ZAGREB, January 18, 2019 – By posting a video of ethnic Serb secondary school students who did not stand up for the Croatian anthem at a football match played in Vukovar last year on the local government website, Vukovar Mayor Ivan Penava violated the Children’s Wellbeing Act, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Personal Data Act and other laws, further inciting an atmosphere of violence, Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) leader Milorad Pupovac told a press conference in the Croatian parliament on Friday.
Commenting on the case of a student of a Serb-language technical school in Vukovar who had been beaten up by football hooligans, Pupovac said that the problem of violence targeting members of the Serb community and students was not new.
“There are groups, including the one that attacked this student, who resort to violence and who are tolerated in the town. This happened several times over the past year,” Pupovac said.
This incident is the result of the behaviour of that group of football fans being tolerated and the fact that Penava has additionally incited such an atmosphere by marking the Serb students of Nikola Tesla Technical School as people who do not respect Croatia and who are viewed in the context of the SDSS policy of maintaining the continued and, as Penava put it, creeping aggression against Croatia, Pupovac said.
Police said on Thursday that one minor was slightly injured in a fight that broke out at a bus stop in Vukovar on Wednesday, apparently between two rival groups of football fans, one involving two minors and the other three. The person injured was a Serb student of Nikola Tesla Technical School.
Pupovac said he did not believe that the separated Croatian and Serb schools in Vukovar were the problem. “Why is this not happening in Istria where there are also minority schools? Why is this happening in Vukovar? Because there are people who are constantly stoking up an atmosphere of war and who treat and portray any demands by the Serb community for rights that belong to them under the constitution, law and international agreements as an attack on the constitutional order and aggression.”
He said that the failure by the children in question to stand up for the Croatian national anthem could not be regarded as an attack on the constitutional order. “This requires working with those children. The way in which Mayor Penava acted is certainly not the way. As for football fans, national anthems and expectations of how fans should behave in such situations, we’d better not discuss that. When it comes to schools in which one group of children stands up for the national anthem and the other does not, that is a serious problem,” Pupovac said.
Asked to comment on the demand by MP Hrvoje Zekanović that Croatia should block Serbia’s EU accession negotiations, he said: “What if I, as a representative of the SDSS, had demanded that Croatia’s accession to the EU be blocked until all issues concerning the Serbs were resolved, including the issue of Serbs gone missing during the war, prosecution of war crimes, unpaid pensions, demolished housing, Serbs who were driven out during the war and have not returned to their homes? Did I do that? I didn’t. I was among the most active advocates of Croatia’s entry into the EU, and my party and my other colleagues, minority MPs, helped Croatia become an EU member, otherwise Croatia would still be waiting on the EU’s doorstep.”
Pupovac said he would sue Hrvatski Tjednik weekly for running a cover showing him holding the severed head of Ivan Šreter, wartime head of the Western Slavonia crisis management committee who disappeared without a trace after being abducted by Serb rebels in 1991. “Only a twisted and sick mind can implicate me in a murder,” he said.
More news on the status of Serbs in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.