Saturday, 19 October 2019

President Doesn't Think Conditions Are Right for Cyrillic Signs in Vukovar

ZAGREB, October 19, 2019 - Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said on Friday that major issues should be resolved first and then steps taken for everybody to feel safe before setting up official and street signs in the Cyrillic alphabet in the eastern town of Vukovar.

"I find important the decision made by the Vukovar Town Council that conditions have not been met for Cyrillic signs, having in mind that the constitutional law on the rights of ethnic minorities envisages that all those rights must be in the service of facilitating coexistence between the majority Croatian people and minorities, and that the rights of the Croatian people should be respected," the president said.

I was engaged in efforts to reach the peaceful reintegration (of Croatia's Danube region in the 1996-1998 period). I can say that the results achieved are better than expected. The Croatians and the Serbs, who had enough courage at the time, agreed on coexistence. Croatia was the first to show that it did not want warfare and acceded to some conditions, although I believe that this could have been settled in some other way, the president said.

The Croatian state leadership demonstrated that it did not want a war and that it was committed to peace and coexistence with the Serb and other ethnic minorities, she said.

I believe that the issues about which I warned a few days ago will be resolved, Grabar-Kitarović said, criticising again the national judicial system for "under-performance" in dealing with war crimes. There is no reconciliation nor future without justice, she added.

As for Cyrillic signs in Vukovar, she commented that first some major things should be solved. "I do not underestimate any issue. The Cyrillic alphabet is important to some people, and if I can help in any way on behalf of the majority Croatian people, I will do that," the president said during her visit to the village of Novi Farkašić.

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

Friday, 18 October 2019

Vukovar: Conditions Not Met to Grant Serb Minority Special Rights

ZAGREB, October 18, 2019 - The conditions for granting special rights to the Serb minority and for use of the Cyrillic alphabet in Vukovar have not been met, Mayor Ivan Penava said in the Vukovar Town Council on Friday while presenting proposed conclusions on the degree of understanding and dialogue between the town's Croat and Serb communities.

The proposal sparked an emotionally-charged debate which at one point escalated to the brink of an incident. The conclusions were eventually voted in by a majority of councillors.

The conclusions say that the two communities have reached a degree of understanding, solidarity, tolerance and dialogue that ensures cooperation and a co-existence, but that the prerequisites have not been met to enhance the scope of individual and collective rights for the Serb minority in Vukovar.

The conclusions also note that the fundamental rights of a large majority of the town's residents of all ethnic backgrounds who opposed the Serbian military aggression in 1991, such as the right to human life, dignity and freedom, are still neglected because the prosecution of war criminals is systematically delayed, and that the necessary conditions for the recognition of more special rights for the Serb minority, such as equal use of its language and script, have not been created.

The conclusions say that in light of these facts enhancing the scope of rights beyond those guaranteed by the Vukovar Town Statute and the statutory decision on the official use of the language and script of the Serb minority in Vukovar would be considered as showing disrespect and lack of understanding for the citizens of Vukovar of all ethnicities, which might adversely affect their co-existence in the town.

The conclusions, proposed by Mayor Penava of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), were adopted by 15 votes in favour, three councillors of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) were against, while two councillors abstained from voting.

After the mayor read out the text of the proposed conclusions, a debate followed which at one point reached the brink of an incident.

SDSS Councillor Srđan Kolar said that the debate was going in the wrong direction and called for dialogue. He presented Mayor Penava with a copy of the Town Statute written in Cyrillic, which was formally inaugurated by the Serb National Council (SNV) in Zagreb on Thursday.

Penava threw the Statute onto the floor and then picked it up, showing it to the press and saying that this was an act of aggression by the SNV and its head Milorad Pupovac.

Deputy Mayor Marijan Pavliček, of the Croatian Conservative Party, took off his T-shirt displaying the number of people killed in the Serbian aggression and handed it over to Kolar.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 18 October 2019

SNV Launching Campaign to Remove Stigma from Cyrillic Script

ZAGREB, October 18, 2019 - The Serb National Council (SNV) on Thursday announced the start of a campaign aimed at removing the stigma from the Cyrillic and send the message that using this script privately or publicly does not endanger anyone in Croatia, notably the Croatian majority.

Speaking at a press conference announcing the "Let's understand each other better" campaign, SNV president Boris Milošević said it would promote dignity, freedom, equality and non-discrimination.

The Cyrillic is an important part of the Serb cultural identity and language diversity is one of the foundations of the European Union, so every member state has the duty to promote the use of minority languages and scripts.

"Since the state has not worked on the promotion of a minority language, we decided on this campaign. We want respect for the constitution, Constitutional Court decisions and the conventions Croatia has committed to, as well as the application of the law on national minorities," Milosevic said.

The campaign will last until January 1, when Croatia takes over the Council of the EU presidency.

He said the motive for the campaign was a session of the Vukovar City Council scheduled to discuss the degree of understanding in the town and the use of the Cyrillic, which prompted the SNV to print the city statute in Cyrillic and the Serbian language.

The message is that the SNV wants dialogue and better understanding, regardless of the language and script in use, and that an unrealised legal right is not a right. "We believe that the Cyrillic has its place across Croatia, notably in places with a significant Serb population, including Vukovar," Milošević said.

Vukovar city councillor Srđan Kolar said the Cyrillic could not be and was not an aggressor script which, he added, was something that could very frequently be heard in Vukovar. If the stigma was removed from it, people in Vukovar would live "more peacefully, better."

Independent Democratic Serb Party president Milorad Pupovac said the Cyrillic, as one of the EU scripts after Bulgaria's accession, should not be banned and restricted anywhere in Europe.

This campaign calls for dialogue, the goal being to avoid misunderstandings and start a dialogue on all issues, "including those which can be painful," he said.

"Some want the Cyrillic to be a script of non-freedom in Croatia. For us, it was, is and will be a script of freedom just as any other script. Freedom is to write in it, to read and see it where it should be seen, and for everyone to be free of the bad feelings connected with those who made wrong political and military decisions," Pupovac said.

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

Monday, 7 October 2019

Vukovar Remembrance Day Could Become Croatian State Holiday

This week, the Croatian Government announced plans for potential changes to the holiday calendar as we currently know it, and Vukovar could be set to get its very own day.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 7th of October, 2019, the subject of a potential new holiday would be Vukovar, Croatia's hero city. The draft law that would put things into motion for a state holiday in the name of Vukovar has now been finalised, and the city's residents have been waiting for it for a long time, N1 writes.

Three years after the Croatian Government began toying with such an idea, the draft law has now finally been completed. Defense Minister Tomo Medved has now confirmed it as such. However, the minister hasn't revealed any new details, but it looks like Memorial Day could soon become a national holiday in Croatia. It also seems that the draft law does not define what many in Vukovar expected - bilingualism.

"In this way, people who have experienced trauma in Vukovar, the suffering, Croatian veterans and all others - can be sure that nobody will forget about it," said Ljiljana Alvir from an association which deals with the families of missing persons, of which there are many in the case of Croatia's famous hero city.

''The draft should see the light of day soon. The only problem is that it was promised during a government session in Vukovar back in 2016,'' explained Medved.

"The adjustments were related to the holidays, ie, the calendar of holidays, and I believe that we'll soon release the law on Vukovar and the law on regulated holidays into public procedure. You have had the opportunity to hear from the Prime Minister, he announced certain changes to the law on holidays, and this law is directly related to that law, "claims Croatian Defense Minister Tomo Medved.

The minister so far doesn't want to confirm directly whether or not this means that the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Vukovar, which is celebrated on November the 18th every year, will become a public holiday, but unofficial information indicates that everything is going in that direction.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.

Thursday, 3 October 2019

Croatian Tourism Days Opened in Vukovar

ZAGREB, October 3, 2019 - Croatia's five Slavonian counties want to develop tourism, they invest in tourism and other infrastructure and in specific types of services, and they have been recording increases in visits, it was said at an event marking the start of Croatian Tourism Days in the eastern town of Vukovar on Wednesday.

The heads and deputy heads of the five Slavonian counties attending the event expressed confidence that tourism could be a lever of development of the entire region, notably its economy.

Croatian Tourism Days will be taking place in the five counties on October 2-4, with Vukovar, Vinkovci and Osijek as the host towns. Attending the opening ceremony at Vukovar's Eltz Manor were several hundred guests, mostly tourism workers from around Croatia, local officials and politicians.

The heads of the five Slavonian counties underlined the need for tourism to help revitalise the region, notably its villages and agricultural production.

Speakers at the event agreed that with the restoration of cultural and historical heritage, notably castles and monuments, and with the promotion of cycling infrastructure, wine and food production, and conditions for hunting and other forms of tourism, the five counties could only prosper.

Tourism Minister Gari Cappelli said that the government would soon present a strategic marketing plan for tourism in Slavonia, which was made in cooperation with the five counties and which would define guidelines for tourism development in that region. The people of Slavonia want to and know how to develop tourism, and some have already done a great deal of work and I thank them for that, he said.

Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) head Luka Burilović said that Slavonia faced several major challenges in the development of tourism, including primarily the development of agricultural and food production, for which it had always been known.

"It is necessary to increase the number of hotels as there are not enough hotels, as well as deal with the issue of labour force and wages and work as many months a year as possible to reduce seasonality. But tourism in not a magic wand that can solve all the problems of Slavonia, a lot of work is needed and it can encourage changes in other sectors as well," he said.

Before the opening event, Minister Cappelli visited Ilok where he signed contracts with 60 recipients of the Tourism Ministry's funds for development of tourism infrastructure.

During Croatian Tourism Days, tourist workers and local officials will visit Kutjevo, Slavonski Brod, Požega, Osijek, Vukovar and Vinkovci.

This is the first time the annual conference of tourism professionals is being held in the country's interior.

More news about Croatian tourism can be found in the Travel section.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Škoro Comments on Possible New Protest in Vukovar

ZAGREB, September 24, 2019 - Presidential candidate Miroslav Škoro, who visited Vukovar on Monday, was asked by reporters to say if he supported a possible new protest in Vukovar over the failure of state institutions to prosecute war crimes, to which he said that he supported everything Vukovar residents supported.

Škoro was in Vukovar for a screening of a documentary by Jakov Sedlar on suicide among Croatian war veterans.

He noted that high suicide rates among war veterans were to a great extent due to failed policies over the past 20 years.

Reporters also wanted to know what he thought of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić's statement that presidential candidates should speak about the future rather than about the past, given after Škoro's statement about Serbia's role in the 1991-95 Homeland War in Croatia, to which Škoro said that people whose conscience was not clear often called for the future and hurried into it.

"There is no future without a clear past regardless of what Mr Vučić says. When he is ready for such a future, I will be there waiting for him with the same request," Škoro said.

Croatian Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Monday, when asked if a protest would be held in Vukovar, that it was difficult for him to say what would be happening in the coming period, but he noted that "there is no alternative to the work of state institutions and respect for the law."

"It is difficult for me to say what will happen in the coming period. It is evident that a certain number of people are deeply unhappy because they have not found the justice they deserve, because some of the people who were involved in war activities and possibly committed crimes have not been prosecuted. Those injustices remain," Jandroković said in an interview with Croatian Radio, noting that Vukovar was a particularly sensitive area.

He noted, however, that there is no alternative to the work of state institutions and respect for the law.

"We must ask the relevant institutions to be just, to find the perpetrators of criminal acts and to punish them, but there is no alternative to the work of state institutions and respect for the law. Street justice would lead to a different kind of chaos and is not good," he stressed.

Jandroković said that the Ministry of the Interior did achieve certain results in locating people who had committed crimes and that they should now be prosecuted, which would be the best remedy for the still present war wounds.

"I would not put this in a narrow political context, this is about a trauma that has remained for 20 or more years," he said when asked how much a protest rally in Vukovar over the failure to prosecute war crimes could harm the ruling Croatian Democratic Union party now that the campaign for presidential elections was about to begin.

More news about Miroslav Škoro can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

World Peace Gong Unveiled in Vukovar

ZAGREB, September 22, 2019 - The World Peace Gong, a symbol of lasting peace in the world, was unveiled in the eastern Croatian Danube river town of Vukovar on Saturday, the 50th such monument in the world.

The monument was installed outside the town library. The project was supported by the local government, the World Peace Committee, the Republic of Indonesia and the sculptor and painter Ante Sardelić Kraljević, who made nine sculptures placed near the Gong which are dedicated to all people killed in Vukovar during 1991-1995 Homeland War.

The Gong was unveiled by the President of the World Peace Committee, Djuyoto Suntani, and the Mayor of Vukovar, Ivan Penava.

"In this way we are sending a message to the world, that after we won independence our great aspiration and ideal is to build lasting peace and for Croatia to become a better country and better society," Penava said.

He said that a satisfactory level of interethnic coexistence was achieved in the town after the war, and what the people of Vukovar were still expecting was Serbia's "acknowledgement of the act of aggression and repentance."

"Only after we receive a message to that effect will we be open to cooperation and good neighbourly relations," the mayor said.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Days of Croatian Tourism 2019 Programme: Will Hedonists #HeadOnEast to Slavonia?

September 11, 2019 - Days of Croatian Tourism 2019 will take place in Slavonia next month - the full programme has just been published by the Ministry of Tourism.

I am not sure how to describe the Days of Croatian Tourism annual event, which takes place in October each year. It is certainly full of pomp, with the awards ceremony broadcast on live television. The event is like a who's who of the movers and shakers in Croatian tourism, and it is usually held in one of Croatia's top destinations. Apart from being a pretty backdrop to the occasion, it is also a chance for tourism officials to decamp to a top destination on the coast away from Zagreb for a few days of relaxation and 'work'. Last year's event in Hvar Town was VERY well attended. 

I am curious to see how many of those same official workers come for the entire event at Days of Croatian Tourism 2019. After pressure from several quarters, the government seems to be taking more of an interest in Slavonia, and this year's event will take place in Slavonia. A gorgeous region with so much potential, but without the 4 and 5-star relaxation of more developed coastal destinations. 

And the programme looks great (at least for those who can read Croatian - would it be too much trouble to provide an English version for those interested? If nothing else, it sets a good example for Croatian tourism in general). I really like the slogan - HeadOnEast for Hedonist - and there is plenty to see in the three-day event. Virovirica, Slavonski Brod and Vukovar on Day 1, Slavonski Brod, Pozega, Kutjevo, Papuk Nature Park and Jankovac Park, Osijek and Vinkovci on Day 2, and a full day in Osijek on Day 3. Full programme in Croatian below.



Thursday, 1 August 2019

Vukovar Cross Border Project Presented

ZAGREB, August 1, 2019 - A Croatia-Serbia Interreg 2014-2020 cross border project, the Panona Net Destination Management Model was presented in Vukovar on Thursday, and the project includes Vukovar and Velika, Croatia and Subotica, Serbia.

"This project will enable the Velika Municipality to develop its ecological tourism, Subotica its rural tourism and Vukovar its urban tourism... I consider this to be a good way for Vukovar to be heard far away and for tourists to choose Vukovar to visit along the EuroVelo 6 route," the director of the Vukovar Development Agency, Vedrana Zilić, said.

Mayor Ivan Penava is convinced that the project will attract an additional 850,000 kuna to continue working on the project that was launched 4 years ago.

"Vukovar is developing urban tourism and highlighting the tourism product segment, which is relatively new but is significantly and continually growing. With this project we will additionally promote urban tourism in line with increased cyclo-tourism and arrivals of tourists who visit our city on the EuroVela 6 route," said Penava.

The project is being financed with EU funds from the IPA Interreg Croatia - Serbia 2014-2020 cross border programme with a total value of more than 4.7 million kuna, 837,000 kuna of which is earmarked for Vukovar.

More Vukovar news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Bernardić Says Bilingual Signs Must Be Put Up in Vukovar

ZAGREB, July 24, 2019 - Social Democratic Party (SDP) president Davor Bernardić said on Tuesday it was necessary to put up bilingual signs in Vukovar as constitutional issues regulating the protection of ethnic minorities must be neither contentious nor questionable for the SDP.

The constitution must be honoured, he said on RTL television when asked how to resolve the situation in the eastern town after the Constitutional Court ruled that the rights of Serbs in Vukovar must be enhanced and the parliamentary committee on ethnic minorities called on the government to put up bilingual signs on state institution buildings there.

Asked if he expected an extraordinary parliamentary sitting on the MOST party's motion for a no-confidence vote in Health Minister Milan Kujundžić, Bernardić said holding the sitting and discussing the motion was a constitutional obligation. He added that the SDP MPs on the parliamentary committee on the constitution had asked the Constitutional Court's opinion on the matter.

If the court does not take a position, we will have to ask the president to convene the sitting, Bernardić said.

Asked if the fact that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković had replaced some ministers whose dismissal the SDP had demanded was the start of a big coalition between the SDP and the ruling HDZ party, he dismissed the possibility.

"There's no coalition with the HDZ, the most corrupt party in Croatia right now. Plenković's government was forced to make the reshuffle. The public sees why the ministers had to go. Only DORH (State Prosecutor's Office), which is doing nothing about it, doesn't see."

Asked whether it would good if the Croatian People's Party, the HDZ's coalition partner, supported the SDP's presidential candidate Zoran Milanović, Bernardić said no one could be stopped from backing Milanović. "But my position is known. There's no cooperation with the party which betrayed its voters... by running into this coalition which exists on political corruption."

He said President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović had not fulfilled her campaign promises.

He also commented on former football mogul Zdravko Mamić's accusations of corruption against Supreme Court president Đuro Sessa, saying they were serious accusations which hit at the foundation of the democratic and judicial order. He called on the authorities to investigate the accusations.

More SDP news can be found in the Politics section.

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