Saturday, 3 August 2019

SNV Sympathises with All Who Do Not Forget Their Loved Ones

ZAGREB, August 3, 2019 - On the occasion of the 24th anniversary of the 1995 Croatian military and police operation Storm, the Serb National Council (SNV) on Saturday issued a remembrance statement calling for a minute's silence and expressing sympathy with all who remember their family members, neighbours and friends killed in that operation.

"We express sympathy over the lost and abandoned homes. Even though we are not part of the collective memory established by the state, it is up to us to say the victims' names and the names of their villages and towns without fear and with dignity, and to remember them freely," reads the statement, signed by SNV president Boris Milošević.

The SNV leader noted that the war in Croatia did not end with Operation Storm, or with the murder of the last old man or the departure of the last tractor, and that it also did not end with Croatia's accession to the EU.

"The war has never been more alive and the news of its end travels slowly," the SNV says, adding that the news of the war's end has still not reached Croatian courts, members of parliament, schools and those who do not know what to do with themselves in peacetime.

"The war is not over and Serb children who have to bear the stigma of criminals in their schools and feel the guilt for its destructive consequences are the ones who know it best," the SNV says.

It warns that in such circumstances it is not only Serbs, killed and expelled during the Storm and Flash operations and tortured and abducted during the war, who are being forgotten, also forgotten are Croat civilians killed in the war. Their suffering becomes equally invisible and unreal in a society in which the war and war myths become values in themselves while ethnic and religious backgrounds are treated as life achievements, reads the statement.

The SNV has fought and will continue fighting for a remembrance policy in which there will be room for all victims and all those who today suffer injustice due to their ethnic and religious affiliation, the statement says.

"We will eventually have to look at ourselves in the mirror as a society regardless of how much we fear our own reflection," the SNV says, adding that the sooner this is done, the better it will be for the freedom and equality of all people in Croatia.

"The necessity of that act is reflected in the fact that violence was sown in society long ago and is evident in schools, in political speeches, in the media and in the street. History will repeat itself to all those who do not see the connection between the glorification of the war and an almost complete absence of solidarity and empathy," the SNV said.

More info about the Homeland War can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Vukovar Mayor Now Says He Will Respect Court Decision

ZAGREB, July 20, 2019 - Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava said on Friday that the town authorities had never entertained the idea of disobeying the Constitutional Court decision to enhance the rights of the local Serb minority, added that no law was an end in itself but should be at the service of the people.

"As long as it is so, there will be no problem. However, when someone is trying for reasons best known to themselves to subject the people and citizens to some legal provisions only for the sake of their own interests, then I find that disputable," Penava said.

He added that "the Town Council will in October consider what the statute prescribes and respond accordingly".

Constitutional Court President Miroslav Šeparović has recently said the court recommended that the Vukovar Town Council adopt changes to the statute whereby Serb councillors will be able to receive official documents and papers in their mother tongue and Cyrillic script upon oral request. Currently, such requests have to be submitted in writing only.

The Council was given until October to make the changes and adopt other necessary decisions to enhance the Serb minority's right to use their language and script.

Penava today urged media outlets and journalists "to have the courage and humanity" and understand that "our Constitution and the values and laws of God have some fundamental values" and that the fundamental values under the Constitution are human lives, freedoms and equality, and that it is against the law to take another person's life.

He again underscored that the rights of victims of the 1991-1995 war "have been ignored for 28 years".

He accused segments of the Croatian society of ignoring the Homeland War and war victims.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 19 July 2019

Pupovac: President Has Come into Conflict with Constitutional Court

ZAGREB, July 19, 2019 - The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), Milorad Pupovac, said on Friday that by supporting Mayor Ivan Penava with regard to the Constitutional Court decision on bilingualism in Vukovar, President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had come into conflict with the Constitutional Court.

"Coming into conflict with the Constitutional Court, without any adequate explanation or invoking the legality or the provisions of the Constitution, is a serious problem for the functioning of key institutions in Croatia, that means the Office of the President and the supreme judicial institution in Croatia," Pupovac told reporters in parliament.

Reporters asked him to comment on Grabar-Kitarović's statement on Thursday that she supported Mayor Penava and the citizens of Vukovar who, as she said, "have for more than a quarter of a century suffered injustice resulting from the inexplicably sluggish and ineffective institutions." They were also interested in his view on the fact that, in addition to the president, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Interior Minister Davor Božinović also sided with the mayor on the use of Cyrillic script in the eastern town.

"It is obvious that at the moment we have different opinions," Pupovac said and added that "even when there are different opinions, and the responsibility is shared, they need to be discussed."

Pupovac said that the Constitutional Court decision that the rights of the Serb national minority in Vukovar have to be improved with regard to bilingualism is very clear, "whether someone is happy with it or not."

"It is very clear regarding what needs to be implemented in that regard and that needs to be discussed. Any further watering down of that decision is watering down the role of the Constitutional Court and order in Croatia," Pupovac said.

He denied that this would influence the SDSS MPs and their vote of confidence in the ministerial nominees in parliament and underscored that the government reshuffle was debated as a special topic. He said that the coalition partners would discuss the Constitutional Court decision after the confirmation of the new ministers.

Pupovac said that some of the Constitutional Court decisions were obligatory, for example with regard to seals or issuing documents in Cyrillic upon an oral request.

"Those decisions are obligatory and there can be no debate about the Constitutional Court's findings. Other sections of the law on the official use of language and the provisions of the Constitutional Court on the rights of national minorities and the provisions of the Constitution can be debated without causing conflict or tension," he said.

Pupovac said that the people who have started commenting on the provisions of the Constitutional Court were threatening "conflicts in which they participated in a few years ago."

Asked whether he would react similarly as he did with the Ustasha salute in Jasenovac and now pass over this implementation of the Constitutional Court decision, Pupovac said that this is not the only case that needs to be put to the test whether something can be passed over.

"This is something that has not existed since yesterday. This matter is closely and seriously connected with the very beginnings of this country and is still taken to be the foundations of this country. You are not questioning those beginnings," concluded Pupovac.

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

Friday, 19 July 2019

President Meets with Vukovar Mayor

ZAGREB, July 19, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović considers it extremely important to support Mayor Penava and the residents of Vukovar, "who have for more than a quarter of a century suffered injustice resulting from the inexplicably sluggish and ineffective institutions" the president's office reported on its web site after she met with Vukovar's mayor in regard to a recent Constitutional Court decision stating that the rights of the ethnic Serb minority in Vukovar should be improved.

"Being aware of the sensitive nature of the political situation in Vukovar, President Grabar-Kitarović considers it extremely important to support Mayor Penava and the residents of Vukovar, who have for more than a quarter of a century suffered injustice resulting from the inexplicably sluggish and ineffective institutions," the press release said. "This has resulted in the feeling of injustice, especially among the residents of Vukovar and Croatian defenders who have been on the front lines defending the Homeland and who bore the greatest sacrifice in the Homeland War, but also among the members of the Serb community who are unjustly stigmatised."

"The President of the Republic of Croatia cannot comment on the decision of the Constitutional Court, but draws attention to Article 8 of the Constitutional Law on the Rights of National Minorities, which states that these rights must be interpreted and applied with the aim of respecting the minorities and the Croatian people, while developing understanding, solidarity, tolerance and dialogue among them," the press release added.

"The President maintains that under those circumstances in which the fundamental human rights are being neglected, the conditions needed for expanding the special rights that must become the democratic standard in Croatia," the press release said.

She agrees that it was "that it is not good for them to be postponed. However, the President calls for using equal criteria that would ultimately result in a statement by the competent authorities saying that the proceedings against war crimes suspects also cannot be infinitely put off."

The president underscored that Croatia "must take special care of Vukovar and it is also the duty and obligation of the state leadership to demand an end to the injustice felt by the residents of Vukovar. It is inconceivable that to this day nobody has yet been brought to justice for the massacre at Borovo Selo; nobody has resolved the issue of 30,000 detainees; missing people..."

"How can we justify this from the constitutional, but also from the moral perspective?" the president asks and added that for that reason Mayor Ivan Penava’s position cannot be assessed "as being in contempt of the decision of the Constitutional Court, but rather as a call, which I personally support, to finally close the issues from the past and thus give the future a genuine chance."

She added that she does not want any separation or conflicts between the Croats and Serbs, but called "for patience and consideration, which implies accepting the fact that Vukovar is healing its wounds."

Presidential candidate Zoran Milanović said on Thursday that President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović "shows understanding for not respecting the Croatian constitution" in the wake of her support to Vukovar mayor Ivan Penava regarding a decision whereby the Constitutional Court found that the rights of the Serb ethnic minority in the eastern town must be enhanced.

In a post on Facebook, Milanovic also said that Grabar-Kitarović "not so long ago showed understanding for (Hungarian PM Viktor) Orban's attacks on important Croatian interests and (Serbian President Aleksandar) Vučić's outbursts and lies."

He said the president showed "understanding for injustice, intolerance and inhumanity" and recalled that the HDZ government had adopted the Vukovar town statute which includes minority rights at a time "when they counted on minorities not being able to exercise those rights because they are not sufficiently represented in Vukovar's population."

"After the population census showed that conditions were met for the exercise of minority rights... the hypocritical contesting and denying of those rights began by citing the rights and endangerment of the majority," Milanović said.

He said the constitution and the law must be respected while in force, whether someone liked it or not, adding that, "In the modern, open and freedom-loving Croatia I fight for, all the rights and liberties of all of its citizens will be respected."

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

President to Discuss Constitutional Court Decision on Serb Rights with Vukovar Mayor

ZAGREB, July 17, 2019 - President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović will receive Vukovar mayor Ivan Penava on Thursday for talks on the enforcement of a Constitutional Court decision under which the rights of the Serb ethnic minority in the eastern town must be enhanced, her office said on Wednesday.

Penava said on Sunday the dialogue and cooperation between Vukovar's Croatian and Serb residents was satisfactory, and that any expansion of Serb minority rights would hurt ethnic relations. He added that it was first necessary to resolve outstanding issues dating back to 1991.

Penava also said he had talked with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković about the Constitutional Court decision, and that Plenković told him it was necessary to keep the peace and stability and to resolve the issue of the use of ethnic minority languages and scripts through dialogue.

Constitutional Court president Miroslav Šeparović said on Sunday he expected the Vukovar authorities to carry out the court's decision on the use of ethnic minority languages and scripts, and that he would not argue with the mayor.

Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković told reporters today that "everyone must enforce Constitutional Court decisions."

More Vukovar 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.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Vukovar Mayor Talks with Plenković about Constitutional Court Decision

ZAGREB, July 15, 2019 - Vukovar mayor Ivan Penava said on Sunday he talked with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković a number of times during the day about a Constitutional Court decision on the use of the languages and scripts of ethnic minorities in the town, and that Plenković told him it was necessary to keep the peace and stability and to try to resolve the issue through communication and dialogue.

Under the recent Constitutional Court decision, the rights of the Serb ethnic minority in Vukovar must be advanced.

Speaking on Nova TV, Penava said Plenković was "open-minded and fully understands the situation" and that "he is fully aware of the gravity of the problem we, and consequently the government, encounter in the town every day."

Penava said everyone reasonable, including the government, would adhere to the letter of the law and justice but also acknowledge that, in line with the constitution, things like human life and dignity were much more important than some other things.

The mayor said "we must first resolve the crimes committed during the Homeland War and then build, on clean foundations, a better society and a state in which there will be room for every, even the smallest, right concerning either ethnic minorities or anyone else living in this country."

Penava said the incumbent government had done very much for Vukovar "and I can only thank them for that."

He fears "very much" the Constitutional Court decision might cause a repeat of the riots that occurred in the town in 2013 when bilingual signs were put on state institution buildings. He said he would not highlight the Serb ethnic minority because, he added, the problem in Vukovar was not caused by the relations between any ethnic minority and the majority population.

"I'm afraid there is actually turmoil in the majority population because the attitude of institutions... respect for the constitution, fundamental state acts, is not on the level it should be," Penava said.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Boris Milošević Elected New Serb National Council President

ZAGREB, July 14, 2019 - Boris Milošević was elected new president of the Serb National Council (SNV) on Saturday, while Milorad Pupovac, who led the umbrella organisation of Serbs in Croatia for 22 years, is now chairman of the SNV Council.

Addressing the election assembly, Pupovac said the past four years were "among the most turbulent years in the post-war history of the Serb community," the Novosti weekly reported.

Pupovac mentioned "the anti-Cyrillic campaign in 2014 and initiatives which were against tolerance and the protection of minority rights, with a constant rise in hate speech, which hasn't decreased even today, and attempts to reduce the rights of Serbs in Croatia at referendums."

Milošević, the parliamentary whip of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS), underlined "the culture of remembering because many execution sites have been saved from oblivion."

"What would the commemoration at Jasenovac look like without the SNV? It would look like the state one, without dignity," he said, referring to the site of a WWII concentration camp.

"We must fight together against those who want to do us in. We won't bow our heads because Serbs' contribution in Croatia is immeasurable and undeniable. We are a wounded community. We are 400,000 fewer than in 1991. We will fight for our rights, for individual and collective equality as well as for a society of equals," Novosti quoted Milošević as saying.

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

Friday, 12 July 2019

Serb Minority Rights in Vukovar in Focus

ZAGREB, July 12, 2019 - The Vukovar City Council chairman, Tomislav Šota (HDZ) on Friday said that the rights of the Serb ethnic minority in Vukovar were not undermined in any way and that minority communities exercise all their rights according to the Constitution, laws and the city's statute.

Commenting on a Constitutional Court ruling on the use of a national minority's language and script in Vukovar which determined that the rights of the Serb national minority in that city have to be advanced, Šota said that ethnic Serb councillors have for two years already been receiving all city acts in Cyrillic at their request and that right is being consumed without any problems.

"We don't see anything contentious with regard to the Serb minority community in Vukovar whose rights we respect. Mutual relations between the Serb community and Croatian people in Vukovar have improved over the past year even though we would like their political representatives to join Vukovar residents in marking significant anniversaries," Šota said.

Deputy Mayor Srđan Milaković of the Democratic Party of the Serbs (DSS) said that the Constitutional Court's decision was "cosmetic and without any substance" saying that the rights of the Serb community are often not applied.

"We've been given the least of the least. There are still outstanding issues from the war and missing ethnic Serbs, the issue of dual language signs has still not been resolved and an entire series of other examples which makes us feel like second grade citizens," Milaković said.

Later in the day the city branch of the Independent democratic Serb Party (SDSS) welcomed the Constitutional Court decision regarding the rights of the Serb minority in that city and said that part of the Court's decision was along the lines of what SDSS councillors have been advocating for years.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

Ethnic Croats and Serbs Meet for Talks and Football Match

ZAGREB, June 16, 2019 - The football teams of the Serb minority in Croatia and Croats in Serbia played a match in Tavankut, near Subotica, in Serbia's northern province of Vojvodina on Saturday, and the match in which the Croat minority's team defeated the guests 4-1, was organised by the Croat National Council of Serbia (HNV), the Joint Council of Municipalities and the Serb National Council of Croatia (SNV) with the support of the national football federations of Croatia and Serbia.

After the match the leaders of the respective communities, Tomislav Žigmanov and Milorad Pupovac, said that the score was irrelevant, and that it was more important to develop and strengthen the institutional cooperation between these two minorities.

The match took place three years after the two sides played for the first time in Vukovar, when the team representing the Croats from Vojvodina triumphed 4:0.

"We have gathered here to show that we can build bridges, mend communication and develop cooperation. Our experiences are different; however, our aims are the same. Therefore I think that Croatia and Serbia should support our efforts, our institutional cooperation through political and other necessary ways," said the SDSS party's leader Pupovac at a news conference in the offices of the local branch of the Democratic Alliance of Vojvodina Croats (DSHV) after the meeting between representatives of the two minorities and the subsequent sporting event.

Žigmanov said that he was "glad to see that despite a relatively long stalemate in the Serbia-Croatia relations, we can hold a meeting at the highest political level on our experiences in efforts to ensure the prosperity of our respective ethnic minorities and on the framework of future cooperation."

"We have agreed that cooperation must resume and must be firmer institutionally and enriched with contents," he said and welcomed the envoys of the Serbian President and the Croatian Prime Minister, Sport Minister Vanja Udovičić, and Croatian Ambassador in Belgrade, Gordan Bakota, respectively at the day-long meetings and the match.

The HNV chairwoman Jasna Vojnić, said that the cooperation had been established some time ago but it must be more specific and frequent.

"The HNV is looking forward to this cooperation, and believe that in the future we will see more positive things in both countries," Vojnić said.

More news about the status of Croats in Serbia can be found in the Politics section.

Page 5 of 10