Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Serbs Join Boycott of Government’s Jasenovac Commemoration

ZAGREB, March 20, 2019 - The Serb National Council (SNV) on Monday joined the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia in boycotting the official commemoration for the victims of the WWII Ustasha concentration camp of Jasenovac for the fourth year in a row, scheduled for April 14.

"The state did not take the necessary measures to stop or at least reduce the negating of the Holocaust and genocide committed during World War II and revisionism," SNV vice president Saša Milošević told the Serb minority newspaper Novosti.

Milošević said that by tolerating hate speech, downplaying the suffering of the people and implementing an inadequate education policy, the state had directly helped that such incidents become dominant in Croatia's society.

Given the great difference in opinion, we cannot and should not go to Jasenovac together. Milošević said adding that the Serb, the Jewish and the Roma minority, as well as the anti-fascists would hold their own commemoration on Friday, April 12.

The head of the Coordinating Committee of Jewish Communities in Croatia, Ognjen Kraus, said earlier in the day he would not attend the government commemoration for the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp, while the head of the SABA alliance of antifascist fighters, Franjo Habulin, said SABA would decide on Thursday whether to attend a joint commemoration.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković last week invited representatives of SABA, the Jewish community, Serbs and Roma to take part in a joint commemoration. Kraus said the Jewish community would not accept.

"Nothing has changed over the past year. Nothing new has happened," he told the press, citing historical revisionism and the government's stance on the Ustasha salute "For the homeland, ready."

"There is a wish to be together as well as arguments against it," Habulin said, adding that a joint commemoration would be useful.

"It would be a sort of coming closer to opening the possibility for talks and for resolving the problems concerning historical revisionism and the negativism which has accumulated over 20 years and more in Croatia, which isn't good," he said.

An argument against a joint commemoration would be the fact that nothing has been done over the past year and SABA members believe the situation is worse than last year, added Habulin.

More news about Jasenovac can be found at the Politics section.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Prime Minister Meets with Serbian Orthodox Leader Porfirije

ZAGREB, March 19, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Monday received for talks the Serbian Orthodox Metropolitan of Zagreb and Ljubljana, Porfirije Perić, the government's public relations office said in a press release, adding that the meeting was also attended by Interior Minister Davor Božinović.

According to the press release, Plenković and Metropolit Porfirije said they wanted the dialogue and partnership between representatives of the government and state institutions and representatives of churches and religious communities in Croatia to continue.

Perić advocated joint action in resolving issues important for the Serb Orthodox faithful and the Serb ethnic minority.

Plenković said the government was working to strengthen the protection of the rights of all ethnic minorities, including by allocating more funds for economic development and resolving issues that had not been dealt with for years, the press release said.

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

Monday, 11 March 2019

SDSS Party Decides to Stay in Ruling Coalition

ZAGREB, March 11, 2019 - The Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) decided at a leadership meeting on Monday that it would not leave the ruling coalition, authorising its leader Milorad Pupovac and the party's parliamentary group to discuss the situation with the coalition partners.

The party's Presidency today discussed relations within the coalition and the party's status in the coalition, deciding that it has reached a line which it cannot cross for the sake of defending basic democratic values, rule of law, freedom of the press, Croatia's international commitments, the rights of the Serb minority and everything that has been agreed with the government and signed and adopted in operational programmes concerning the Serb minority, the chairman of the SDSS parliamentary group, Boris Milošević, told the press after the meeting.

MP Dragana Jeckov said that the Presidency had authorised Pupovac and the SDSS parliamentary group to discuss the situation with the coalition partners, "those who still care about these values and issues."

Pupovac declined to speak to the press. Last week he indicated in several statements that the SDSS was considering leaving the governing coalition.

Coalition leaders are due to meet on Tuesday.

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

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Will Pupovac Leave Ruling Coalition?

ZAGREB, March 6, 2019 - Public Administration Minister and Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) political secretary Lovro Kuščević said that the ruling party was not afraid of a scenario in which the current coalition with the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) would cease to exist, and also believes that the SDSS leader Milorad Pupovac has no reason to be upset over the burning of an effigy of him at a Mardi Gras carnival in the southern coastal town of Kaštel Sućurac on Sunday.

Pupovac believes that the event was not about the popular carnival culture of mocking those in power but rather about a culture of deepening hate and prejudice and incitement to violence, and said that he was now at the line which he did not want to cross, which prompted media to speculate about the end of the HDZ-SDSS coalition.

Kuščević said today that he did not see any reasons for Pupovac's anger. "I think that Croatia is a society in which the protection of ethnic minorities is at a high level," Kuščević said. "We are event at a higher level when it comes to media freedoms and non-existence of censorship."

"I don't think that there is any serious reason for this well-functioning coalition to be severed," he said while arriving for a meeting of the inner cabinet in Zagreb.

The government is not afraid of any scenario, and it will do its job well until the end of this term, and also the next term, says a confident Kuščević.

Kuščević says that it is also irrelevant that apart from the Pupovac effigy, a Plenković effigy was also set on fire. This is a carnival, a Mardi Gras festival and I pay no attention to it except to the fact that this is a carnival event, he explained.

As for the case of reporter Đuršica Klancir, whose identity was established by the police at her workplace for the purpose of a civil lawsuit against her, Kuščević said the police did their job, media did their job. In this context he said that a level of media freedoms in Croatia is at an enviable European level.

The leader of the Labour and Solidarity Party, Milan Bandić, on Wednesday commented on an announcement by MP Milorad Pupovac that he might leave the ruling coalition, saying that there is no need for fear because Pupovac would not do that. "He won't leave that coalition," Bandić said outside City Hall.

Asked whether he thinks that intolerance of ethnic Serbs was on the rise in Croatia, Bandić said that Zagreb is a "multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-confessional city." "I condemn individual incidents immediately and there is no need to interpret them as the rule," he added.

MP Branko Hrg (the Croatian Democratic Christian Party) and a member of the ruling coalition said that even if Pupovac's announcement of leaving the coalition was serious, it would not destabalise the ruling coalition that would lead to a snap election.

In the situation when decisions in parliament are adopted by 80 or 81 votes in favour, Pupovac's departure from the coalition would not lead to destabilisation, Hrg told reporters outside Government House.

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

Monday, 4 March 2019

Serb Leader Pupovac Comments on Burning of His Effigy

ZAGREB, March 4, 2019 - Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader and member of parliament Milorad Pupovac said on Monday that he was offended by the burning of an effigy of him at a carnival in the southern coastal town of Kaštel Sućurac on Sunday, which he sees as incitement to violence in an atmosphere of hate that is tolerated by the state's top authorities.

"This is a signal for those who represent the state and society and not for that mindless crowd. Instead of expanding the boundaries of its freedom Croatian society is choking with hate, as shown at this carnival," Pupovac told Hina commenting on Sunday's incident.

A parody of a recent attack on Serbian water polo players in Split was played out during the carnival as well.

Pupovac believes that the event was not about the popular carnival culture of mocking those in power but rather about a culture of deepening hate and prejudice and incitement to violence.

"That was not an amusing, inventive Dalmatian carnival that provokes the government. Unfortunately, it was a manifestation of nationalism and chauvinism," said Pupovac whose effigy was burned for the second time in three years in Kaštel Sućurac.

He added that as a Dalmatian he was deeply offended by the fact that one of the richest segments of popular tradition had been reduced to spreading hate and inciting violence against those who were weaker and different.

"But that's not their fault. That is the fault of those who have created that atmosphere, who aren't doing anything to condemn or change that sort of atmosphere," said Pupovac.

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

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Serb Minority Weekly "Novosti" Marks 1000th Issue

ZAGREB, February 16, 2019 - The editorial board of the Serb minority weekly "Novosti" and the Serb National Council (SNV) as its publisher on Friday held a ceremony to mark the 1000th issue of the weekly that was first published in 1999 and was distributed exclusively within the Serb community during its first ten years, hitting the newsstands across the country in 2009.

Editor-in-chief Nikola Bajto said Novosti was one of the few media outlets in Croatia with a critical approach to the country's reality and that from its perspective, that reality looked quite different from the official reality, prescribed by politics as well as right-wing circles which over the years frequently exerted pressure on the weekly and its publisher over its critical writing.

"Novosti has been lambasted many times over the topics it wrote about. Once it was over an illustration, another time it was over the satirical poem 'Our beautiful howitzer', and after that over the cover page caption 'Our beautiful homeland burns beautifully'. And in each of those cases we were just telling the truth in different ways - that there were civilian victims in Operation Storm, that that part of the country was looted and burned down, that Croatia keeps silent about it. It keeps silent about it so much that sometimes we have to be a little creative to make some of it heard in public," said Bajto, thanking all who read Novosti.

SNV president Milorad Pupovac said that he could not agree with the view that minority communities, notably those like Croatian Serbs, and political journalism did not go together. "Minorities should live in an open society and be open to the society they live in. Of all the impossible political missions we have embarked on, this one is among the more successful ones. A minority perspective, investigative journalism, critical journalism, and on top of that, satire. Very often accused as being hostile, Novosti is actually not a satirical paper, what is satirical is the reality it writes about," said Pupovac.

Croatian Journalists Association (HND) president Hrvoje Zovko, who was among those attending the event, said that Novosti had long stopped being just a minority paper and commended it for its investigative journalism.

Another guest at the event, the head of the Council for Ethnic Minorities, Aleksandar Tolnauer, stressed that the Council would see to it that the weekly continued being published "regardless of the various forms of pressure."

More news on the Serb minority in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Police Investigating Vukovar Mayor for Posting Controversial Video

ZAGREB, January 22, 2019 - The Vukovar-Srijem County police in cooperation with the local prosecutorial authorities are establishing all the circumstances in connection with the posting of video footage on the official website of the Town of Vukovar showing several students of a local high school sitting on the stands during the Croatian anthem, the police stated on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović confirmed today that the police were addressing the issue of the controversial posting of the video which grabbed media attention when Mayor Ivan Penava wondered why local ethnic Serb students refused to stand for the Croatian anthem.

The minister said that the authorities would inform the public of the findings of the investigation in a timely fashion. He said that the investigation should show of the posting of the video was controversial given that children were involved in the case. "Of course, children should not be put in any political context. However, I would not prejudge any outcome, having in mind that preliminary legal opinions that differ on that matter," said the minister.

The town's official website has posted the video of ethnic Serb secondary school students who did not stand up for the Croatian anthem at a football match played in Vukovar last year

The Croatian Serb leader, Milorad Pupovac, accused Mayor Ivan Penava of violating the Children's Wellbeing Act, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Personal Data Act and other laws, further inciting an atmosphere of violence by the posting of this video.

The ombudsperson for children's rights Helenca Pirnat Dragičević said that she had asked a police report on the same case, given that a boy from the video was recently assaulted at a bus station. The ombudwoman suspects that this was case of peer violence.

More news on the situation in Vukovar can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 18 January 2019

Serb Leader Accuses Vukovar Mayor of Inciting Violence

ZAGREB, January 18, 2019 - By posting a video of ethnic Serb secondary school students who did not stand up for the Croatian anthem at a football match played in Vukovar last year on the local government website, Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava violated the Children's Wellbeing Act, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Personal Data Act and other laws, further inciting an atmosphere of violence, Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac told a press conference in the Croatian parliament on Friday.

Commenting on the case of a student of a Serb-language technical school in Vukovar who had been beaten up by football hooligans, Pupovac said that the problem of violence targeting members of the Serb community and students was not new.

"There are groups, including the one that attacked this student, who resort to violence and who are tolerated in the town. This happened several times over the past year," Pupovac said.

This incident is the result of the behaviour of that group of football fans being tolerated and the fact that Penava has additionally incited such an atmosphere by marking the Serb students of Nikola Tesla Technical School as people who do not respect Croatia and who are viewed in the context of the SDSS policy of maintaining the continued and, as Penava put it, creeping aggression against Croatia, Pupovac said.

Police said on Thursday that one minor was slightly injured in a fight that broke out at a bus stop in Vukovar on Wednesday, apparently between two rival groups of football fans, one involving two minors and the other three. The person injured was a Serb student of Nikola Tesla Technical School.

Pupovac said he did not believe that the separated Croatian and Serb schools in Vukovar were the problem. "Why is this not happening in Istria where there are also minority schools? Why is this happening in Vukovar? Because there are people who are constantly stoking up an atmosphere of war and who treat and portray any demands by the Serb community for rights that belong to them under the constitution, law and international agreements as an attack on the constitutional order and aggression."

He said that the failure by the children in question to stand up for the Croatian national anthem could not be regarded as an attack on the constitutional order. "This requires working with those children. The way in which Mayor Penava acted is certainly not the way. As for football fans, national anthems and expectations of how fans should behave in such situations, we'd better not discuss that. When it comes to schools in which one group of children stands up for the national anthem and the other does not, that is a serious problem," Pupovac said.

Asked to comment on the demand by MP Hrvoje Zekanović that Croatia should block Serbia's EU accession negotiations, he said: "What if I, as a representative of the SDSS, had demanded that Croatia's accession to the EU be blocked until all issues concerning the Serbs were resolved, including the issue of Serbs gone missing during the war, prosecution of war crimes, unpaid pensions, demolished housing, Serbs who were driven out during the war and have not returned to their homes? Did I do that? I didn't. I was among the most active advocates of Croatia's entry into the EU, and my party and my other colleagues, minority MPs, helped Croatia become an EU member, otherwise Croatia would still be waiting on the EU's doorstep."

Pupovac said he would sue Hrvatski Tjednik weekly for running a cover showing him holding the severed head of Ivan Šreter, wartime head of the Western Slavonia crisis management committee who disappeared without a trace after being abducted by Serb rebels in 1991. "Only a twisted and sick mind can implicate me in a murder," he said.

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

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Prime Minister Discusses Situation in Vukovar with Mayor

ZAGREB, January 16, 2019 - The Prime Minister and president of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Andrej Plenković, said on Tuesday that Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava understands that the party strategic interest was cooperation with the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSSS) and the Serb community, underscoring that the party policy was based on the policy of the first Croatian President Franjo Tuđman and the HDZ when it was led by Tuđman.

"He understood that and he should understand it even better. And he understands it because many of our fellow citizens, members of the Serb minority have supported him at the Vukovar mayoral elections," Plenković said after a session of the HDZ caucus, asked if at today's meeting Penava understood him and the fact that cooperation with the Serb community and the SDSS was HDZ's strategic interest.

The prime minister also said that Penava understands very well what is the HDZ's state policy and what is the policy of the local branches.

Plenković reiterated that the the HDZ policy was defined by the party leadership, while mayor Penava should deal with issues pertaining to the town of Vukovar.

Vukovar mayor Ivan Penava said on Tuesday he was not leaving the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party and that he had its support, adding that he could not be expected to renounce the values of the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, Penava said they had not discussed the position of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) in the ruling coalition because he had not talked about that on Monday.

He explained that on Monday he had talked about the positive aspects of the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia, which had been occupied by Serb insurgents during the war, and that he had thanked members of the Serb minority who had embraced that process and continued building Croatia. He also drew attention to negative aspects of this process, saying that local Serb-language students had refused to stand up for the Croatian national anthem.

"It is fascinating that from all this the media have come out with the idea that I'm leaving the HDZ and that tension has emerged between me and the prime minister," Penava said.

Asked if Plenković sympathised with his actions, Penava said they had similar views because they belonged to the same party. "As the HDZ mayor of Vukovar, I ask you never to expect of me to renounce the values of the Homeland War. As for the position of the HDZ and prime minister, he had a friendly conversation with me. I continue to be a member of the party, I promote the values of the Homeland War and for now I have support for that," he told the press.

More news on the events in Vukovar can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

HDZ MP’s Son Detained for Anti-Serb Hate Speech

ZAGREB, January 8 (Hina) - Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) parliamentary deputy and HVIDRA war veterans' association leader Josip Đakić on Tuesday condemned in the strongest terms an anti-Serb post which his son Ivan Đakić put on his private Facebook wall, and apologised for the shameful and insulting content of the post, whereas his son decided to leave the HDZ which his father sees as an act whereby his son admits to having made a huge mistake.

"Following the shameful and insulting post on the private Facebook profile of HDZ member and my son Ivan Đakić, I hereby condemn in the strongest terms such conduct on the part of any HDZ member, including my son, and I apologise and express my regret at the incident and the thoughtless conduct of the young man, who was not brought up to hate or spread hate speech," reads Josip Đakić's statement.

The 22-year-old Ivan Đakić on Monday posted on his Facebook wall a shocking photograph showing a person wearing Ustasha insignia holding the severed head of a person wearing Chetnik insignia. "Merry Christmas to all the Serb 'friends'," he wrote under the photograph.

On Monday evening, the HDZ condemned the post and said it would launch disciplinary proceedings against Đakić as his conduct was contrary to the party statute.

Ivan Đakić deleted the post soon after making it public. In a statement to the Index web portal, which contacted him, he admitted to having posted the photograph, adding that he apologised to all whom he had insulted. "I shared a friend's post and deleted it after one minute. That is not my opinion and I apologise to all whom I have insulted and wish them a merry Christmas," Đakić said.

On Tuesday morning, Ivan Đakić resigned from the HDZ branch in Virovitica. His father interprets this as his son's admission that he made a mistake.

Ivan Đakić was taken in by the police in Virovitica, 150 kilometres northeast of Zagreb, on Tuesday for questioning over hate speech in his Facebook post.

The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) Milorad Pupovac on Tuesday strongly condemned the Facebook post written by Đakić. Pupovac expressed doubt that judicial authorities would prosecute that incident ex officio.

The SDSS leader insists that the incident also amounted to glorification of the Ustasha regime and was an insult to the victims of that 1941-1945 Nazi-allied regime, which is punishable by a prison sentence of up to three years.

Pupovac said that the situation in the judiciary did not instil any optimism about the outcome of the prosecution of that incident. "There is too much tolerance for such things," said Pupovac, adding that such messages are being made despite messages from the state leadership and the attendance of the prime minister and ministers at the Orthodox Christmas reception and the meeting between President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović and Serb Orthodox Church dignitaries in Croatia.

Pupovac said that the government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic enjoyed his support. As for the forthcoming meeting of the ruling coalition, Pupovac expressed hope that all relevant topics, including the incident involving Ivan Đakić, would be on the agenda.

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

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