New war of words between Croatia and Serbia.
Croatian Interior Minister Vlaho Orepić gave an interview on Saturday to Večernji List in which he discussed activities undertaken during his term in office, upcoming parliamentary elections and other issues. One of the topics was the Minister’s initiative to erase so-called imaginary inhabitants from voting registers. According to the Minister, there are about 50,000 people who are officially registered as living in Croatia, but in reality they live abroad and therefore should not be able to vote in the elections and should not be taken into account when ethnic composition of certain areas is being determined, report Večernji List and N1 on August 13, 2016.
This is especially important for the town of Vukovar, where Serbs currently officially make more than 30 percent of the population, which means that, according to the law, all signs on official government buildings must be written in both Croatian and Serbian language, as well as in Latin and Cyrillic script. This has caused numerous violent protests by some Croatian veterans’ organizations who claim that the real number of Serbs living there is much lower than the official one, and that therefore no Cyrillic signs should be put at the entrances to government buildings. They also claim that Vukovar, as a town in which large-scale atrocities were committed by Serb rebels during the Homeland War, should be exempt from the law altogether.
In the interview, the Minister was asked whether his initiative could change the official ethnic composition of Vukovar. “No one wants to tell the truth, but I think that already at this point, if we were to erase all imaginary residents, the Serbian minority in Vukovar would fall below the 30 percent threshold. If that is the sole basis for the use of Cyrillic script in Vukovar, after this initiative that basis will no longer exist. The Serbian minority has manipulated with illegal residence registration.”
Soon after the interview was published, Serbian Interior Minister Nebojša Stefanović gave his reaction. He said that Orepić’s statement was scandalous, and that Croatian minister “in every way possible is trying to deny the right to language and script to even a small number of Serbs who have not yet been expelled from Croatia”.
“The desire to find any reason, no matter how false and absurd it is, so that the Serb people in Croatia could be denied their guaranteed human rights, the right to language and script and a life without fear of repression from state bodies, only demonstrates that Croatian leadership does not understand European values. They do not understand what is a struggle for equality and the rule of law”, said Stefanović.