Croatia: No-Serbian Cyrillic On Public Buildings Gains Meritorious Momentum

Tomislav Josic,  Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

Tomislav Josic,
Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar
Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

The Croatian parliament had July 15 decided to hand the sensitive matter of whether or not to hold a referendum against the use of the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet on state offices in the city of Vukovar to the Constitutional Court.

Referendum supporters say that Cyrillic symbolically represents the utter terror and the horror inflicted upon innocent Croats in Vukovar as they went about seceding from communist Yugoslavia, seeking through democratic peaceful processes their freedom and democracy. The government (whose political predecessors, although a minority, did not want to secede from communist Yugoslavia) evidently has little or no empathy with the suffering of the Croatian people at the hands of Serb aggressor has after months of the parliamentary committee’s dragging out signature verifications objected to the referendum, calling it uncivilized and in violation of the country’s international obligations. It will now be up to the Constitutional Court to decide.

Vukovar, as the world already knows, is a city devastated to the ground through Serb aggression, ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs, mass murders and mass rapes during the war for Croatian independence in 1991. In November/December 2013 the group of Croatian citizens consisting mainly of war veterans “Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar” after a series of protests against bilingual signs on public buildings in Vukovar, which included the tearing down of these and consequent unrests and arrest as well as violent attacks against the protesters by members of the police, collected over 600,000 signatures for a referendum aiming to raise to 50% (compared with 33% under the current law), the minimum level for minority groups living in a city or a municipality to enjoy the right to bilingualism on public buildings, institutions. The “Committee for the defence of Croatian Vukovar” group and its many supporters want the city that suffered the most in the war (Vukovar) to be declared a place of special piety.

The Committee’s member and legal adviser, Vlado Iljkic, said last week “with the referendum question we are returning to the standards that were in the Constitutional law regarding minority rights when its application did not create opposition and problems, i.e. it was not detrimental”. He added that minorities realised their rights then based on the Constitutional law based on discretionary powers of local government such as was the case for Czechs in the town of Daruvar and based on international agreements such as for the Italians in Istria.

Expressing fear that pressure had been mounting on the Constitutional Court to declare the referendum question unconstitutional, the Committee for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar leader Tomislav Josic said this week that the referendum question was in line with the constitution and did not encroach on the rights which local Serbs had so far exercised.

If the Constitutional Court finds the referendum question on bilingualism in local communities contrary to the Croatian Constitution, activists who launched the referendum initiative will address the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg, leaders of the “Committee for the Defence of the Croatian Vukovar”, said at a news conference in Vukovar on Thursday 24 July.

The Committee’s leader, Tomislav Josic, explained that in Croatia, ethnic minorities could exercise their rights in compliance with three sets of rules: the constitutional law on minority rights, local government statutes and international treaties.

I expect the Constitutional Court to allow the referendum question, and then let the people of Croatia decide on the matter at the referendum,” Josic said.

Although the Vukovar Committee holds that the survey question was incorrectly formulated, the recent survey (March – May 2014) conducted by the Ivo Pilar Institute shows that a majority of the Croatians would vote against raising the threshold from the current one third requirement to over 50% for enabling minorities to use their language and scrip at public places.
However, when it comes to Vukovar, a marked majority of the respondents, or nearly two thirds (64.4%), are against Cyrillic signs on public institutions in Vukovar.
Also, 38.3% of those polled believe that Vukovar should be permanently exempt from dual-alphabet signs, and 26.1% hold that more time is needed before such a move.

The above Ivo Pilar Institute research clearly demonstrates that people of Croatia are overwhelmingly aware of the need to address Vukovar as the city that is the victim and symbol to be remembered of brutal Serb aggression. It’s a pity that the government doesn’t recognise, or rather – accept, the pulse of the nation it governs. There is absolutely nothing uncivilised about the plights for justice for the victims and the memory humanity owes them regardless of the fact that the Croatian bizarrely out of touch government would like to argue differently. Any international obligations a country “owes” to a civilised world is to uphold the will of the majority of its people while upholding rights of minorities to a degree that does not threaten sovereignty, its sovereign rights and duties to abide by the will of its people and to respect the memory that shapes its nation. Once those aspects are in place everything else can follow, including reconciliation of the past. I trust that the Croatian Constitutional court will reiterate such rights and obligations towards Croatian people and rule the referendum question valid. Indeed, if one digs into the arrangements for ethnic minority rights within leading EU Western European member states one can easily come to the conclusion that newer member states from Eastern and South Eastern Europe are “forced” to adhere to standards regarding minorities the “old” member states do not meet, nor are – to my knowledge – contemplating on meeting. The Ivo Pilar Institute survey on referendum regarding Serbian Cyrillic script in Vukovar has given unquestionable merit to the pursuits for Vukovar’s victims’ justice led by the Committee for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar. It is no longer a matter of the Committee and its supporters but a matter considered worthy across Croatia and this is a most timely message for the Constitutional Court that was founded on the blood of Victims of Vukovar – of Croatia! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: Greater Serbia Agenda Gets Personal Again – A Diplomatic Offensive

Flag of Croatia Photo: Vjeran Zganec-Rogulja/Pixsell

Flag of Croatia
Photo: Vjeran Zganec-Rogulja/Pixsell

It must never be forgotten that Serbia and Serbs who participated in the aggression, mass murder, ethnic cleansing, rape, wanton destruction… against Croatia in the early 1990’s have come to justify and excuse these war crimes with what their politicians called “fear that Croats, once Croatia secedes from communist Yugoslavia, would kill Serbs in Croatia just as they did during World War II”!

In this, those Serbs that voiced such excuses and justification of the unjustifiable had no qualms about pinning onto innocent grandchildren the crimes of grandfathers, great-grandfathers… That, after all, is recognised as a part of Greater Serbia agenda.  Creating fear where there is no justification for that, is another. I am certain Serbia is well aware of the political make-up and the opposition, and those multitudes that didn’t want a bar of either Ustashe or Communists, in Croatia during WWII and that a blanket accusation against the whole nation simply has no grounds in fact.

Serbia is at it again!

It is doing its best to paint Croats and Croatia as anti-Serb even using individual incidents of anti-Serb graffiti as examples of their alleged pan-Croatian anti-Serb sentiment. What kind of a country would make such allegations when it is entirely possible that individual Serbs living in Croatia could have written/drawn the graffiti on walls? Perhaps individual Croats did it; perhaps individual Serbs did it? As to the tearing down of bilingual signage in Vukovar, these actions have been done in public, out in the open and the reason for that given: to work on the path that Vukovar becomes a special place of piety – to honour the victims of Serb aggression and their right to a dignified rehabilitation and remembrance all until the remains of every last of the almost 1,700 still missing Croats from the war are located. Indeed there’s a current move to have a referendum on the matter of bilingual signage etc. Belgrade, Serbia, does not care much about the legal and democratic expression of opinion on that matter in Croatia.
A few days ago, the Serbian foreign ministry sent to all countries where it has diplomatic representations, a document with “accusations” against Croatia of violations of the rights of the Serb minority in the country. The list with the alleged Zagreb’s violations consists of 14 points in the so-called non-paper:
•    “On 13 August 2013, a monument to Serb victims killed in the war of 1991-1995 was demolished in the village of Golubic, near the town of Knin;
•    On 2 September 2013, signs containing bilingual inscription, both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, displayed on the buildings of Tax Administration and Police in Vukovar, were torn down by large groups of people in broad daylight and in the presence of police forces;
•    On the night of 2-3 September, a graffiti “Srbe na vrbe” (Hang the Serbs) appeared on the wall of Dubrovnik Orthodox Church, which has clear connotations relating to the World War II period and was actually the call for genocide committed against the Serb population in the Independent State of Croatia at the time;
•    On 8 September 2013, in village of Mirkovci, an Ustasha graffiti “Ubij Srbina” (Kill the Serb) was written on the wall of the football stadium;
•    On 19 October 2013, a bilingual sign was removed from State Administration Office in Vukovar in similar circumstance as during the aforementioned occurrence;
•    On 22 October 2013, unidentified perpetrators removed for the second time the bilingual sign from the building of Croatian Employment Office in Vukovar (all of the above events of tearing down of bilingual signs in Vukovar were documented by Croatian state and other TV stations and other media and the perpetrators are easily identifiable);
•      On 3 November 2013, the bilingual sign on the offices of the Serbian National Minority Council in Varazdin was torn down;
•    On 4 November, the Vukovar City Council adopted a decision whereby the Cyrillic script was to be no longer considered as official script in this city (an act that runs in direct contravention to Croatian state legislature and Government decisions);
•    On 6 November 2013, a poster “Serbian Family Tree” was placed at Ban Jelacic Square in Zagreb, containing a graphic presentation of a tree with human bodies hanged from its branches;
•    On 8 November 2013, a graffiti “Srbine iseli se” (Serb, move out) was written on the family house of a Serb from Vukovar;
•    On the night of 8-9 November 2013, the official sign with the inscription of the Consulate General of Republic of Serbia in Rijeka was damaged and a window was broken on the building;
•    On 12 November 2013 the bilingual sign on the building of the office of Council of Serb National Minority of city of Osijek was painted over;
•    On 12 November 2013 the bilingual sign on the Police station building in Vukovar was broken;
•    On 19 November 2013 a footballer from the Croatian soccer representation grabbed hold of a microphone at the qualifying World cup match with Iceland and greeted the public with the notorious Ustashe greeting “For home ready” (the Ustashe regime was a marionette regime of the German Nazi regime during World War II), which found support and approval from more than 30,000 spectators who joined in the chanting (that case is being investigated by FIFA and potentially the Croatian authorities). This event sparked a widespread fear among Serbs”.
So, according to Belgrade, the anti-Serb incidents have increased recently and have even turned into an anti-Serb campaign in Croatia!

Belgrade it would seem, has even counted every single one of the 30,000 spectators at the soccer match on 19 November who had chanted the alleged Ustashe greeting. Not 5,000 or 10,000 …but the whole lot! How maliciously false! Furthermore, Belgrade is not concerned with the fact that such a greeting has existed centuries before WWII and by WWII it had become ingrained in Croatian tradition as a greeting with positive connotations; but because WWII Ustashe had borrowed a version of that historic greeting Belgrade prefers to refer to WWII because it suits it – it suits the Greater Serbia agenda.

Belgrade, official Serbia does not care that many of the anti-Serb incidents it mentions in its “non-paper” sent to all diplomatic missions it has relations with, could have been perpetrated by Serbs living or visiting Croatia, not Croats! Serbia it seems does not care much for regard for justice in such matters.
To the defence of the Croatian efforts on ethnic minority rights there are several important dates from the past. In 1997, the Croatian government ratified the convention on protection of national minorities as well as the European provisions for regional and minority languages. In 2002 a constitutional law was adopted on the rights of national minorities (which now appears at disparity with the EU one, e.g. EU has 50% benchmark for introduction of bilingual signs and Croatia has 30%). In addition, there is a law in Croatia that allows minorities to study in their mother tongue and writing. On national TV and radio there are also programmes in the languages of Croatia’s minorities and the council on national minorities meets regularly and often reviews whether the provisions related to public media are implemented. Vukovar has Serbian schools. 133,000 members of ethnic national minorities/war refugees, most of which are of Serb nationality have returned to Croatia. Since the 1990’s war Croatia has spent 5.5 Billion Euros from its budget on this and renovated by war destroyed houses and homes. I’d like to see how much Serbia has contributed given that it joined into the destruction via its control over the Yugoslav Peoples Army. The money Croatia has spent was spent on restoration of destructed homes, infrastructure, removal of landmines and affect some 150 000 homes and properties. 120 million euros are planned to be spent both from the Croatian budget and the EU funds, 90% of which will be spent on securing housing for 3 541 families who have housing rights in their capacity of refugees. 40 000 people in Serbia receive pensions from the Croatian budget.
Well now!
In Serbia, the Croat minority has nowhere near the same rights as Serbs have in Croatia.

In Croatia, minorities have representatives in parliament. They are eight, three of whom are Serb MPs. Something that has not happened yet in Serbia. Croatian kids in Serbia’s schools have still not received textbooks in Croatian language.

From where I am standing and given the fact that Croatia had suffered immensely from the war of Serb aggression, Croatia is doing very well in attending to reparations and ethnic minority rights when compared to developed countries.

Serbia’s “diplomatic offensive” apparently caught official Zagreb by surprise – both the government and the opposition! Why! Have those in power in Croatia not have had ample time to analyze the political craftiness of Greater Serbia agenda, which stoops into all grubby and grubbiest gutters in order to achieve its goal? Or, are the pro-Communists governing Croatia in on this trail of belittling and destroying all that Croats fought for: freedom and democracy?

An additional reason that may exist for this “diplomatic offensive” by Serbia against Croatia could be associated with Serbia’s sights on joining the EU. With this “diplomatic offensive” Serbia may be trying to carve a platform whereby it would not be required to make drastic changes to many of its laws including those that currently place Serbia as a leading country for human trafficking in the region, if it can weave a web of unwelcome incidents in Croatia (an EU member state) that are not being controlled by the government (?).

But of course, anyone who has paid even a little attention to the work of SANU (Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences) will see that this folio of Serbia’s latest “diplomatic offensive” reads like a SANU memorandum, which would have as one of its main goals the reduction in the eyes of the world of Serbia’s guilt in the genocide it ignited and took part in on Croatia’s and Bosnia and Herzegovina territories.  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

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