Croatia: Cyrillic In Vukovar Reveals Governmental Discord With Democracy

Dr. sc. Slobodan Lang  Screenshot of Croatia's television Program "Theme of the Day" on Vukovar 9 Sept 2013

Dr. sc. Slobodan Lang
Screenshot of Croatia’s television Program
“Theme of the Day” on Vukovar 9 Sept 2013

Croats of Vukovar continue protests against the introduction of bilingual signs on public buildings. The protests are peaceful and messages that the people have made significant advancements in democratic pursuits than the government (led by Zoran Milanovic), or the president of the Republic (Ivo Josipovic) for that matter, become clearer day in and day out.

The Committee or Initiative on the defence of Vukovar has on many an occasion during the past eight or so months emphasised that the issue of bilingual signage in Vukovar is not only an issue of minority rights (in this case Serb minority) as addressed in the Constitution but that the issue has much deeper roots. Indeed, if one pays due attention to the constitutional law on signage one cannot but conclude that it forbids erection of bilingual signs if they cause unrest and expressed intolerance. The people see this, know this and the government and the president of the Republic choose to ignore it. It’s as simple as that and as complicated as that, for, it is in the nature of the people to pursue truth. The truth is on the side of the people protesting the introduction of Cyrillic script on public buildings.

Furthermore, the roots of the issue also stretch deeper – into the question of needed changes in the education model applied to ethnic minority (Serb) in Vukovar.  While the government and the president push for bilingual signage in Vukovar under the pretense that “it’s law and Croatia is a country of rule of law” they at the same time ignore the fact that laws must be interpreted in full, are made from the people and for the people; this ignorance I dare say is a remnant from days of communist totalitarian regime.  Furthermore, the same government and president tolerate segregation in school education in Vukovar! I.e. Serb children attend Serb schools and Croat with other ethnic minority children there attends Croatian schools! This segregation of Serb minority there is not something that was imposed by Croatia’s governments, it is something the Serb ethnic minority has decided for itself, thus creating self-imposed ethnic “ghettoisation” in Vukovar.

Both Zoran Milanovic (Prime Minister) and Ivo Josipovic (President) appear to be lost and floundering in their political rigidity and unwillingness to listen to the people  as they are confronted by the ever increasing numbers of Croatians supporting the initiative to exclude Vukovar from bilingual signage and declare it a place of special piety.

Dr. Slobodan Lang (medical doctor, humanitarian and world renowned peace activist) has even gone further with this plea and suggested on public television, Tema Dana/Theme of the Day program, last Monday 9 September that a special law that could be named “Lex Specialis” for Vukovar should be drafted and passed in parliament. LINK TO THAT TV INTERVIEW
Translated excerpts from HRT “Tema Dana” (Theme of the Day) TV interview with Dr Slobodan Lang on Monday 9 September:

I forbid Serbia to use Ustashe terminology

Question: What is the real truth about Vukovar today?

Dr Slobodan Lang: First of all I pay my respects to all the families of those who perished, all the people who were in concentration camps, all invalids of war, all the women victims of rape, and I thank them for after so much suffering remaining as people with so much dignity.

Also, what I need to say at the beginning, with the fact that a complaint about the behavior in Vukovar has been sent to the Croatian Ambassador in Belgrade, that this complaint has been handed to the ministry and passed onto the EU with a view of promoting Ustashe politics, I forbid Serbia to use such terminology for Croatian parents whose children had perished in Vukovar. And, they should stop playing with terminology such as Ustashe generally, while on the Croatian side there is the need to have understandable concept of dignity, and the Croatian public has the right to know how the Embassy in Belgrade and the ministry of foreign affairs had reacted to that complaint. The people I have mentioned above have been labeled as chauvinists (NOTE: referring to statement by prime minister Zoran Milanovic when speaking of protesters against Cyrillic in Vukovar) and accepted as such in Serbia and radicalized further, and I think that the Prime Minister absolutely must invite the victims of Vukovar and apologise to them.

We find ourselves in the moment just prior to when judgment against Goran Hadzic, indicted for war crimes in Vukovar, is to be delivered and to use such words (chauvinists…) to describe the victims of Vukovar means that those using such words must have a strong sense of power…

Firstly, in 1991, there were attempts to solve the conflict peacefully and this did not succeed. After that Croatian defence arose, and the initial defence was implemented, which was heroic and which took upon itself the dignity of the whole of Croatia and which, after that, transformed into suffering with people taken into concentration camps, raped, pillaged, deportation from Vukovar until 1997. In 1997 when Peaceful reintegration was drawn up, in medical language peaceful reintegration is a kind of first aid and it was to place that area as a part of our country and to include the people in it… this wasn’t considered properly and a world in which children were held segregated was maintained… how can you keep the children separated from each other … who has such a soul to keep the children separated for so many years … how can that be!? You have the situation where you could not enter into the concentration camps in Serbia; where there was no plan formulated as to how to find the missing people; that you are a raped woman and have the first judgment for rape only last week… that we are at the times where the ICTY in The Hague war crimes trials are nearing to an end and there are no Croats convicted there for war crimes. Not only do we have those convicted from Serb side but Mr Babic has apologised to this nation for what had happened and yet Croatian media practically did not mention that as if they have no courage to tell the truth about what the international court in The Hague had confirmed.

The Croatian government considers that knowledge is not necessary, it considers that in matters of economy, in matters of European arrest warrants, in matters of Vukovar … you don’t see that there’s respect of people who have knowledge, to consult with them…

Prime Minister Milanovic, the President Josipovic, the Leader of the Opposition Karamarko are nowhere to be seen where there are discussions and debates … it has not occurred to them to hold a conference or an assembly … we have a government that does not dare say it doesn’t know and through that prevent any opening for people to come into prominence and so it is around Vukovar issue.

We need a gathering of people in the know when it comes to Vukovar in order to properly consider the situation because, that which must be understood, the banning of Cyrillic script championed by Croatian war veterans in fact reflects respect towards the Serbs in Vukovar. That is, that is the position that says: You engage yourselves in making sure that those who committed rape are prosecuted, to find those who are still missing, for the concentration camps to be seen … so, you cannot have the situation where those who belong to an ethnic minority have no responsibility towards the State.  Responsibility for Vukovar is the responsibility of all citizens regardless of which ethnic group they belong to, that is the foundation of Croatia’s existence.

I propose a Special law for Vukovar

Question: we have numerous protests and rallies in Vukovar, we also have the position of rights and responsibilities of ethnic minority, Serb minority in Vukovar, how can Serb minority realize its right to bilingualism, to Cyrillic, while at the same time respecting the truth and dignity of Vukovar’s victims?

Dr. Slobodan Lang: Look, my family perished in Jasenovac (Holocaust), when someone tells me that something is legal and therefore it must be implanted, I hear that Hitler’s racial laws must be implemented because it’s legal to do so. That is an unacceptable backwardness in history… here, when a parent who has lost two children is faced with an explanation that it’s the law … for Vukovar, Dubrovnik and Knin we could talk about the need for a special law, “Lex Specialis”… Vukovar is the place where future of Croatia is to be created … we need to show strength and knowledge there and not to show Vukovar as a place where we lag behind …

to call upon legality without legitimacy is simply not morally permitted.

An assembly of knowledge should be held where academics and other professionals will have the opportunity of expressing their different opinions on the Cyrillc script in Vukovar and we would see how that works as opposed to the behavior of political haughtiness …

I call upon the use of knowledge and finding the truth

Question: … what would the special law on Vukovar you propose contain?

Dr Slobodan Lang: Well look, first of all I would call upon people to talk, I’d promote freedom of speech on the issue, there is no freedom to speak here … how can you come up with a solution … in medicine, how can you prescribe help, therapy if at first you don’t confirm the truth, the diagnosis … if people who can help aren’t allowed to speak, if they don’t speak, if they don’t dare to speak … we have a former university rector for a president but knowledge isn’t used… look, I was first president Franjo Tudjman’s first advisor for the Good… there was not a single idea of his where he had not invited people of knowledge to consult with … so as a citizen I am now requesting a conference, that knowledge receives the right to be used in Croatia regardless of whether it is for unemployment, work, preserving the Adriatic to Vukovar.

Question: How to build new Vukovar when all is in chaos, when everything has stopped, when trenches of hatred are still open, when divisions are large, how are we to come to the truth, to forgiveness, reconciliation and co-existence in Vukovar?

Dr Slobodan Lang:  Permitting the usage of knowledge, with fundamental forms of human dignity we will absolutely go far. I go to Belgrade every year and I speak about peace there, I’m involved in joint health projects this very moment so we need to respect people, politics needs to know that it does not own everything and when it opens itself we will achieve the result.

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