Croatia: To Euro Or Not To Euro

Croatian Sovereignists (L), Andrej Plenkovic, Croatian Prime Minister (R)

Since Croatia set on the path of independence from communist Yugoslavia in 1990 its citizens have held only three referendums: independence referendum in May 1991, referendum to join (or not) the European Union as member state in 2012 and the referendum for the definition of marriage (between a man and a woman) in 2013.

In 2013/2014, 650,000 signatures were collected in Croatia for the initiative introduced by the Headquarters for the Defence of Vukovar Association to hold a referendum regarding the Cyrillic (Serbian) script in Vukovar. That is, a referendum seeking the exclusion of the Cyrillic script as a second official script/language on public buildings and institutions etc in Vukovar. The referendum was abandoned due to Constitutional Court’s ruling that such a referendum question could not asked as it would severely compromise the rights of minorities under the Croatian Constitution living in Croatia.

In 2018 a referendum was planned, and signatures collected in Croatia on three questions related to changes in electoral legislation and the cancellation of the Istanbul Convention, but this pre-referendum signature collection ended in agony and scandal with claims from the government agency engaged in counting the votes, APIS, that over 40,000 signatures were invalid, including double signatures. The referendum initiating and organising group “People Decide” complained and demanded an independent recount of votes, however this process did not eventuate as claims of ballot papers’ being destroyed arose besides apparent resistance from authorities to permit a recount.  

Come 2021 and the socio-economic surrounds for another referendum of key significance for Croatia emerge, with politics hotting up just as they did in 2011 and 2012 ahead of the European Union membership referendum. This new referendum would seek to clarify whether Croatia should abandon its beloved monetary currency unit Kuna and adopt the Euro.

Since 2004 Croatia had a bumpy ride to its 2013 achieved status as EU member state. This bumpy ride particularly saw parts the international community collaborating with some ex-communist Yugoslavia Croatian operatives fabricate evidence to attempt a criminalisation of Croatia’s Homeland War in defence from brutal Serb aggression. This bumpy ride included the equating of victim with the aggressor. This bumpy ride included an increased stacking of Croatia’s public service posts and positions of power with former communists and/or their descendants. Hence, an anti-EU membership mood that became visibly prevalent in by 2010 and the government, obviously fearing that the EU Membership referendum would fail if the Constitution was not changed went on to change the Constitutional law governing referendums.

That is, the section dealing with Referendums in 1990 stated that the referendum is decided upon by the majority of votes but under the condition that a majority of the total voter numbers vote in the referendum and this was changed in 2010 whereby majority of total voters were no longer required to turn up at voting but the question asked in the referendum is decided on the basis of majority vote out of the total number of people who turned up to vote. And so, we had the situation that in 2012 the majority vote out of the dismal 28% of total voters turnout decided that Croatia should become an EU member.  

Having been through the process of public consultations/submissions since the beginning of this year the government of Croatia is currently bringing before the parliament its proposal for changes to the Constitutional law governing referendums. The government claims that its proposed changes will being an improvement in the vague legislative framework of the referendum institute. That the new legislation will be harmonised with the Constitution and ensure transparency and openness of its implementation. Citizens should have a more effective influence in the political decision-making process, the government claims.

The changes proposed include that Local self-government units are obliged to provide places for collecting signatures for referendum initiatives, depending on the number of inhabitants in that local self-government unit. Parliament also undertakes to call a referendum within 30 days (instead of the current 15) after the Electoral Commission determines that enough signatures have been collected.

Whether, if passed into law, limiting referendum polling places to government offices only (not city squares, schools, or parks also) is the most voter-friendly part of the referendum process is a moot point and its clarification is bound to appear if a referendum is held after the parliament passes the proposed changes to the legislation. Certainly, experience would suggest that limiting polling places to government-controlled venues will always deter many voters from turning up at the polls in fear of government control and corruption.   

Conspicuously missing from the proposed changes to law governing referendums is the fact that the proposal does not include any possibility of scrutinising or observing the counting of votes in the referendum voting processes despite the bitter experiences of the 2018 referendum attempts that were often described as corruption and manipulation of public votes.

Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has announced that his government will introduce Euro as Croatia’s official monetary currency during 2023. He has also reminded the public this month that the process of joining the EU in Croatia enjoyed the support of all participants in the political scene and made it clear that there would be no referendum on the Euro.

“It was seen in the process of EU accession negotiations and in the referendum,” said the Prime Minister, adding that 150 MPs voted in favour of joining the Union at the time and that he believed that the issue was resolved by referendum and vote in Parliament. “Croatia then legally and politically undertook to join the eurozone,” he said. Plenkovic also stated that those against introducing the Euro to Croatia had done nothing for the process of Croatia achieving membership in the EU.

Let’s keep it real, Prime Minister!

Plenkovic’s statement that those against the Euro had done nothing for Croatia’s membership in the EU appears scandalous and certainly not true because Croatia became a member of the EU as an independent state created and fought for in a bloody war by multitudes of those who do not want to give up the Kuna and embrace the Euro. The people who fought for and sacrificed their own lives and for an independent Croatia have an absolute right to fight to retain a potent symbol of their suffering for freedom from communism – the Kuna!

Hence, the Prime Minister Plenkovic is wrong in insisting that there would be no referendum regarding the Euro. Not all EU member countries are also members of the Eurozone and therefore, this evidences the option that membership in the EU does not oblige its members to also become members of the Eurozone.

As the date of the apparently imminent introduction of the new currency approaches, such a possibility is gaining more and more public attention, which, as with EU membership for example, is divided. Some are in favour of the introduction of the Euro because they believe that it will stabilise Croatia and help its further development and investments. At the same time, others strongly oppose the announcement because they fear an increase in the prices of everyday necessities and an additional drop in citizens’ standards.

Croatian Sovereighnists party, headed by Hrvoje Zekanovic MP, which is part of conservative opposition parties in the Croatian Parliament, has launched the organising of a referendum on the adoption of the Euro in Croatia and they are against the Euro and against Croatia being a part of the Eurozone. They state that their main reason for wanting to protect the Kuna, to keep it is in the fact that national currency and the management of its exchange rate is one of the key parameters of influencing the economic development of the country, so this parameter should remain in the hands of the Republic of Croatia and its citizens, for whom Croatian interests are a priority.

No date is in sight as to when the referendum process will commence but one may safely say it will be during 2022. Furthermore, it is anticipated that it will take several months for the new legislation regarding referendum changes to come out the other end as passed. Hence, the initiative for a referendum and the government’s insistence that there will be none, is surely to bring in a great deal more of political unrest and disagreements in Croatia, including bitter clashes between citizens who tend to see the adoption of the Euro as the hated last straw that will break the back of the pride rightly held for the glorious victory over the Serb and communist aggressor during the 1990’s.

Prime Minister Plenkovic keeps telling the Croatian public that the adoption of the Euro will increase the standard of living at a greater rate than any increases in prices. The opponents of the Euro in Croatia state that this is not the time to adopt the Euro in Croatia as that currency is good only for the wealthy countries, those in the EU with a much higher standard of living, that the rounding off of prices is bound to occur with the introduction of the Euro and thus be detrimental for Croatian citizens. Also, on the side against the Euro many say that the Eurozone is an unsafe conglomerate and if it falls apart the poor Croatia will be placed in the situation of having to contribute to the repair and bailing other countries, such as Greece and Italy, out of a debt crisis, as their losses in this event could surface after the Coronavirus pandemic as being astronomical. The greatest complaint against the Euro appears to be the widespread belief that by losing its national currency Kuna, Croatia will lose a great deal of its hard-earned sovereignty, paying for it with rivers of blood and devastation.

And at the end of the day a referendum regarding the Euro should be held in Croatia if because of nothing else then because only 28% of total Croatian voted at the EU referendum in 2012 and barely 67% of those voted Yes to Croatia’s EU membership. A referendum on the Euro could indeed be a great test for the Croatian citizens regarding their experiences and trust as members of the EU as opposed to national sovereignty and retention of values from the Homeland War. Ina Vukic

Dr Jure Burić – An Interview: “Croatians will continue paying a heavy price until lustration happens!”

Interview by Ina Vukic

October this year will mark 30 years since the beginning of the siege of Dubrovnik and its surroundings and the bombing of its walls and vital structures, which culminated on 6 December 1991; the deaths of civilians and soldiers. You were the war commissioner of the Republic of Croatia at the time when the Yugoslav Chetnik aggression indiscriminately hit the city and its people with its murderous weapons and intentions. How much do you vividly remember those days of the attack on Dubrovnik, and can you tell us what was going through your mind the most at that time?

In summer of 1991 a decision was made by the Municipal Council of the City of Dubrovnik, in fact the then Municipality of Dubrovnik to accept and take in refugees from Vukovar. Our people from Vukovar were offered accommodation and holidays in all our hotels. Other places by the sea did the same, offering free accommodation to a certain number of refugees for a certain period of time. At my suggestion, which was unanimously accepted (I was then leading “social” matters on the Council), we offered all refugees from Vukovar accommodation for an unlimited number of people and for an unlimited period of time – not knowing that we, ourselves, would soon become refugees, and our citizens of Vukovar were shelled once again!

All resources from the Red Cross, Caritas, hotels, associations, … were made available and after the public announcement, we prepared for the reception of numerous refugees. Very soon, several thousand of unfortunate people found themselves in Dubrovnik. We selflessly wanted to help them in their suffering and alleviate the sad fact that their husbands, fathers, brothers, relatives … remained in their city defending it and losing their lives for it.

How profoundly distressing were the testimonies of women and children who escaped from the hell of war and found refuge with us. We organised swimming lessons for them, all kinds of events, sports competitions, to try to at least alleviate a little bit their grief for their fathers and their city. We regularly followed the events in Vukovar and found ourselves slowly preparing for the defence of our city – in case it became necessary.

One part of our people based their defence strategy on the fact that the City would not be attacked (after all, who would dare attacking the Pearl of the World and the UNESCO-protected city!). One part of our people, including myself, based their defence strategy on another fact and that was that our neighbours were not so smart and that there would be attacks.

Fear and unrest were felt in the City. An interesting event took place at a larger gathering (a full cinema hall right in the centre of the old town). Speakers lined up and each in their own way “analysed the situation” and fearing the fate of Vukovar. At one point of such fear and uncertainty, my compatriot from Velja Međa-Andrija Oberan, came up to the podium.

What will he say now – I’m really interested, I thought.

And Oberan began:

‘My people, I came to this city in torn trousers twenty years ago – following my belly for bread. I didn’t really have much schooling and I applied for work on a building site. The first morning I saw people around me making some agreement between them and collecting money, so I asked what it was about and if I could participate as well?’ ‘You can, Vlach,’ they told me. ‘We are collecting money for brunch’! ‘And what is a brunch?’

‘Well, it’s something like your breakfast, you Vlach.’

‘Okay, here’s the money, and what will be for that brunch’

‘White kidneys,’ they replied.

After a while, a car comes in and a large pot was taken out of the trunk, and I approached to see what the white kidneys were! I lift the lid and see – well, my people, these are testicles!

Now, whoever has balls, let him not be afraid of war, and who has white kidneys – I can’t help him! – That was the shortest and best speech I heard in those times!

Bombing of Dubrovnik, December 1991

In your opinion, what was your role in the fight for freedom, for the independence of Croatia?

It was felt that the war would not bypass us either. The Government of the Republic of Croatia had appointed me as the “War Commissioner for Southern Croatia” – one of six War Commissioners in the country!

And? On October 1, 1991, in the early morning hours, the first grenade fell on Dubrovnik.

On the same date, the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) began with the ritual burning of my birth house in Ravno (Herzegovina), which was, of course, thoroughly looted by Serbs and Montenegrins before that. As it was then – so it is today – unrestored and without a roof. However, “journalists” have long ago renovated it and luxuriously equipped it – so much about our objective “journalism”!

So that is the date of the beginning of the war in BiH, and not the few months later as Alija Izetbegović said – when the shelling of Sarajevo began!

It is interesting that in Dubrovnik, the first victim of the Serbian grenades was one

honest and good man in his home Miličević- a Serb! Civilian of course!

Were the people around you, and you, fully committed to the goal of Croatian independence?

In all this difficult time of hopelessness, there was still hope. We trusted our President Franjo Tudjman and our brave defenders. We knew that we would defend and organise our Homeland in the way that befits a Croatian person. In a report for HTV, I told the deceitful and inconsistent world: with your eyes on the Croats, you remain deaf and blind and dumb, but know that these tortured old men and hungry children will not give you peace, and the public will condemn you that you could have prevented this war – and you did not!”

And a message to the aggressors – Serbs and Montenegrins:

“When you think that you killed the last man from the ruins, the hand of the Croatian defender will be raised, and he will spoil your plans”!

How would you describe the Croatian spirit of the 1990’s?

The Croatian spirit in those difficult times was constant, strong, unbreakable. It drew its strength from the fact that we were getting stronger every day and increasingly armed despite the will of the world. Thomson’s “Čavoglave” was sung by both old and young, fuelled by strength and hope for our better tomorrow in togetherness. We extended a hand of reconciliation to our former persecutors, following President Tudjman’s advice that we must all be one, because that is the only recipe for success.

I caved in, inside, and extended my hand to the man whose hand beat my late friend Bruno Busic, because he was now a true Croatian defender who was ashamed of his unreasonable act. And everything somehow “was in tune” until the former communists, seeing that nothing bad would happen to them, got stronger.

Then they spat on that outstretched hand, and they still spit on it today.

How would you describe the Croatian spirit of today?

I wrote this poem at the time of the strongest Serbo-Chetnik and Montenegrin aggression against Croatia, when the “Red Army Barracks” threatened Osijek, and General Branimir Glavas awakened hope, when they killed Vukovar and the heroic defenders led by General Blago Zadro, when they destroyed Dubrovnik … while General Mirko Norac defended Gospić, when the five-pointed star polluted our Blue Adriatic …… autumn 1991.

THE SAME MESSAGE WAS VALID THEN AND IS VALID TODAY !!! – TO US AND TO THEM!

WE ARE ALL READY FOR CROATIA!

When at dawn the first ray,

Caresses the blue sea

And it illuminates your rivers

The golden fields of your mountain

When it awakes the Lika wolf

Herceg Bosna angry snake

And a pirate from the Neretva

Let them in if they can.

Vucedol dove

Zrinjski Castle, Senj Tower

Sinj Alkar calls the Fortress

If they are allowed, let them in

From Velebit the fairy is calling

I greet you, Dubrovnik

Beautiful Istria and the Littoral

Slavonia and Zagorje

Posavina, Dalmatia

Wake them all up

He sang a song of paradise

We are all READY FOR CROATIA!

You were the County Prefect (Župan) and you were a member of the Croatian Parliament, and as far as I remember, among other important things, you once asked for the termination of cooperation with the Hague Tribunal, at least temporarily. Your request was not implemented, can you tell us something about that?

I served as the first prefect (župan) of Dubrovnik-Neretva County – honourably and responsibly trying to respect all people, and to those from the international community who visited me very often and insisted on reconciliation with the aggressor, I made clear what kind of reconciliation was possible.

I would tell them that, when the time came, Croats would forgive, but know that they will never forgive themselves if they allow something similar happen to them in the future.

On one occasion I asked them if they had heard of the “school of democracy” in Dubrovnik founded at the very beginning of the war. Of course they had not heard of it, and they remained amazed. Then I told them – on the day when the first grenade fell on Dubrovnik, we founded that school and we were professors, not students, because there were Serbs in the same shelter with us – probably relatives of those who sent us those grenades, and that not a hair fell from their heads, while their property remained intact. Find me just one example of such warfare in the whole world?!

And when they told me that they were worried about how the Serbs from Trebinje would feel one day on Stradun (Main street in Dubrovnik), I answered them very vividly: I guarantee you much better and more comfortably than the Germans in Paris ten years after the end of the Second World War!

This is where communication would usually end, and I would report it to my President Tudjman at the earliest opportunity – just in case. The President would not be angry with me – on the contrary, he was glad that someone could say something, and he for understandable reasons could not.

Dubrovnik, December 1991

You were an important member of HDZ Party from its conception until 2018, when you withdrew from membership, and the Croatian media published, among other things, one of your messages to HDZ, which read “You have become a ‘spiritual Chernobyl’ in the Croatian people.” Please tell us something about your decision to leave the party into whose fabric you been woven for decades.

In those times I couldn’t even dream that the Cyrillic alphabet would return to Vukovar, that we will ratify the Istanbul Convention, because of which I withdrew from the HDZ party in 2018. That we would silently send our generals to The Hague, believing that this court will be fair! But in fact, The Hague was for The Hague! By joining the HDS (Croatian National Assembly – that was its official name at the time), I only continued to fight for the national interests of my people.

In the meantime, the STATE one got lost?! Why? Realising all the ugliness of the court in The Hague, I asked for the termination of cooperation with such a court. I also demanded a ban on the introduction of the Cyrillic alphabet in two cities in Croatia – Knin and Vukovar, because of all the evil that had happened to the Croatian man in those cities. Unsuccessful of course.

This is what I wrote to the HDZ leadership in 2018 as my resignation from membership:

“I would like to be wrong, but I already see that the Istanbul Convention will be ratified by the Croatian National Parliament, and so that I do not wait for this joke to play out, which in fact is a tragedy – I am honestly sad that you forced me to this act, I have decided:

I, Jure Burić, a retired doctor and politician, and my wife Ljiljana Burić, a proud Croatian mother of five of our children with an address in Dubrovnik, no longer want to be members of the HDZ party.

We do not want to be your co-chairs, because you are no longer followers of its founder, Dr. Franjo Tudjman.

I came into politics from the position of head of the Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Cervicofacial Surgery at the Hospital in Dubrovnik.

While the late President was still alive, I performed many honourable duties in the Croatian state. First as a War Commissioner (one of six in Croatia) for Southern Dalmatia, then the chief of war ambulance for the same area, the first mayor of Dubrovnik-Neretva and finally a representative in the Croatian State Parliament – that’s what Parliament used to be called!

We leave the party because we are

Ashamed of

your arrogance,

your hypocrisy,

your contempt,

your inconsistencies,

your servitude,

your cowardice,

your greed for positions,

your waiver of

GOD’S LAWS.

You have become a ‘spiritual Chernobyl’ in the Croatian people.

WE ARE ASHAMED BECAUSE YOU HAVE LOST SHAME!

Persistently beyond all reason and even though the Holy Father Pope Francis, Kaptol, Croatian bishops, the Croatian people together with their respected Croatian intellectual sons, members of the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, who have CLEARLY decided AGAINST THE RATIFICATION OF THE ISTANBUL CONVENTION you still claim that it is a ‘deeply Christian act’ and that you are on the same side as the church?

AND, ratifying the Istanbul Convention with a gender ideology is a SATAN job and NOT a Christian act, which offends every follower of Jesus and an honourable Croat.

You are persistent in claiming that your ‘interpretation’ gives security to the Istanbul Convention from non-implementation of gender ideology, and you know that it is an ordinary pamphlet, a legally worthless paper with which you only rub people’s eyes (after all, why distance yourself from something – what is missing ?!)

Well, you will not anoint ours and that is why with this act we stop being members of a party that has nothing to do with its founder, the late President Dr. Franjo Tudjman.

God enlighten your mind!

One day, when, with God’s help, Tudjman’s honourable follower does come, if we are still alive, he can count on us.”

Bombing of Dubrovnik 1991

Do you think that the composition of the Croatian Parliament has changed since you left it and if so how?

With the death of President Tudjman, everything turned upside down. The people have chosen the people who will lead the state and state policy from the ranks of former communists who never had love for the Croatian state.

They don’t even have it today!

Because had they had it, they would not have passed such laws and they would never have ratified the Istanbul Convention, from which, by the way, Istanbul itself has recently withdrawn!

Why do my people accept the abnormal as normal – it’s not clear to me nor will it ever be!

Do you think that Croatian politicians in the functions of the legislative and other authorities were and remain irresponsible towards Croatia and the values ​​of the Homeland War after it completely ended with the peaceful reintegration of eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Syrmia in 1998?

Have we accepted the Brussels dictatorship in place of the Belgrade dictatorship? Have we lost our national pride and common sense?!

Why don’t we look up to the Hungarian President Orban and the Poles. Why do we reject our faith and our nation?

Why are we again “good servants of bad masters”!

We did something wrong in these “Lead times”. I know what!

We had to implement LUSTRATION at all costs after the end of the war (since we couldn’t or were not permitted to do before!). Yes – lustration – so, that way, it could not happen that our politics is run by people from the former communist system. Every, even the smallest cooperation with UDBA needed to prevent such “minds” from participating in the government of the Croatian state!

We didn’t do that, and we are paying the price and will continue paying a heavy price until the moment lustration happens!

Another evil that is equally important is theft.

Theft that has crept into all the pores of our lives. Both political and economic ones.

People no longer have human shame and God’s fear. All that matters is money, and how to get it – who cares. Handcuffs around the wrists of our political leaders and respected fellow citizens are becoming something that seems normal, and no one is surprised anymore at such sights.

Have these people ever gone to church and listened to sermons. I also bear a grudge towards the people of the Church. They are not consistent, they have ceased to be Stepinac’s followers, and how could they not be when their chief asks for the opinion of Bishop Irinej on Stepinac’s holiness. God forbid that this chief was there instead of St. John Paul II, because he too would perhaps ask that Bishop if he can and should he recognise the independence of Croatia.

There is no authority in the Church, no authority in the State, people’s memories removed, and, regardless of this, I still trust in God’s providence and His intervention, and hence, I do not lose hope and believe in a more certain future of my Croatian people!

When it comes to Croats, what do you dream about?

I no longer have dreams. I have dreamed all my dreams. Thanks be to God, I have received my beloved Croatia, healthy and in my mind. Stipe or Ivo can lead her … anyone, but they must know and confront the fact that it is mine, not their Croatia, that it was created in the blood and unseen love of her best sons! I want to keep her like that in my mind and with such a desire one day stand before the Lord!

———————–

ABOUT: DR. JURE BURIĆ – Born 1946 to Croatian parents in Ravno, Bosnia and Herzegovina; studied Medicine at University of Zagreb, Croatia; specialised in Otorhinolaryngology; participated in the Croatian Spring uprise of early 1970’s for greater autonomy and freedoms of Croatia within Yugoslavia; Former Mayor of Dubrovnik, Former Croatian War Commissioner for Southern Croatia during Croatia’s Homeland War; Chief of Crisis Headquarters for Dubrovnik; First and Former District Prefect (Župan) for Dubrovnik and Neretva Region of Croatia; former Member of Croatian Parliament.

Croatia: Civilian Victims Of War Assistance Quandary

Tovarnik, Croatia, September 1991 Some civilians massacred by Serb forces were found and buried with dignity

International pressure upon Croatia to achieve reconciliation with its aggressor (Serbia) after the war had ended (1995 militarily and 1998 completion of reintegration of Serb-occupied Croatian territory which “required” the granting of amnesty to hundreds of Serb war criminals) has, without a doubt, proved detrimental to Croatia’s stability and progress into a fully functioning democracy and to the rights of war veterans as well as Croatian civilian victims. This pressure for reconciliation included various avenues of equating the victim with the aggressor; Serbia’s unwillingness to accept its role as a brutal aggressor in the 1990’s war on the territory of former Yugoslavia has also been a significant factor in keeping Croatia back from pursuing goals of a full democracy and sovereignty founded on the Homeland War, which would as a matter of natural course include proper assistance mechanisms for civilian and combatant victims, not the weaker ones installed during and after the war. Croats were after all brutalised, ethnically cleansed, murdered, raped, tortured … and Serbia shows no sign of paying for damages its forces, people and political allies had caused in Croatia during 1990’s.

After the Homeland War ended completely, it was undoubtedly the responsibility of the Croatian government to ensure the security and well-being of those who had suffered and sustained personal losses during the war, either as veterans or civilians. Mechanisms of compensation should have been developed and fully implemented soon after the war’s end and yet here we are in 2021 and perhaps thousands of war veterans in Croatia still have not had their war-veteran status sorted and live like paupers, almost four thousand having committed suicide; assistance to civilian victims has also not been properly attended to. Monetary compensation may never be enough to recompense the harm incurred by the Croats, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction for the government to finally recognise and dignify the damage suffered by civilian victims in a clear and proper way and not dish out legislation that introduces yet another conundrum into the suffering of war victims. This should also be completed for all war veterans and with both of these measures the government may ultimately be pushed to recalibrate its national values and goals, elevating the victory against the aggressor in the Homeland War as its only foundation stone. This though is not likely to happen without pressure from grassroots and political opposition, excluding of course the SDP/Social Democrats and We Can/Možemo opposition that still practices communist Yugoslavia mindset.

 It is good news that there is a new legislation currently before the Croatian Parliament with regards to compensation for civilian victims of the Homeland War in Croatia (Civilian Victims of Homeland War Act/ Zakon o civilinim stradalnicima Domovinskog rata). The discussions about the proposed law are generating sharp public rows and visible distress with concerns that the same legislation may enable a Serb aggressor/enemy from 1990’s to receive financial assistance from the Croatian taxpayer’s pockets.

These concerns regarding rebel Serbs being enabled for such war-civilian victim assistance is largely justified because of two facts. The first being that in the prelude to the full-blown Serb military and paramilitary aggression Serb civilians had a key role in terrorising their Croatian neighbours and preparing and assisting in what was to become the most horrible aggression and war since World War Two in Europe. Serb civilians on a large scale were complicit in the Serb aggression, ethnic cleansing of Croats and devastation and a relatively smaller number sided with Croatians and fought to defend Croatia from Serb aggression. The second reason why the above concerns are justified lies in the fact that there is no register of Serbs, who were also Croatian citizens and lived in Croatia, who had participated in any way in the aggression against Croatia.

There is no register of actual persons involved in the aggression full stop! It must be kept in mind that when it comes to Serb aggression against Croatia, in order to stop Croatia from seceding from communist Yugoslavia, the armed and the civilian Serbs in Croatia who subscribed to the idea of stopping Croatia in its path to independence fought collectively against Croats in both mind and deed.  

The right-wing opposition in the Parliament, such as Miroslav Skoro’s Patriotic Movement and its MP Stipo Mlinaric Cipe, appears adamant and angry that this new legislation will, as they see it, provide a legal avenue for civilians among the Serb rebels and aggressors to receive compensation for injury they may have sustained during the war even though they were on the aggressor’s side; or their surviving families could benefit if they were killed during aggression against Croatia.

The government on the other hand, vehemently denies that possibility and its Minister for the veterans, Tomo Medved, says that civilian invalids from the Homeland War, as a basic right commensurate with the provision of this new legislation, can receive a personal disability allowance in the range of 114 to 3824 kuna, depending on the status and degree of damage to their body. It is estimated that up to 2,500 new beneficiaries of status rights are in full application of the law, including the disabled and family members of dead and missing civilians,” said Medved, referring to Mlinaric’s claims in which Mlinaric stated that it is shameful that the law is being passed only now to compensate civilian victims, parents of deceased children when it should have been passed a long time ago (as it has been over 25 years since the war ended).

Minister Medved negated Mlinaric’s claims that rebel Serb (aggressors) civilians could under this law be eligible for compensation and said that the law strictly states that members, helpers or associates of enemy military and paramilitary units who took part in the armed aggression against Croatia, as well as members of their families, cannot receive benefits under this law.

But, in fact, it is also true that the law provides that, providing they satisfy the criteria, all Croatian citizens are eligible to receive benefits under this law. So, given that Croatian governments have not bothered to create a register of Croatian Serbs who were engaged in any way in the Serb aggression against Croatia, the real possibility does indeed exist that a Croatian citizen of Serb extraction who engaged in activities of aggression during the 1990’s war could qualify for benefits under this law if he/she lines up the “right” sort of supporting testimonies even if these testimonies may be false statements and nothing more.

Judging from what has been unfolding in Croatia regarding this particular legislation during the week one may well be justified in siding with the Parliamentary opposition, Mlinaric for instance, rather than Minister Medved. Credibility must be given to the opinion that the law is not clear enough to exclude absolutely the possibility of enemy “civilians” receiving benefits under it. I put the word civilian in quotation marks because in the environment of brutal aggression against Croats even Serb civilians engaged in terrorising the Croatian people out of their homes and supported the Serb armed forces and paramilitary in ethnic cleansing and destruction.

If the latter were not the case, then why did the Zagreb-based, pro-communist Yugoslavia, communist crimes apologetics, NGO Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past and the Serbian National Council, which represents the Serb minority in Croatia, feel the need to launch a media campaign last Thursday entitled ‘Justice for Victims’, supporting the government’s plan to pass legislation that will grant benefits to civilian victims of the 1991-95 war. These NGOs and Pupovac do not appear to care about the Croatian victims.

“With this campaign, we want to improve the rights of civilian victims,” Serbian National Council president Milorad Pupovac, who is also an MP, told a press conference.

Pupovac added that for him, all civilian victims of the war, both the Croats who suffered in the besieged town of Vukovar in 1991 and the Serbs targeted after the Croatian Army’s Operation Storm in 1995 are his “brothers and sisters”!

Alarmingly, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and his government did not bat an eyelash at these depraved and disgusting words that Pupovac had uttered. It is obvious that Milorad Pupovac, a leader of the Serb minority in Croatia whose own brothers were active Serb rebels in Croatia who ethnically cleansed, terrorised, raped, mass murdered Croats, is on a path for Croatia to recognise Serbs involved with the aggression and brutalities against Croats be recognised as civilians in terms of this new legislation. By doing that he is placing another nail in the false claim that the war of Serb aggression in Croatia was a civil war, which it was not!   

Some human rights NGOs in Croatia have also come out, pointing out that Serb civilians could have difficulties proving that they did not aid or collaborate with the ‘enemy’. Why would they come out with this if they did not smell the same rat in the new legislation that Mlinaric and the right-wing parliamentary opposition smell!

No doubt about it, this law, if it passes without some additions and changes in line with expressed concerns, may become yet another notch in the string of notches tied to equating the victim with the aggressor, to give more credibility to the false idea that Croatian Homeland War was a civil war.  If it was a civil war then the UN War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague would not have had jurisdiction, nor would it have been created!

The first victim of the Serbian aggression during early to mid 1990’s were the Croats who were removed from 30% of the Croatian territory, their homes and ancestral lands. That territory was not only occupied by the Yugoslav army and the local Serbs and ethnically cleansed of Croats, but in addition Serbs from other parts of Croatia or Bosnia were persuaded to resettle into abandoned Croatian homes in the cleansed territory for the Greater Serbia. Such behaviour escalated national animosities as the aggression spread on and on. It was a gruesome picture for Croats and the law for civilian victim compensation must be tight to ensure that no Serb civilian aiding the Serb military and paramilitary receives any assistance under it. Many Croatian victims of these Serb civilians are known throughout the world as many ended up as refugees settling in Western countries, many have died, and many are now too old to tell of their suffering at the hands of their Serb neighbours and pre-war “friends”. It is therefore the responsibility of both the government and the opposition in Croatia to ensure this law does differentiate strictly between the victim and the aggressor. Ina Vukic

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