The leader of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) and member of the Croatian Parliament, Milorad Pupovac, said on Sunday that although the political situation in Croatia was chaotic, he would not make things difficult for his coalition partner, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, and would continue to support everything that was worth support
"We support everything we think is worth supporting. If we withdrew from the government, there would be chaos," Pupovac said in an interview with the N1 commercial television channel.
Asked what he thought of an early election, he said: "If the situation becomes such as to make the normal functioning of government impossible, we will be the first to say: Thanks, but we won't carry on."
"The political situation in the country is chaotic. Will you judge us for trying to prevent chaos and disorder? You can. How long will the government last will be decided by Andrej Plenkovic and the ruling majority? We're not afraid to say to some enough is enough," he added.
Pupovac noted that the SDSS had opted for the policy of cooperation to preserve the achievements of the post-war peaceful reintegration of the country, which "made Croatia a state in the full sense of the word," but "these achievements have been questioned lately."
"Peace and trust had reached a certain point five years ago when they started to be undermined," he said, citing protests against the use of dual-alphabet (Latin and Cyrillic) signs on government buildings in Vukovar and recent protests for failure to prosecute war crimes committed during the 1991-1995 war of independence.
Pupovac said it would be no problem for him to write to the European Commission to see whether the provisions of the Croatian EU accession treaty had been violated or write to the UN, Council of Europe and Organisation for Security and Cooperation Europe to inform them that the rights of ethnic minorities were being violated. "We will certainly do something about it," he stressed.
Speaking of a video showing Serb students of a Vukovar secondary school not standing up for the Croatian national anthem at a local football match, which was released on the local government website by mayor Ivan Penava, Pupovac criticised the mayor for shifting the blame onto the SDSS and using children for showdowns between political parties.
"Penava is using this to settle accounts with those with whom he disagrees politically, and that is my party and is putting children at a huge risk of conflict between children of different ethnic backgrounds," the SDSS leader said.
"I wouldn't want anyone to use the state institutions to change the nature of what happened. And what happened is that five youths, four of them wearing balaclavas, assaulted two youths. One of them received a blow, fell to the ground, his eye was cut, and he was in danger of sustaining serious injuries. To shift the blame for this onto the SDSS, as mayor Penava did, is typical of people with bad intentions and a bad conscience, as is obviously the case with Mr Penava," Pupovac warned.
Asked if he would ask his coalition partner, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, to impose sanctions on the Vukovar mayor, Pupovac said: The relationship between our parties is not such that we would give them conditions as to what to do in politics."
"Things are clear here, the laws and international conventions have been breached. You have heard the opinions of the ombudspersons, and we hope that the State Attorney's Office will also investigate whether the criminal code was violated. Our constitution prevents incitement to hatred and violence. The constitution prevents children from being put in situations such as the one in which Mr Penava put them," Pupovac said.
He said he was in favour of "fostering constitutional patriotism for all citizens, Croats, Serbs, Italians." "Such patriotism concerns not just the national anthem, but also compliance with the law," he said.
"In eastern Slavonia, we have good cooperation with most people. We know what Vukovar is. It belongs neither to the Croats nor to the Serbs, but to Penava and his clique. They have appropriated Vukovar. The prime minister is aware of what is going on and that this is directed against the children, SDSS, HDZ and his policy. We will not be making the prime minister's work more difficult," Pupovac said.
Speaking of the issue of missing persons from the 1991-1995 war, he said that this issue had so far been used primarily as "a means of political blackmail rather than to establish the fate of missing persons."
"There are ethnic Serbs who went missing. Why is this not mentioned? Why is no one speaking about Serbs who went missing, were killed or expelled, about devastated Serb villages. I'm not rubbing anyone's nose in this, but I want it to be known. If we continue rubbing people's noses in this, it will be a war without end," he said.
On the subject of ethnic minorities, Pupovac said that "every country, including Serbia, must fulfil the necessary criteria" and "if there is information about missing persons, then it must be made available and exchanged."
"Instead of discussing in Parliament what we have achieved since joining the EU, how we have positioned ourselves, how influential we are, how much funding we have absorbed, all of a sudden it has become very important to us to fight with representatives of the Serbs in Croatia who made it possible for us to become an EU member. Instead of dealing with issues with Serbia, all of a sudden nothing is important to us any more. If we can benefit from blocking Serbia (in its EU accession process), we raise the issue of missing persons," Pupovac concluded.