Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Serbian Culture Days in Croatia Open

ZAGREB, October 16, 2019 - Serbian Culture Days in Croatia opened in Zagreb on Tuesday and will be held until November 2, in Zagreb, Rijeka and Opatija, including lectures, exhibitions, concerts, book launches, theatrical performances and films.

The event, organised by the Prosvjeta Serbian Cultural Society and held under the auspices of Croatia's National Minorities Council, was opened by Council president Aleksandar Tolnauer, who said the Council was backing it also financially as Prosvjeta was a very important Serb organisation in Croatia with a long tradition.

Serb National Council president Boris Milošević said Serbian Culture Days in Croatia helped the visibility of the entire community as well as of Prosvjeta, Serbs' biggest and most important cultural and educational organisation.

"That's especially important today because we often have, in cultural circles as well, attempts to erase Serbs' contribution, and Croatian culture, culture in Croatia, wouldn't be what it is today, wouldn't be right, without this contribution by Serbs in Croatia. That's why I'm glad we have Serbian Culture Days," said Milošević.

Prosvjeta vice president Siniša Tatalovic said Serbian Culture Days in Croatia was the central manifestation not only of Prosvjeta but the Serb community as well.

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

Thursday, 12 September 2019

President says Pupovac Criticises Croatia in Malicious Manner

ZAGREB, September 12, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović on Wednesday sent a letter to Independent Democratic Serb Party president Milorad Pupovac, telling him that she closely follows his public statements in which he criticises Croatia "in an entirely inappropriate, unacceptable and malicious manner."

The president says she is determined in her intention that Croatian citizens should build a country of peace, understanding and prosperity, and that she regrets that Pupovac has not carefully read her letter to him from 2016, which she encloses with the latest one.

"I consider that my obligation also because of the 10,000 members of the Serb nationality who, in defending their homeland Croatia from the Greater Serbia aggressor, confirmed their patriotism and have never undermined it by moral patronising, particularly not by political blackmail, although they have the right and the obligation, as Croatian citizens, to point to potential anomalies which, unfortunately, are part of the growing up of every society, but not to the extent that some would like to make it seem and thus cause damage to the state they live in," the president says in the latest letter.

In a letter of 13 February 2016, the president condemned threats and hate speech against a number of public figures and organisations, but added that among them were some who for years, through their public activity, had been provoking, irritating and even insulting the majority of the Croatian population, untruthfully depicting and even ridiculing the Homeland War, essentially denying the reality, and implicitly the very idea of the Croatian state, thereby creating a climate of tension, exclusion and intolerance.

In that letter, she also said one should condemn actions aimed against the equality, safety and dignity of political, ethnic and other minorities in Croatia, just as one should condemn every action that offended the Croatian people and any other majority community.

More news about Serbs in Croatia 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.

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Abusive Graffiti Sprayed at Entrance of Village Where Pupovac Was Born

ZAGREB, September 10, 2019 - The Zadar police administration was informed on Monday morning about the appearance of insulting graffiti at the entrance to the village of Cerane Donje, the village were Croatian Serb leader Milorad Pupovac was born.

The police stated that an investigation was under way. The graffiti sprayed on the posts were removed in the meantime.

According to the Novosti newspaper, the abusive messages of the graffiti were directed against the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Pupovac as well as Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

One of the messages was "Kill the Serbs!", and the other read that the terror of the Great Serbia lunatic against the whole of Croatia is the consequence of the "Plenković's sick policy" of making Croatia and the HDZ party free of extremism, clerical fascism and nationalism. The Novosti newspaper also claimed that this was actually a headline in one of the recent issues of the "Hrvatski Tjednik" weekly.

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

Friday, 6 September 2019

14 Arrested in Connection with Uzdolje Incident

ZAGREB, September 6, 2019 - A total of 14 men, aged between 19 and 29, have been arrested to date in connection with the 21 August Uzdolje incident, while one more suspect is still on the run, police told a news conference in the Adriatic city of Šibenik on Friday.

All the arrested persons have criminal records for football hooliganism.

The arrests were the result of the investigation by the Šibenik-Knin and Split-Dalmatia county police into the incident that occurred in the village of Uzdolje on 21 August when a group of masked thugs raided a cafe, beat up some of the guests who were watching a TV broadcast of a football match between Red Star Belgrade and the Swiss side Young Boys, and damaged the interior of the bar. The damage is estimated at 25,000 kuna (3,400 euro).

The prosecution claims that the suspects intentionally attacked local Serbs who were watching the match.

The first arrests were made in late August when four suspects were apprehended on suspicion of committing violence out of hatred. Ten more hooligans have been arrested since then.

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

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Minorities' Inclusion in Parliamentary Majority Necessary for Sound Politics

ZAGREB, September 3, 2019 - Prime Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Andrej Plenković has reiterated that for a sound political culture and tolerant climate, it is necessary to have representatives of ethnic minorities included in the parliamentary majority.

In his address to the press in Monday, Plenković recalled that the present-day Croatia in 2019 is a country that "has accomplished all its national tasks: democracy, freedom, independence, peaceful reintegration, membership of the European Union and NATO. All that is relevant is solved by us as a state."

"As far as the need for the inclusion of representatives of minorities in the parliamentary majority is concerned, my position is that it is necessary for a sound political culture and tolerant climate," Plenković said in response to questions about the future developments regarding the relations in the ruling majority.

It is now on Croatia to settle the remaining matters in a level-headed, rational and responsible matter in order to develop itself as a tolerant and Europe-oriented society where minorities feel safe and well, he added.

For the Croatians it cannot be anything more positive than when minorities feel well in the contemporary Croatia that has solved all essential issues and now it is supposed to make progress economy-wise and socially, Plenković said in his comment on speculations whether the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) would stay or go out of the ruling coalition.

Plenković said that it was on the SDSS leadership to present its position.

"We will talk. I must find some time in my busy schedule for talks with (SDSS leader Milorad) Pupovac," Plenković said. The Croatian premier again refuted Pupovac's claims about an intolerant social climate in Croatia and Pupovac's attempts to compare the contemporary Croatia to the 1941-1945 NDH regime.

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

Friday, 30 August 2019

Plenković Says Has Met with Pupovac, Understands His Concern

ZAGREB, August 30, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday he met with Independent Democratic Serb Party president Milorad Pupovac, that he understood his concern about recent attacks on Serbs, that he expected the perpetrators to be punished, and that there was no climate of intolerance towards ethnic minorities in Croatia.

"We met and we talked," Plenković told reporters in Varazdin, 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 it.

He also commended on the State Prosecutor's Office's request that former minister and incumbent MP Lovro Kuščević be stripped of immunity from prosecution, saying the police and the State Prosecutor's Office were in charge of that and that the request was usual procedure.

A routine response from the parliamentary committee is ahead of us and then we'll see what happens, he said.

Plenković said he had not spoken with Kuščević, a member of his HDZ party, but "I will if it's necessary." He added that he saw no problem in Kuščević's comment on the request that he be stripped of immunity and that it was too early to draw any conclusions.

More political news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Estimated 2,000 Rally in Rijeka in Support to Man Accused of Viškovo Incident

ZAGREB, August 29, 2019 - A rally in support of Matko Škalamera, who was accused by a 70-year-old man of having hurt him based on his ethnicity, was held outside the jail in Rijeka on Wednesday evening, bringing together about 2,000 people, according to some estimates.

The rally, which was announced by a local group of fans of the Rijeka football club on Tuesday evening, took place today as planned, although earlier in the day Škalamera was released from investigative custody.

One of the leaders of the fan group, Đoni Božić, said that they had come outside the prison to express support to Matko Škalamera and all future cases such was this.

Božić warned that they would like that there would be no cases of "media lynching and agitating journalism and something like this anymore".

Another leader of the Armada fan club, Denis Povh, said that injustice inflicted to Matko Škalamera was the reason why they had gathered for this rally.

"Those whose duty is to call for freedom and who most frequently invoke freedom of expression, have deprived this man, who has rescued thousands of people, of freedom," he said referring to the fact that Škalamera is a distinguished member of Croatian Mountain Rescue Service (HGSS).

Povh accused thus, media of playing games together with politicians with an aim of raising tensions.

"We do not need unprofessional reporters who make headlines out of accusing ordinary people, while they are afraid of publishing the names of criminals and murderers. We do not need politicians who fight for their own interests only while failing to protect us. We do not need the judiciary which facilitates political games," said Povh.

The rally lasted 30 minutes, and then protesters dispersed peacefully.

Škalamera, 42, who was arrested by the police on Saturday morning on suspicion of threatening and inflicting bodily harm to Dobrivoje Arsić, 70, in an argument about a parking place in the Rijeka suburb of Viškovo on 20 August, was released from investigative custody in Rijeka on Wednesday afternoon. After the 20 August incident in Viškovo, Škalamera was apprehended this past Saturday (24 August) and a 30-day investigative detention was set for him on Sunday. The Rijeka court cited a possibility of the suspect influencing witnesses as the reason why Škalamera was behind bars.

On Tuesday afternoon, five witnesses for the defence were questioned and Arsić and his wife were also questioned in their flat on Wednesday morning, so there were no more reasons for Škalamera to remain behind bars.

Earlier on Wednesday, Arsić admitted to reporters that the whole situation had got out of control and claimed that he had told the prosecutorial authorities that the 42-year-old man should be freed. from custody.

Arsić and the suspect had an argument about a parking place in front of a block of flats at Viškovo in the evening on 20 August. After the row, Arsic told media that Škalamera had threatened and beaten him because he was Serb, and also filed a report against him.

HGSS posted on its Facebook profile yesterday that "Matko Škalamera is undergoing an exceptionally difficult time in his life at the moment as a result of a totally unjustifiable media lynching considering the charges pressed."

HGSS added that their members do not discriminate against anyone based on national, racial or any other basis. "We consider any form of discrimination against any human being as unacceptable for our society," HGSS said.

More Rijeka news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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