President: Croatia’s journey was difficult, didn’t get anything for free

NEWS 05.08.2022 16:22
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Source: Davor Puklavec/PIXSELL

Croatia had a difficult journey and did not get anything for free, President Zoran Milanovic said on Friday, in an address at the central ceremony marking Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and War Veterans Day, with his speech focusing on the status of Croats in BiH and the 1995 exodus of Croatian Serbs.

“Croatia had a difficult journey and did not get anything for free, but at a high price, with high interest. We were aware that this country was important only to us, that we were the only ones to really care about it and that everyone else was just an observer,” Milanovic said in his address at the central event celebrating Victory Day in Knin.

‘Croats in Bosnia are disenfranchised’

Speaking of the status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milanovic said that almost 30 years of waiting, working, trying to negotiate, fighting, futile beliefs, disappointment and anger, including moments of despair, had passed.

“That Croatia is a guarantor and signatory of the Dayton peace agreement needs to constantly reiterated, but that is not enough. The people who gave their lives and health for Croatia expected more – they expected our country to also be an instrument to achieve our goals and just aspirations and to use it whenever necessary,” he said.

“The Croat people in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not only disenfranchised, but they are insulted, and the people who led this country are also insulted, while Croatia is portrayed as the originator of a joint criminal enterprise. This is being done by the same people who received the highest decorations from Croatia and its presidents for cooperation in the war,” Milanovic said.

One uses the opportunity to do harm to the weaker ones, to disenfranchise them. We have seen this many times in our history, and Croatia has to oppose that, he said.

“Our country is not a passive observer, it is an active member of the international community. We did not join the EU and NATO to be happy beneficiaries of European funds, but to use our state and the instruments available to it for our own interest, including to defy those who want to devalue us,” said Milanovic.

‘Croatian Serb exodus due to short-sightedness, arrogance of those who refused  Z4 plan’

Speaking of Operation Storm and the exodus of Croatian Serbs, Milanovic said that it was indeed a human tragedy but that it was preceded by “the greed and stupidity of the power-holders from Belgrade, the short-sightedness and arrogance of those who in the days ahead of Operation Storm did not want to agree to the Z4 peace plan.”

He noted that the international community’s plan was not favourable for Croatia, yet the Croatian leadership was ready to accept it at the end of July 1995, even though the move would have been criticised.

Operation Storm was a great risk even though today it looks simple and routine, but it should be known that the Croatian army at the time did not have ammunition for more than two weeks of combat and had to act quickly and save people in the conditions of an international embargo and constant fear from sanctions, he said.

“That’s why today, when I listen to lies about Croatia having some sort of plans or an agenda in Bosnia and Herzegovina, I want to make things clear. The Croatian army did not facilitate the Dayton agreement, that agreement would never have happened without the Croatian army,” said Milanovic.

He recalled that the Bosnian Serb army did not surrender, but was crushed by the Croatian army. “Not only have we not even been thanked for that but to this day we have been suspected of being occupiers and having bad intentions.”

The Dayton agreement is an agreement on the division of power and authority which, as a pledge of peace and an end to war, legally and politically defined who gets what with painstaking precision, he said.

‘Croatia is no longer hostage to anything’

“Today, that is being shamelessly devalued and we must oppose that. We are doing that by peaceful means, in a civilised but vocal way,” he said, adding that the arguments and instruments are on Croatia’s side and that Croatian rights must be respected.

Milanovic pointed out that Croatia has its obligations and must invest in the army, whose task is to defend the homeland. “The older, more experienced, more cautious I am, the more inclined I am to interpret that task as conservatively as possible – the closer to home, the better,” he added.

He recalled that Croatia “kept silent for the first five years after Operation Storm” because it was blackmailed, pressured and had to send its best people to The Hague, but today it is no longer a hostage to anything, aware that the right values and justice are on its side and that it is on the right side of history.

“Our merits and achievements are great, our faults are inevitable as in every human activity, however, we have nothing to be ashamed of. I believe that the people who gave their lives for Croatia would not be unhappy today,” Milanovic said.

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