Milanovic: Referendum on Cyrillic a disgrace
BRUSSELS/ZAGREB - Croatia's Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said on Friday that the Croatian parliament (Sabor) should make a decision on the initiative to call a referendum on the use of the Serbian Cyrillic script in this country.
"I think that this referendum is a disgrace. The same opinion was voiced here in the European Union, that is, in the European Parliament, when the initiative by Biljana Borzan (a Croatian member of the European Parliament) was even supported by several prominent representatives of the National Democratic Party of Germany", said Milanovic.
“This was a clear message to their friends in Croatia about the European values and about barbaric behavior,” Milanovic stressed in a statement reported by the Zagreb-based daily Vecernji list.
Members of the European Parliament wrote a letter to the Croatian public last month, warning that the campaign against the use of the Cyrillic alphabet in Croatia is "absurd and, above all, dangerous for Croatia and the EU."
"We want to send a strong message to the Croatian public, organizers and supporters of this unjust and dangerous initiative," said the signatories of the letter - 74 MEPs from 19 countries.
The anti-Cyrillic campaign has been led in Croatia since September last year, with the opponents of the official use of the Cyrillic script damaging bilingual signs on public institution buildings in cities where the Serbs make up more than one-third of the population.
Spearheading the campaign are the war veterans in Vukovar who launched an initiative to call a referendum on the use of the Serbian language and script, which was supported by 700,000 people across Croatia.
They demand a change to the Constitutional Law, which currently allows members of the national minorities to use their own language and script in municipalities and cities where they account for more than 30 percent of the population.
The opponents of the use of the Serbian language and script in Croatia demand that this baseline be increased to 50 percent.
The initiative to call a referendum and obtain the opinion of citizens on the use of the Cyrillic script in municipalities and cities where the Serbs make up a majority of the population has been submitted to Sabor, but a debate on this issue has not been held yet.
Cyrillic plate daubed in Pula
PULA - A Cyrillic plate on the Serb Minority Council building in the Croatian town of Pula was daubed with spray paint on Orthodox Christmas Eve, Croatian media have reported.
The police, who are looking for the perpetrators, established that the act was committed between 5 pm on January 6 and 12.40 am on January 7, when a police officer on duty in the area noticed that the Cyrillic plate on the building of the Serb Minority Council was daubed, the Hina news agency reported.
Criminal damage charges have been filed with the state prosecutor's office against the unknown perpetrators, Natasa Vitasovic, the spokeswoman of the police administration of the Istrian region, told the agency on Tuesday.
This is the first such incident in Istria, the agency said.
Letter to Pope on ban on official use of Cyrillic in Croatia
ZAGREB - Representatives of the non-governmental sector in Croatia addressed a letter to Pope Francis, voicing concern about the stances of Cardinal Josip Bozanic and several bishops concerning the bilingual signs in Vukovar, Croatian media reported.
In the letter to the head of the Roman Catholic Church, NGOs underline that Cardinal Bozanic and several bishops publicly demonstrated their opposition to bilingualism in Vukovar, using certain phrases in their public statements that in no way contribute to peace and reconciliation, but rather lead to further deepening of conflicts.
Representatives of the civic sector called on the Pope to send a message of Christian hope and peace to the Croatian society, bishops in particular.
Marina Skrabalo, a senior consultant at the Gong association, explained the motivation behind the letter, saying that NGOs noted that messages of hate and acts of violence against Serbs in Croatia have been occurring more and more frequently, and stressed that no initiative for reconciliation and dialogue came from church circles.
Since September, war veterans in Vukovar have led a campaign against the installment of bilingual signs, to which Serbs are entitled under the Law on the Protection of Minority Rights that guarantees this to a minority that makes up over 30 percent of a town's population.
War veterans and their Headquarters for the Defense of Croatian Vukovar are fiercely opposing the official use of the Serb, Cyrillic script, so they and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) launched an initiative and managed to change the town's charter, so the Cyrillic script was declared non grata.
Serbs in Vukovar turned to the Constitutional Court, asking for protection from such a decision, as the 2011 census showed that citizens of Serb nationality account for over 35 percent of the town's population.
Bosa Prodanovic, charge d' affaires at the Serbian Embassy in Zagreb, voiced a strong protest to Croatia's Assistant Foreign Minister Zeljko Kupresak on Friday, November 15, over more frequent incidents targeting Serbia and Serbs in Croatia.
It has been made clear to the Croatian side that the latest attacks on the Serbian Consulate-General in Rijeka, the posting of an anti-Serb placard titled “the Serb family tree” showing hanged Serbs, graffiti on Serb houses that call on Serbs to leave Croatia, and the overall anti-Serb campaign over the installment of bilateral signs in Vukovar are unacceptable and give cause for concern, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a release.
These incidents and hate speech against the Serb community in Croatia are, unfortunately, the most evident illustration of difficult conditions in which Serbs in Croatia live, the release reads.
11/5/2013 1:34:00 PM
Bilingual plate removed in Varazdin, no Cyrillics in Vukovar VARAZDIN - The bilingual plate set up on the building of the Council of the Serbian National Minority in Varazdin has been removed.
The plate in the Latin and Cyrillic scripts was taken off by an unidentified person on Sunday afternoon, confirmed Varazdin police spokesperson Marina Kolaric.
Mile Sekulic, President of the Council of the Serbian National Minority, told Hina that the Council was appalled by this event. He stressed that although the Croats constitute 98 percent of the population in Varazdin, it has always been considered an open and multethnic community.
About 380 members of the Serb national minority live in Varazdin.
A bilingual plate was also removed from the Serbian National Minority Council building in Osijek ten days ago, but it was reinstated soon after.
Forced removal of bilingual plates started in Vukovar in early September, immediately after they were placed, when the Headquarters for the Defense of Croatian Vukovar staged protests. The removal of plates continued, and the police kept putting them back.
In the meantime, the opponents of the Cyrillic script organized talks with Croatia's Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic, but no agreement was reached.
The Headquarters demanded that Vukovar be exempt from the implementation of the Law on National Minority Rights and declared a place of special reverence, while Milanovic and his cabinet insisted on implementation of the law according to which the Serbs are entitled to public use of the Cyrillic script, as they constitute more than 30 percent of the city's population.
The Headquarters succeeded in its intention on Monday, when the Vukovar City Council accepted amendments to the Statute declaring the city area as a “place of special reverence for sacrifices in the Homeland War“, reaffirming Croatian as the official language and Latin as the official script in Vukovar.
Changes to the Statute were brought about by votes of council members from the ranks of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the Croatian Party of Rights dr. Ante Starcevic (HSPAS), and one independent council member.
9/9/2013 3:35:00 PM
EU will not interfere in conflict in Vukovar
BRUSSELS - The EU has no intention of interfering in the conflict concerning Cyrillic plates in Vukovar, eastern Croatia, which is home to a considerable Serb population, spokesman of the European Directorate for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth Dennis Abbott told Tanjug on Monday.
When asked to comment on the situation in Vukovar where protesters are preventing the installation of plates with Latin and Cyrillic scripts as envisaged in the law, Abbott recalled that respect for cultural diversity and rights of minorities is built in the fundamental documents of the EU, but member countries hold jurisdiction over the matter.
Abbott compared the situation in Vukovar to the linguistic conflict between Flanders and Walloonia, which has been burdening Belgium for quite a while.
It would not be good for Belgium to interfere in the conflicts in Belgium and it will not interfere in similar conflicts in Croatia either, he said.
Croatia became a member of the EU on July 1.