Serbs should apologise and proper reconciliation could follow

In a recent Vjesnik newspaper article Milorad Pupovac, president of SDSS (independent Democratic Serb Party) representing a part of Serbian minority in Croatia said that his party may collaborate with the governing centre-left Kukuriku (Cock-a-doodle-doo) alliance even if the Kukuriku alliance had previously stated that collaboration with political parties allied with the previous HDZ government would not be an option.

Milorad Pupovac

In relation to a greater return of Serbian refugees to Croatia: “I just want to say that there is joint responsibility for what has not yet been achieved,” he said. “Each of us has their own responsibility and role in this”.

“I want to say that in our cities, in our streets, on our facades there are graffiti with messages of hatred,” he further said, “…when it’s not enough to say that someone is a thief, they say that someone is a Serb, a Chetnik…”

There are more problems, for example the process of reconstructing damaged houses, the problem of housing the former tenants, electricity … employment, language rights …there’s surely work to do,” he stated. 

The new Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic has announced that Croatia’s lawsuit against Serbia (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia which was then made up of Serbia and Montenegro) for genocide in the International Court of Justice filed in July 1999, in relation to 1991-1995 war, should in some aspects be dropped. (The Republic of Serbia has in 2010 filed a cross-claim in the court).

Both claims contain the aspect of financial compensation.

The difference between Croatian and Serbian applications is that the Serbian one comes 11 years after Croatia’s and contains the seeking of damages from World War II as well, i.e. from alleged persecution of Serbs.

In that case, and given that Serbia has not yet to my knowledge acknowledged in earnest its role in the 1991-1995 aggressive war against Croatia, Croatia would do well not to withdraw aspects of its claim in the International court against Serbia.

Croatia should instead play the “Serbian game” and add claims for damages for persecution and murder of Croatians during the World War II and after it (Communist crimes perpetrated by the Serbians within the communist/partisan echelons).

On Pusic’s announcement Pupovac commented that it shouldn’t have come to that (the court). That Croatia and Serbia should come up with a different way of addressing the issues.

He says that cooperation is important in sanctioning war crimes, solving the problem of war-missing people, the return of national treasures.

“There would need to be a general restoration of trust in these matters and in the spirit of international respect for victims,” he said.

The return of Serbian refugees to Croatia has been a slow process and Croatia has been criticised for not doing enough on the housing and employment for Serbs front. There have been criticisms of alleged discrimination against Serbs in employment etc.  Indeed, this issue has in the past slowed down Croatia’s accession to EU negotiations.

The President of Croatia, Ivo Josipovic, has also hinted on the possible withdrawal of lawsuits in the International Court of Justice but that purposefulness of the lawsuits still needs to be discussed – he maintained.

The war damage to Croatia was overwhelmingly enormous while the same cannot be said for Serbia (Croatians did not wage attacks on Serbian soil).

A small country like Croatia struggles severely (in anyone’s book) to repair and make-good the damage done to properties, utilities, roads … With unemployment alarmingly high and much of the industry lost/destroyed one wonders how, without some kind of compensation from the Serbian side, Croatia could fully accommodate the return of all Serbian refugees?

As Pupovac said, I too believe that there is a joint responsibility between Croatia and Serbia in the problem of refugees.

However, the Serbs seem to avoid their share of responsibility for damage caused to Croatia during 1991-1995; the fact that they’ve lumbered WWII into their claim against Croatia in the International Court of Justice seems to speak volumes to this fact very clearly.

As to the talk of ethnic hatred Pupovac refers to one wonders why Serbs have not really done much, if anything at all, in line of acknowledging the wrong they’ve done to Croatia in 1991-1995 and apologising for it.

The only apology I’ve come across is that of the president of Serbia, Boris Tadic, in 2010 at the site of Vukovar massacres.

A crucial psychosocial factor that facilitates reconciliation between people is an actual, sincere, apology for specific wrongs.  Both Croatians and Serbians of Croatia are highly aware of their relationship as it stands today and this should be utilised in overcoming the anger against Serbs that still may exist in Croatia.

This anger is well justified: Serbs had started the aggression and caused initial damage. And now Croatia is expected to restore the damage perpetrated by Serbs and the damage perpetrated by Croatians.

One solution could be, for instance, that Serbs repair/compensate the damage they’ve done illegally to Croatians’ property and Croatians repair/compensate the damage they’ve done illegally to Serbs’ property.

Even mere common sense could tell Pupovac and the Serbs that reconciliation will be weak until objective acknowledgment surfaces on both sides with regards to responsibilities.

If one turns to the 2010 Serbian cross-claim against Croatia in the International Court of Justice, their airing of WWII woes instead of keeping to the point of Croatian claim – i.e. 1991-1995 war –  then it is plainly clear that Serbs have no intention acknowledging their provocative destruction  against Croatians in the 1990’s, let alone apologising.

Croatia would do well in maintaining its lawsuit against Serbia.

Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb), B.A., M.A. Ps. (Syd)

Comments

  1. Dear Ina,

    After reading your latest post I couldn’t help but assit you in clarifying a few matters that you have claimed in your “Serbs should apologise and proper reconciliation could follow” post.

    1) Croatia should instead play the “Serbian game” and add claims for damages for persecution and murder of Croatians during the World War II and after it (Communist crimes perpetrated by the Serbians within the communist/partisan echelons).

    I might not sure if you are aware but Josip Broz Tito, the self-appointed President of Yugoslavia, was from a pedigree of half Slovene / half Croatian extraction so the Communist crimes committed by quote ” perpetrated by the Serbians within the communist/partisan echelons” were authorised by a half Slovene / Half Croat.

    2) The war damage to Croatia was overwhelmingly enormous while the same cannot be said for Serbia (Croatians did not wage attacks on Serbian soil). http://www.hic.hr/books/croatia-between/part-05.htm

    This is blatantly incorrect. The Krajina and other parts of RSK were bombarded in Operation Storm. These areas have been Serbian soil since the 1600’s and have been habitated and defended from both the East (Ottoman) and West (Habsburg) empire.

    Also, Ina, don’t forget the classic saying that War’s are not always started with bullets, but a preceeded by words. This is perfectly symbolised by the founding father of Croatian statehood – Mr Ante Strarcevic – who once famously wrote ” “The Jews are less harmful than the Slavoserbs. For the Jews care for themselves and their people … but the Slavoserbs are always for the evil: if they cannot gain a benefit, then they tend to harm the good or just affair, or to harm those who are for the affair”
    Nenad Miščević, “Ante Starčević – Između liberalizma i rasizma” Novi List, Rijeka, 25. february 2006.

    3) However, the Serbs seem to avoid their share of responsibility for damage caused to Croatia during 1991-1995; the fact that they’ve lumbered WWII into their claim against Croatia in the International Court of Justice seems to speak volumes to this fact very clearly.

    This is a justified statement, however before any restitution is due, past injustices need to be not only recognised but rectified. Even after WWII, Nazi Germany and the preceeding government were forced to pay their due to the Marshall Plan
    to aid in the recovery of Allied countries in Europe and the sentencing of it’s generals and army staff to Nuremburg ensured that their guilt was shown to the world.

    The NDH goverment paid no restitution to the Allied-back government of Serbia nor did it send it’s generals to Nuremburg and even to this day, Jasenovac represents more of a bird sanctuary than the third largest concentration camp in Europe during WWII.

    4) This anger is well justified: Serbs had started the aggression and caused initial damage. And now Croatia is expected to restore the damage perpetrated by Serbs and the damage perpetrated by Croatians.

    Again, this is a blatantly flawed statement. The statement “Serbs had started the aggression and caused initial damage” has clearly been exposed as a lie in the documentary film “The Weight of Chains”.
    It was not the firing of the first gun that started the civil wars in the 90’s, the Croatian Foriegn Minister and the HDZ govt of Mr F Tudjman, against all international treaties. changed the constituion in Croatia (at the time) to remove the Serbs as a constiuent people in the constitituon to one of a foreigner In addition, the importation of arms via Hungary by the Foreign Minsiter of the HDZ into Croatia at the time was illegal too.

    The statement “restore the damage perpetrated by Serbs and the damage perpetrated by Croatians” is also flawed. See above.

    5) Croatia would do well in maintaining its lawsuit against Serbia.

    This can be argued somewhat but, as mentioned in 3), past injustices need to be rectified first to ensure a full and meaningful reconcillation can take place between the two nations now and into the future.

    As i said, German apologies and paid for their actions in WWII, now it is Croatia’s (and the Catholic Churh at the time) turn to admit it’s guilt and move forward.

    Best regards,
    David.

    Like

    • Marshall Tito may have genetically been half Slovene/half Croatian but the Serbs adopted him and, hence, majority of high positions within the YU army etc were filled by Serbs.
      Properties owned by Croatians were destroyed, road, electricity etc by Serbs much before the Operation Storm in 1995, not to mention towns and cities outside Krajina such as Zadar, Dubrovnik, Zagreb… Operation Storm justifiably bombed in order to liberate its occupied territory.
      Serbs had lived in Krajina Region of Croatia but that was still within sovereign borders of Croatia – it was not Serbia.
      Franjo Tudjman did not do anything illegal he simply placed into action the will of 94% of Croatian citizens to secede from Yugoslavia, which by the way the Yugoslav consitution allowed.

      Agree that past wrongs need to be rectified however the lawsuit commenced by Croatia in International Court of Justice was filed specifically to deal with 1991-1995. If wrongs dating prior to that are brought into the case by Serbia then Croatia would also have the right to add to its claims, pertaining to that past. And Serbs cleansed Jews during WWII quite severely and have not paid any compensation for that either. As to the size of Jasenovac that really does not matter even if some make blanket statements without evidence about numbers – even if one or two persons suffered such a horrible death it’s wrong.
      “the Weight of Chains” does not seem to hold much water as far as balance is concerned and as far as the 94% of Croatian people who voted for secession are concerned. The 94% of Croatian citizens who voted for democracy and independence from the chains of Yugoslavia but the Serbian minority in Croatia did not want peace, did not want to live in Croatia and that is the simple truth o matter how anybody wants to twist it.

      I don’t know where you get your information but the first consitution of Republic of Croatia, 1990 did not remove Serbs as constituent people. Some citings from December 1990 cinstitution:

      Article 3: “Freedom, equal rights, national equality, love of peace, social justice, respect for human rights, inviolability of ownership, conservation of nature and of human environment, the rule of law and a democratic multi-party system are the highest values of the constitutional order of the Republic of Croatia”.

      Article 12: “The Croatian language and the Latin script shall be in official use in the Republic of Croatia. In individual local units another language and the Cyrillic or some other script may, along with the Croatian language and the Latin script, be introduced into official use under conditions specified by law”.

      Article 14: “Citizens of the Republic of Croatia shall enjoy all rights and freedom, regardless of race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, education, social status or other properties.
      All shall be equal before the law”.

      Article 15: “Members of all nations and minorities shall have equal rights in the Republic of Croatia. Members of all nations and minorities shall be guaranteed freedom to express their nationality, freddom to use their language and script, cultural autonomy.”

      Article 16: “Freedoms and rights may only be restricted by law to protect the freedoms and rights of other people and the public order, morality and health.”

      Croatia was and is multi-ethnic, it’s not made up of just Croatians as majority and Serbs as minority. There are others and the fact that Serbs in Croatia formed their Political Parties and competed at first general elections in the independent state of Croatia can tell you as a fact that Serbs were not removed as constitutional people of Croatia.
      Thank you on your comment

      Like

  2. Branko Butkovic says:

    It is amusing that anyone, and I mean anyone could describe “Weight of Chains” as a documentary. I’ve seen chetnik-made Youtube pieces that do a better job of trying to muddy the waters of the perception of Serb aggression in Croatia. Chetnik strategy has always been, even Dobrica Cosic admits, to lie and keep on lying until someone believes them. They had a good portion of Serbia and a smaller part of yugo-Croatians fooled in the early ’90s but people aren’t that stupid any more.

    On another note, there is plenty of evidence that the Tito who ordered the massacres of Croatians during peacetime was not the same Tito from Croatia that left for Russia missing one finger and came back with that finger miraculously re-attached years later. KGB apparently did wonders with these kinds of operations – even sent back a reasonable facsimile and a no-limit Russia Express Card to use for propaganda. Guess which nation from the FY is closest aligned to Russia and has been historically. Guess whose monarchs (along with the pale ones with bad teeth) have always mingled and conmingled to expand their respective territories. No, Virginia, there is no santa claus, and “The Weight of Chains” is heavy on the agitprop, but light on argument and logic.

    Merry Christmas.

    Like

    • As I said, the Weight of Chains doesn’t hold water – I mean it doesn’t weigh much on the side of the truth.
      It was Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief of propaganda, who once said: “If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth” – perhaps that’s where the Serbs learnt the art of concealing the truth that points a fnger at their sins and blow-out of all proportions the truth of sins others they say have perpetrated against them?
      Cheers and thanks!

      Like

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