Croatian Diaspora: Living For and Giving To Croatia

Marko Franovic (L) Dr Ivan Hrvoic (R), Photo: Hrvatski tjednik

 The 23rd June 2022 issue of the revered Hrvatski Tjednik (Croatian Weekly) had published an extensive interview conducted by the Weekly’s Editor in Chief Ivica Marijacic with two prominent Croatian expats who are both successful businessmen, philanthropists of note and profound patriots to Croatia.  I have translated below into the English language much of the said interview primarily because it provides a clear and proud picture and a profile of the Croatian diaspora, of Croats living abroad who were a significant part of the strength in the 1990’s that made it possible for Croatia to leave communist Yugoslavia, defend itself from brutal Serb aggression and establish a democracy in a new independent state.

One of the interviewees is Sydney Australia based Marko Franovic who fled the oppression of communist Yugoslavia from Croatia and his native Boka Kotorska to arrive in Sydney Australia in 1960, embark on a long journey of hard work, business acumen and entrepreneurship coupled with his Croatian patriotic activism, publishing, humanitarian activities and outstanding philanthropy towards the betterment of both his new homeland Australia and his first Homeland Croatia.      

The other interviewee is Toronto Canada based Dr Ivan Hrvoic, a Croatian scientist, innovator, entrepreneur, and philanthropist who in 1972 emigrated to Canada and in 1980 founded his own the company GEM systems Inc. for measuring the earth’s magnetic field for magnetic observatories, searching for minerals, diamonds, and oil, for volcano and earthquake studies, for archaeological research, metrology, etc. His company today rates as a leading company in its specialty and he is considered as one of the leading, probably the best experts in the world when it comes to measuring the Earth’s magnetic field. Hrvoic was very active politically in Canada during the 1990’s having focused on Croatian patriotic activities that would prove invaluable in Croatia’s secession from communist Yugoslavia and the creation of a democratic and independent Croatia.   

Both of you left Croatia a long time ago, you come here often. How do you feel every time you touch Croatian soil?

 Marko Franovic: I have been in Australia for 61 years, but every time I come to Croatia, I am just as happy as if it were my first time. I follow everything that happens in Croatia intensively, I am frustrated with many things and every time I touch, as you say, the Croatian soil, with happiness and pride, I feel hope, I always hope that it will be better in Croatia. It saddens me to see that only a little is moving in the right direction.

 Ivan Hrvoic: I have been in Canada for 50 years, I come often, once, or more every year, but every time I feel like I came home. Of course, not everything in Croatia is happening according to my liking, but we all expect and demand that the situation improve, that there is finally a normal democracy here. But I repeat, the first feeling is always that I have come home and there is nothing that can pay for that.

You both went out into the world fleeing communism. Did you have any ideals that you believed in or didn’t believe would come true? What can you say today about that, have your ideals been realised, not only the political ones but also others?

Marko Franovic: I have always been and remain an optimist. When I say that I am going to Croatia, I always say that I am going home, even though my home is down in the Bay of Kotor, and the Bay of Kotor, as we know, is no longer in Croatia. But I always say, when people ask me, that I go home to Croatia. When they remind me that this is not Croatia, I answer that Boka has always been Croatia for me. If the existing world no longer allows it, it doesn’t matter for me it is always Croatia. Finally, I fled 60 or so years ago because Boka did not stay in Croatia, Josip Broz Tito gave it to Montenegro. I remember in 1954 I was the youngest apprentice in the workshop, I was only 13 years and four months old. It was a repairs unit for the army. One man says he heard that Boka would belong to Croatia. But that was according to what Grandma liked, that’s what she dreamed of. This, unfortunately, did not happen then or today, it will never happen again. We must be aware of this fact: we cannot start a war with the Montenegrins today to get Boka back. In the meantime, we Croats moved out of there, as my brothers and I did. Others began to inhabit the area. But let me answer your question: I never gave up on Croatia, although I said in 1982 that I would not think about Croatia anymore because there were so many UDBA or Yugoslav secret service operatives that it was unbelievable. UDBA supervised everything. While I was initially in Italy, I was a member of HOP (Croatian Liberation Movement), in Australia I didn’t want to join that organisation because I realised that UDBA was overseeing everything. I am proud of everything that is Croatian, but unfortunately there were bad people among us.

In 1991, the Croatian state was created. In that sense, I asked if your political ideals had been realised.

Marko Franovic: Of course, they were. I saw another God in Dr Franjo Tudjman. I was happy we got the man who returned the state. For the first 20 years I believed in the realisation of that dream, but later, when I saw how many UDBA operatives were infiltrated into everything, I was suspicious. In 1984 we decided to build a church, we got together and organised in Australia. I got involved with all my heart and when people saw that people like me and I were giving $ 10,000 each to buy land and build a church, everything started like a river, everyone started giving as much as they could. And so, we succeeded and strengthened. We built two churches in a year in Sydney.

Ivan Hrvoić: I left after the Croatian Spring. I have the same attitude today towards Yugoslavia and communism as I had then. At that time, however, I did not believe that there would be an independent Croatian state because it was a communist system and there did not seem to be any force that would realise it, although the Croatian Spring was encouraging in that sense. When Tito broke the resistance of the springers near Zagreb with tanks, my hopes somehow faded. But when Franjo Tudjman appeared at the head of the movement 20 years later, it was phenomenal for me, like a new awakening or birth. I had quite high duties in Canada. I was the vice president of the Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and the president of the AMCA (Alma Mater Croatica). That association was supposed to be cultural, but I turned it into a political one. We lobbied for Croatia, we went to demonstrations, we demanded that the aggression against Croatia be stopped, we helped in all ways and made ourselves available to the Homeland. So, that’s right – in the 90’s my political ideals came true.

Is the Croatian emigration disappointed with the attitude of the Croatian authorities towards it?

 Ivan Hrvoic: I think so. After the first glorious years of the establishment of Croatia and especially the Homeland War, we were told: “We don’t need you anymore, now we have money and don’t interfere … etc.” This greatly disappointed the Croatian emigrants. Later, all bridges to emigration were completely demolished by a shameful electoral law according to which they gave us three seats in parliament, to vote only at diplomatic missions and to many these were a thousand kilometres away, while at the same time they gave three seats in parliament to the practically aggressive Serb minority who are still paid to vote. It is so frustrating and humiliating for us Croats throughout the world. After that, bridges to our emigrants were no longer built. I had the opportunity to talk about this humiliation to former President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic when she was with us. She didn’t change or try to change anything.

Marko Franovic: The Croatian diaspora is very frustrated, it has almost no ties with the Croatian government.

Why, in your opinion, does Croatia fail to free itself from Yugoslavianism and myths like Jasenovac, even though it has been free and independent for more than 30 years? Here, the media and politics still create a pro-Yugoslav atmosphere, every year in the spring we are collectively subjected to the months-long terror of one Milorad Pupovac and Jasenovac myth. Why can’t Croatia slam the door on these relics of Yugoslavian and Greater Serbian politics?

Ivan Hrvoic: That is a very open and complex question. I see that the moves made by our political elite lead more and more in the direction of Yugoslavia, even though it is a failed idea, and, in my opinion, it will never succeed again. But unfortunately, some forces still insist on this, I think because the network of those who lived well in Yugoslavia and terrorised others, especially us Croats, is now being renewed and completed again. That network has become extremely powerful and strong. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic commands it. He and his partner Milorad Pupovac are managing it and we, unfortunately, do not have any movement in Croatia that would give hope that this will stop any time soon. For example, all this right wing – it’s all a collection of big ambitions, everyone thinks they are the new Stjepan Radic or Ante Starcevic, but that’s not the case. They cannot agree and become a force, so there are no changes.

Marko Franovic: First, we have to understand that we were educated in lies. We are ashamed of our nation and our Croatian past instead of being proud of our past and loving it. If we blush when we say we are Croats, that is terrible. We must know that our past was clean, that our past is not the one we were taught about in the communist system, not the one taught to us in schools by Serbs and communists. My nephew once asked me how I could love the Ustasha, when they, he says, killed children. I told him that he went to school, but he didn’t learn there that two and two are four, but only as a joke that the Ustashas were killing. The Ustashas did not kill. Historian Stjepan Lozo wrote well: Serbs were not killed because they were Serbs, but because they killed Croats, and everything that the Serbs accused the Croats of, they themselves actually did to us Croats. This has been proven in all or much of the most current research, but we don’t seem to believe those researchers. That is why I have now started an association headed by Dr Andrija Hebrang with the aim of promoting the historical truth. For me, Dr Hebrang is another Tudjman; a man who was not in with the communists and is independent and free. Our goal is to spread our true Croatian history. We have been learning a lie for 80 years. Today, schools still interpret that more than 83,000 people were killed in Jasenovac, and it is known that 16,800 people passed through Jasenovac, while the number of victims in various ways (including death) was slightly more than 1,500. And that is true.

Marko Franovic (L) Ivan Hrvoic (R) in Zagreb Croatia June 2022, Photo: Hrvatski Tjednik

Could it happen in another country that it stands accused without evidence by its privileged citizens and people living in it, like Croatia is often slandered by Milorad Pupovac who often flees to the country of aggressors during the biggest holidays and does not want to be in Croatia?

Ivan Hrvoic: That is unthinkable anywhere except in Croatia. Not only do they have no evidence for their allegations, but they are also not trying to find it, and they are preventing any attempt to verify or investigate. This is nowhere to be found in the civilised world. The question is, of course, how to get out of that situation. That’s a big question. The only legal way is elections, and in the elections, people were discouraged because their choice was reduced to HDZ or SDP, and it is not known who is worse between the two of them. We already have some third parties that are not yet unfortunately strong enough to be a real threat those two.

You are successful entrepreneurs, you earn a great deal of money with your businesses, knowledge, and skills, and you spend a lot of money on various charity projects. I know you both shared with others many millions. It is my opinion that today patriotic thought in Croatia would practically die out if it were not for you, because Plenkovic’s government, through Minister Obuljen, suffocated it and preferred to help hostile anti-Croatian projects. Are you sorry for the money you gave for these purposes?

Marko Franovic: I will never be sorry. My plan is to invest for Croatia, not in Croatia, for as long as I live. I have invested in every idea to help Croatia, whether it is the renovation of churches or political campaigns, institutions, films, books, projects. I invested a lot of money for Ivo Sanader. Do you remember his warranty card? Trust me, I wrote him those seven promises. I wouldn’t mention everything – movies, books, associations … I share my surplus. I get up at 4 in the morning and go to work, I come back around 6pm and so on five days a week, and on Saturdays I work until 6pm. Myths about my wealth are being spread, but such stories are not simply true. I have investments that I have achieved by working, saving. Indeed, money comes to me very successfully, but I work constantly just as my 60 employees do.

Ivan Hrvoic: As you yourself said, we do not want self-promotion when we help many and when we just talk about it. I almost never talk about it. I can say that I must have received a message from above at one point: “If you have extra money, you have to share it with your friends, with your people!” The argument for this is that once we leave, we will not be able to take anything with us. Croats, like, for example I think, Jews, do not have this culture of giving and it is only a minority that donates. And I have orientated myself to help many. As a last example, for example, I helped the deaf-mute with a smaller amount, some of our defenders, I helped Ms Zeljka Markic with the referendum, and when there are some more important actions, I give more. I covered all the costs of the Croatian Orthodox Church for symposia, in Zagreb, Osijek, Split, Rijeka … There is no need to talk about films, books, translations of these books in the world with the aim of opposing Serbian propaganda. We founded the Croatian-Canadian Academic Society in Canada with the aim of translating and spreading our truth around the world. I don’t know how much of an impact it has, but I am fighting for Croatia as much as I can.

(Translated and prepared by Ina Vukic)

Croatian Identity Endangered

You do not need to grab hold of a magnifying glass to try and find in the world a destructive political dichotomy, intolerable quarrels between leaders, in a country touting itself to be a peaceful democracy because Croatia sticks out like a sore thumb. And it’s all because the former communists and/or their offspring are in power since 2000 as they crept into the major political parties’ folds almost unnoticed at the beginning. Their personal and political intent was never to aid an independent Croatia and its deservedly good name; their intent as evidenced by their activities and alliances was and is to keep afloat some kind of an acceptable notion of former communist Yugoslavia even though Croatia pulled itself out of it by shedding rivers of its own blood in the face of Serb and communist Yugoslavia army brutal aggression in early 1990’s.

Past week should have seen a unanimous, a national, peoples’ celebration of Croatian Statehood Day, of Croatian National Day but instead the ugly political dichotomy Croatia’s political leadership has displayed deepened and became more vicious than ever. 30th May was the date of enormous significance in 1990. It was the date in 1990 that, within the increasing Croatian peoples’ will to take Croatia out of communist Yugoslavia, establish independence and democracy, saw the constitution of the first democratically elected multi-party parliament in Croatia.

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the Statehood Day, President Franjo Tudjman pointed out the Day as a day of national unity, national reconciliation in the Croatian people. It was a hint, not only of the change of the political system and the arrival of a new political set, but also marked the beginning of the stage for the creation of a sovereign and independent Croatian state. After that came the Christmas Constitution, independence referendum and independence and the decision to sever ties with Yugoslavia. Then the brutal and genocidal war of Serb aggression ensued, ending militarily with Croatian victory via Operation Storm in August 1995 and in January 1998 with the last of Serb-occupied Croatian territory liberated through peaceful reintegration for Eastern Slavonia region and its surrounds.

Then Franjo Tudjman died in December 1999 and in 2000 former communists and those who did not fight to defend Croatia and its people from Serb aggression crept into government and into the Office of the President. In 2002 the League of Croatian Communists’ representative Ivica Racan, who was elected Prime Minister early 2000, changed the date of Croatian Statehood Day from 30th May to 25th June, saying that on 25th June 1991 the Croatian Parliament proclaimed its independence from Yugoslavia. This change of dates was not received well by many Croats. In November 2019 the Croatian Parliament returned the date of 30th May as the date to mark and celebrate Croatian Statehood Day.

Zooming in to last week after Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his Government Cabinet managed to keep quarrelling with President Zoran Milanovic, and vice versa,  Milanovic aimed his side of the quarrel at the international scene and with his reckless statements managed to do political damage to Croatia on several occasions. Milanovic relativised Russia’s brutal aggression against Ukraine and war crimes committed in Bucha, sought excuses for Putin’s unprovoked bloody campaign in the neighbouring country, and his announcement of a veto on the decision to admit Finland and Sweden to NATO caused outrage around the world.

And then, when he probably surprised himself with his international “feats”, Milanovic decided to return to the Croatian scene. The President of the Republic reiterated on Tuesday 30th May 2022 that he does not recognise May 30 as Statehood Day because it has nothing to do with the real Statehood Day, assessing it as “violence of the parliamentary majority” and “abolition of customs due to the whims of one person”.

“It is not Statehood Day, it is the violence of a small parliamentary majority, bullying over good customs in Croatia, abolishing from the personal whim of one person, a custom that was 20 years old and which was in the law to mark Statehood Day on June 25.” said Milanovic to Croatian media! But of course, we mustn’t forget that Milanovic is not about to abandon the ideals of his communist past and his former League of Communists in Croatia!

 He then reminded that the first, democratically elected multi-party Parliament was constituted on May 30, 1990, but at that time we were still part of the former state (Yugoslavia), so the new Statehood Day has nothing to do with this holiday. One would think that today’s Croatia’s President would sing praises to the Croatians who had in 1990 the amazing and passionate courage to organise the first in history democratic elections, to inaugurate the first multi-party Parliament while still within the borders of the totalitarian communist regime of Yugoslavia.

President Milanovic did not attend the official celebration of the Croatian Statehood Day organised by the government in the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb. He refused to attend, insisting that 25 June was the right date for it!

Milanovic’s statements symbolically show that the President of Croatia does not respect the decisions of the parliamentary majority and does not act as a person who respects the principle of the rule of law and legality. It does not surprise me that he has a distance towards that date of a key national holiday.

For a long time now, the Croatian Prime Minister and his key Cabinet members have been playing into the President Zoran Milanovic’s provocations and outrageous scandalous statements, kept them circulating with counter-attacks and rhetoric instead of pointing to the president as not having been fulfilling his constitutional obligations, endangering the stability of the constitutional order, sending messages that are extremely harmful and communicating in a way that is completely inappropriate for his position. In other words, Andre Plenkovic has failed miserably at trying to set the motion in place for the removal of Zoran Milanovic from the Office of President. Perhaps that is so because Andrej Plenkovic is no better than Milanovic when it comes to preserving and maintaining the sanctity of the Croatian Homeland War and defence from brutal Serb aggression. Instead of doing his job as Prime Minister of independent Croatia he keeps adding members of the 1990’s rebel Serb minority and aggressors to his government Cabinet. Insulting in that way every pore in Croatian war veterans’ body! Embellishing the notion that victim is the same as the aggressor!

Some would say that the outcome of ousting Zoran Milanovic from the role of Croatia’s President is not possible at the moment at all. Namely, for this to be implemented, the ruling Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ and its partners in Parliament must have a two-thirds majority, i.e., 101 Members of Parliament need to raise their hand for Milanovic’s recall. Given that the ruling majority in Parliament has only 77 members, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic would find himself facing the impossible mission of finding 24 more hands. Especially as Social Democrats/SDP, the largest Opposition Party in Parliament, think Milanovic is still their strong ally, weakening the position of the parliamentary majority and harming the largest party in the ruling coalition. Therefore, they believe that he that he should be preserved in the political arena in every way.

The situation regarding preserving the status quo of perpetual quarrels and scandals between the Office of the President and the Office of the Prime Minister of Croatia is also evident in some of the right-wing smaller political parties think that the President of the Republic advocates exactly what their political values are and strongly support him! Even though his said advocacy for Croatian defence from Serb aggression is neither consisted nor reliable; the feeling that Milanovic may change his mind on important issues niggles always.  

Furthermore, it is completely unclear what the liberal democrats think, who simply cannot have anything in common with the evidently anti-Democrat Milanovic but find very innovative explanations to defend his policies. It happened for the first time that Vesna Pusic (former Foreign Minister of Croatia and Deputy Prime Minister under Zoran Milanovic’s Prime Ministership) spoke as a very serious liberal democrat about Milanovic’s unheard of rhetoric, but only when the issue of Milanovic’s conflict with other members of NATO and the European Union over Swedish and Finnish accession to NATO arose. She spoke here as a serious liberal democrat, and it could be seen that there is a very deep distance in relation to all Milanovic’s policies, but that has not yet turned into a change in that dominant attitude. In such circumstances, it is very difficult to count on the gathering of a two-thirds majority to initiate the recall procedure for Zoran Milanovic as Croatia’s President. Even if they did manage it they would encounter terrible hurdles at the deciding Constitutional Court where three former SDP and other pro-communist Yugoslavia judges sit, whose role includes deciding upon the role the President should have!

In such a macabre atmosphere former communists and their supporters have created in Croatia, it is not surprising that the most important date in the year, Statehood Day, is poisoned at home and abroad. But this atmosphere is unacceptable and calls for stronger retaliation by the people otherwise the fight for freedom will come to symbolise nothing much for Croatia! The proud, just and strong Croatian identity is endangered indeed. Ina Vukic

Croatia – Leadership Antagonism Feeding Non-Assertion of Hard-Won Independence From Yugoslavia

Zoran Milanovic, President of Croatia (L), Andrej Plekovic, Prime Minister of Croatia (R)

It is an incredible and angering preposterousness that Serbia is still acting towards Croatia as if Croatia had never become an independent state, as if it never seceded from Yugoslavia, as if the Homeland War of Serbian aggression against Croatia had never occurred (and if it did both sides were equally aggressors and equally victims!). What is equally absurd and preposterous is that Croatia is allowing this with no sanctions except cheap words and rhetoric! In persecuting Croats Serbia is using its own laws and sometimes the laws of former Yugoslavia to keep a perpetual train of indictments for alleged war crimes against Croats, allegedly committed on Croatian soil, while the brutal Serb aggression and onslaught ensued on Croatian soil, for perhaps no other reason than to press on with the obscene idea of equating the aggressor with the victim and Serbia denying its own aggression.  In 2020, the Zagreb County State’s Attorney’s Office filed an indictment against six former members of the former Serb-controlled Yugoslav People’s Army JNA Air Force for rocketing the Banski Dvori (Croatia’s Government Building at the time its President Franjo Tudjman was inside) in October 1991 and so Serbia is now filing indictments against Croats for the same period of war of aggression event.

Croatia is not responding in a manner other independent states, whose independence arose from successful defence from brutal aggression, would respond. Countries that cherish their hard-won independence would at least make strong steps in diplomatic relations terms. It is utterly unacceptable that, in the least, Serbia’s Ambassador to Croatia has not been sent packing back to Serbia as Croatia’s first-hand response to the Serbian War Crimes Prosecutor Office having on 19 May 2022 indicted four retired Croatian Air Force officers: Vladimir Mikac from Ptuj, Zdenko Radulj from Osijek, Zeljko Jelenic from Pula and Danijel Borovic from Varazdin on suspicion of committing war crimes against civilians. prosecutors, ordered the rocketing of a column of refugees on Petrovacka cesta near Bosanski Petrovac and in Svodna near Novi Grad on August 7 and 8, 1995. The indictment was filed on March 31 but was returned to prosecutors on May 6 for further processing. In the mentioned event, 13 people were killed, six of them children, and 24 people were injured. According to the indictment, the prosecution proposes that the accused be tried in absentia.

According to Croatian media sources, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic stated on 20 May 2022 that at a short meeting with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in Davos, he expressed dissatisfaction with the Serbian indictment against Croatian pilots.

“We pointed out that the law, by which Serbia has been expanding its jurisdiction to the territories of other countries for years, is unacceptable to us and that such a move for Croatia is certainly a signal of a step back in our relations, not a step forward,” Plenkovic told reporters in Davos. Well, Plenkovic does rather good lip service but when it comes down to what is convincing and what Croatian people deserve, he fails miserably. He as Prime Minister must demonstrate that Serbia’s actions regarding these indictments are not acceptable by imposing strict diplomatic measures, at least. Most commonly used in free and democratic countries are official protests with Ambassadors or sending Ambassadors back to their countries until matters resolved. 

“These indictments have occurred despite our years-long attempts to convince them not to play with fire and that it will cost them. I cannot be more polite; I hope they are listening to me. Leave that alone. Otherwise, they should not be surprised by reactions by right-wing lawmakers in the Parliament. The problem is that the majority of people in Croatia think like that,” President Zoran Milanovic told reporters on Tuesday 24 May 2022. President Zoran Milanovic repeated on Wednesday 26 May 2022 that Serbia should watch its actions and that he was only asking for “a fair relationship” between the two countries, adding that Croatia could have indicted Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic but made a political decision not to do it.

Fierce lip-service from both the Prime Minister and President of Croatia! No decisive actions on diplomatic levels, at least, to demonstrate they mean what they say!

Croatia has been in a political quagmire for quite a while and to make decisive steps against Serbia in this case, to protect the dignity and righteousness of Croatia’s victory against Serb aggressor, for freedom and independence, both the Prime Minister and the President must be at least on professional talking terms if such terms do not come naturally. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and President Zoran Milanovic have not seen eye to eye on anything for quite some time and have publicly displayed intolerance towards each other as well as disturbing antagonism. But, unlike Milanovic, Plenkovic appears more interested in serving Croatia’s Serb minority than national Croatian interests even though majority of that Serb minority formed a significant part of Serb aggression against Croatian secession from communist Yugoslavia in the 1990’s! This fact would appear to be a major factor in the current political impasse and crisis Croatia is suffering currently.

It is unbelievable and cruel to the victims of Serb aggression that Croatian state policy without notable and decisive protest and action evidently permits Serbia, the aggressor, and the defeated side of the Homeland War to prosecute members of the victorious side of the war in which Serbia was the aggressor. This, of course, is not the first time this has happened with the announced indictments against four Croatian pilots who are allegedly responsible for the attack on Serb civilians after the “Storm” military operation that liberated significant parts of Croatian territory from Serb occupation in August 1995. Many would rightly so say that official Croatia permits such odious aberrations because its official heads and politicians in power since year 2000 have remained mental communists, are nostalgic of communist Yugoslavia. They are not wrong as Croatia has yet to put its official foot down at Serbia’s depraved attempts to deny its responsibilities for aggression, ethnic cleansing on non-Serbs, mass murders, genocide, destruction across Croatia.   

Not only Serbia’s laws that have extended their legal jurisdiction beyond the borders of the Serbian state are of grave concern, but also the treacherousness for Croatia of the behaviour of leading Croatian politicians, which was especially evident during the persecution of Croatian generals directed by The Hague tribunal. The former President Stjepan Mesic, who testified against his country (Croatia) at The Hague tribunal, led the evil pack that attempted to criminalise Croatia’s defence against Serb aggression and yet suffered no consequences for it in Croatia! All the Prime Ministers of Croatia including the current Andrej Plenkovic have made no positive moves to turn this tragedy around and putting Croatia’s victory over Serbia’s aggression first.

The excuse of allowing the process of reconciliation with the aggressor (Serbs) has given way the emergence of many insufferable injustices against Croatians and Croatian war veterans.

Perhaps giving amnesty against indictments for war crimes to many Serbs who committed war crimes in Croatia during the Homeland War as part of negotiations for peaceful reintegration of occupied areas of Croatia’s Danube region in 1998 has given Serbs the courage to act upon their pathological idea that they had a right to commit crimes in Croatia? 

On 15th January 1998 Croatia achieved, without a single shot fired, the liberation from Serb occupation of its Danube region which two-year process is known as the Peaceful Reintegration of Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Srijem.

It was the Erdut Agreement, which was signed on 12 November 1995, that enabled the peaceful restoration of Croatian sovereignty over the Croatian Danube region which was under the control of Serb paramilitaries and rebels since the launch of the Great Serbian aggression against that part of Croatia in 1991.

The Erdut Agreement on Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Srijem was signed on 12 November 1995 in Erdut and Zagreb by the then-presidential chief-of-staff, Hrvoje Sarinic, the head of the Serb negotiating team, Milan Milanovic, and by the then US Ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, and UN mediator Thorvald Stoltenberg as witnesses. The treaty marked the beginning of the UN’s two-year transitional administration in the area during which Croatia restored its sovereignty over the temporarily occupied parts of Osijek-Baranja and Vukovar-Srijem counties, which enabled reconstruction in the area ravaged in the Great Serbian aggression on Croatia and the return of refugees.

The Erdut agreement was reached by Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic at a peace conference in Dayton, Ohio. The 14-point document provided for a two-year transitional period under UN supervision, a transitional administration, formation of a multi-national police force, local elections, and demilitarisation 30 days after the deployment of international peacekeepers. Seven provisions of the agreement dealt with human rights, refugee return, and property restitution or compensation…

Reintegration of Croatia’s Danube region was achieved without a single bullet being fired but, more than two decades on, it is evident that not all bullets are of fire but that there are many made of political obscenities. Croatia has still to assert the values of its own War of Independence and it is unlikely to do that any time soon with the current make up of government and leadership. Without decisive actions to that effect the political climate may, hopefully, develop into a strong push to change the current oblivion among its leaders towards what Serb aggression did to Croatian people. A great deal of work is still needed to achieve the democracy in Croatia that its first President, Franjo Tudjman, announced in his speech on 30 May 1990 at the inaugural session of the Croatian Parliament. Perhaps with all his strengths and courage even he may have never imagined that ridding Croatia of communist Yugoslavia would be so very harsh and difficult despite the fact that 94% of Croatia’s voters voted to secede! Ina Vukic

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