an ethnic minority to run in the EP elections in Croatia.

"We have embarked on the election campaign with the slogan 'Do you know what it is like to be a Serb in Croatia'. This is a question not often asked and many do not think that it deserves any attention, and it is a matter influencing the volume of liberties and normality in Croatia and the European nature of Croatia," the SDSS chief and parliamentarian said.

He went to say that the SDSS wants to contribute to efforts to fend Europe and Croatia from ultra-nationalism and ultra-clericalism in Europe and Croatia.

"We want to have an unbowed Croatia, an unbowed Europe and unbowed Serbs in Croatia," Pupovac said adding that this party would fight against attempts to reduce the rights of the Serbs and other minorities in Croatia as well as in all other EU member-states.

He hopes that during the election campaign the party would raise the funds in the amount of a half million kuna.

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

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