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Fascism and anti-#Serb sentiments in #Croatia

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On 1 May 2020, Croatia’s president Zoran Milanovic left a state ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the reconquest of territories held by rebel Serbs for four years in protest of a Nazi-era salute – writes Willy Fautré, director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

The president’s reaction was prompted by a war veteran who was wearing the emblem ‘For the homeland ready’ (Za Dom Spremni) used by the Ustashi fascists during WWII. Between 1941 and 1945, the Nazi-aligned Ustasha murdered tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Roma. They were known for their particularly brutal and sadistic methods of execution. Despite the connotation of the event, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković decided to stay, which demonstrated the challenges for politicians and society alike when confronted with the fascist past of the country.

The EU is currently developing a policy to support the gradual integration of the Western Balkans, including the accession of Serbia, but at the same time anti-Serb sentiments continue to increase in Croatia.

Dalmatia, a well-known touristic region along the Adriatic Sea, is one area where many Serbs do not feel at home.

An investigation with local Serbs that was carried out by Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) about the situation in Zadar, the main city of Dalmatia after Split, is particularly enlightening. Since 1990, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), a ruling party in Croatia and a member of the European People’s Party (EPP) at the European Parliament, has continuously held the post of mayor of Zadar.

In 2008, Mayor Živko Kolega refused to lay a wreath at a monument for anti-fascists who died during WWII. Anti-fascists in Zadar objected, insisting that local and national authorities were not doing enough to combat the neo-Ustasha ideology. Anti-Serb hostility is a by-product of this fascist political agenda.

One example of how a political ideology has translated into hardship for individuals is the discrimination that Dalibor Močević faced. Močević is a Croatian citizen of Serbian descent who spoke to HRWF about the challenges he faced in receiving fair treatment by various administrations and the judiciary of Zadar.

From his birth in 1972 until 1994, Močević lived in an apartment in Zadar that belonged to his father. In 1992, his father died as a victim of the war in Bosnia after being placed in a sanatorium.

In 1993, Močević, who was employed by a merchant shipping company, returned from a one-year trip on foreign seas. He discovered that his house, which jointly belonged to him and his elderly mother, had been confiscated by the authorities and given to Croatian refugees who had been displaced by the war. After 15 years of judicial proceedings and conflicting decisions from the Zadar Municipal Court and Zadar County Court, Močević was deprived of his property rights. In 2010, he appealed this decision at the Supreme Court and then at the Constitutional Court, but to no avail.

In 2009, his mother died under suspicious circumstances. Močević requested access to a number of medical reports from the General Hospital in Zadar, which he is entitled by law, but his request was denied. He filed a complaint against the Ministry of Health but received no reply. Močević sent another complaint to the County Prosecutors Office in Zadar requesting an investigation based on his suspicions, but no criminal investigation was ever initiated.

Additionally, the second husband of his late mother, A. Radetić, who was friendly with some politicians that had dubious pasts, illegally took Močević’s inheritance. In 2017, the Constitutional Court rejected Močević’s complaint. Močević felt discriminated against because of the general anti-Serbian hostility that has persisted since the collapse of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. On 2 May 1991, during one of the many clashes between Croats and Serbs, Radetić’s uncle was part of a Croatian mob that ransacked over a hundred shops of Serbian companies and businesses and destroyed hundreds of Serb houses in Zadar. The police passively watched these violent incidents without interfering.

In another case concerning his divorce, Močević was denied custody of his young son despite the fact that he had been taken from his ex-wife by the local Center for Social Welfare because of her persistent alcoholism and psychiatric problems.

Močević asserts that he was repeatedly denied justice in these instances because of his Serb origin. His lawyer shares the view that Serbs in Croatia are discriminated against due to various personal or institutional collusions between a number of judges, political figures and extreme nationalists.

The President of Croatia did well to withdraw from a ceremony that had some fascist connotations, but there is still a long way to go before anti-Serb sentiments are eradicated entirely. The wars between 1991 to 2001 which led to the breakup of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the current frontiers between newly established states left wounds at individual, societal and institutional levels. These urgently need to be healed for the wellbeing of all Croatian citizens and so as to allow successful integration of the seven Western Balkan states into the EU.

Willy Fautré is director of Human Rights Without Frontiers

 

coronavirus

#Coronavirus response: €135 million of Cohesion policy to strengthen the health sector and support the economy in Croatia

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The Commission has approved the modification of the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Cohesion in Croatia redirecting almost €135 million of Cohesion policy funding to help the country tackle the effects of the coronavirus crisis. In particular, €50m of EU funds will serve to purchase medical and protective equipment for over 1200 hospitals, other health institutions and elderly homes, while Croatian SMEs will benefit from almost €85m for continuing their operations and saving employment.

In addition, the programme will temporarily benefit from 100% co-financing from the EU budget. Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira said: “Cohesion policy is playing an important role in the response to the pandemic and prompting a sustainable way to recovery. Thanks to the joint and swift efforts of the Croatian authorities and the Commission, these resources are providing much needed relief and support to the country's health sector and economy.”

The modifications are possible thanks to the exceptional flexibility under the Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative (CRII) and Coronavirus Response Investment Initiative Plus (CRII+), which allow member states to use Cohesion policy funding to support the sectors most exposed to the pandemic and its economic consequences, such as health care, SMEs and labour markets. More information is available here.

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Croatia

MEP protests with Croatian farmers

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Ivan Vilibor Sinčić MEP held a protest with Croatian farmers in front of the Government building today (10 SEptember) Sinčić and his sympathizers brought a van full of watermelons in front of the government building, which they threw in front of the entrance to the building. We remind you that farmers decided to protest due to, as they say, the unequal position of Croatian farmers on the market.

Sincic, who climbed on the roof of the van, warned that the broken watermelons represent "hundreds of thousands of other watermelons and other fruits and vegetables that will be plowed or destroyed this year" because imported products, often of lower quality, have flooded the Croatian market and systematically destroyed domestic production.

"Fairy tales that we hear on television from the Minister of Agriculture and earlier from the former Minister of Agriculture and various other ministers do not work in practice," Sincic said.

The protest could not be avoided even by the ministers who started arriving before the government session.

"We call you to urge for us farmers. Only Croatia is doing nothing, all other countries are protecting their producers," protester Marina Galovic told Finance Minister Zdravko Maric.

She offered the minister a watermelon, but Maric refused.

"The minister did not want to take the watermelon. Taxes and contributions were paid on that watermelon. I guess out of humiliation. You eat what we produce and you humiliate us. It's not just us, it applies to all industries," the indignant protester said after the meeting with the minister.

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#Coronavirus - Germany issues travel warning for parts of Croatia

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Germany issued a warning against travel to parts of Croatia on Thursday (20 August) as Europe’s largest economy battles to contain a rising number of coronavirus cases during the summer season, write Caroline Copley, Michael Nienaber and Andreas Rinke in Berlin.

The German foreign ministry advised against travel to the regions of Sibenik-Knin and Split Dalmatia, which are popular with tourists, after the public health agency declared them coronavirus risk regions, making tests for returnees mandatory.

The number of new cases in Germany has been rising steadily since early July and has accelerated in recent weeks. On Thursday, the number of confirmed cases climbed by 1,707 to 228,621, marking their biggest daily increase since April 26.

Imported cases of the coronavirus have risen to 39% of overall new infections in Germany this week, up from around 30% last week.

Croatia is the source of the third-highest number of infections among people returning to Germany, after Kosovo and Turkey, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

Concern is growing that people may be getting infected while visiting family members in those countries.

Davor Bozinovic, Croatia’s interior minister, said a ban on nightclubs staying open beyond midnight would likely be extended and added: “Less than 1% of tourists got infected (in Croatia).”

Statistics from the health ministry in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state and hit relatively hard by the pandemic, found more than a third of returnees who tested positive for coronavirus between July 1 and Aug. 16 came from Kosovo, with Turkey in second place at almost 20%.

Those returning from more traditional holiday countries, such as Spain and Greece, made up just 2.5% and 0.5% of positive cases in the state, respectively.

Germany also urged people not to travel to the Valcea region of Romania, but removed a warning for the regions of Ialomita, Mehedinti and Timis. It also lifted a travel warning for Luxembourg.

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