President Milanović at Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day Ceremony in Knin: Croatia had a difficult journey and did not get anything for free

05. August 2022.

“I have wondered many times why we come here to this same place every year, and every year we always have something same, but also something new to say. What is it that is so powerful and how long will it draw us and guide us – is it a human aspiration and the fear of being forgotten, the dread of vanity that awaits us all when we are forgotten? Is it the messages that need to be sent persistently from this spot, sometimes seemingly in vain? But they are not in vain,” the President of the Republic of Croatia and Commander in Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces Zoran Milanović said at the beginning of his address in the town of Knin, where he attended a solemn ceremony marking Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, Day of Croatian Defenders and the 27th anniversary of the Military and Police Operation “Storm.”

“In the multitude of proverbs that people came up with, including those thought up by lawyers, those of the lawyers stick out for their emptiness and lack of content, particularly the following: ‘One who proves too much proves nothing, one who proves nothing keeps silent, one who keeps silent is defending himself with silence, and one who is defending himself with silence ends up getting hurt’,” said the President of the Republic, adding that this does not presume guilt because Croatia has nothing to be ashamed of. “Croatia had a difficult journey and did not get anything for free, but at a high price, with high interest. We were aware that in the end 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, which of course does not mean they were enemies,” the President said at the ceremony.

Speaking of the status of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina and negotiations that took place in the last 30 years, President Milanović repeated that it is necessary to constantly reiterate that Croatia is a guarantor and signatory of the Dayton Agreement. “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. Now it is necessary,” President Milanović underscored.

“The Croatian people in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not only disenfranchised, 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 for cooperation during the war. That was forgotten. Croatia has to oppose that,” he said, adding that Croatia is not a passive observer, but an active member of the international community that did not join the EU and NATO to be a beneficiary of European funds, but “to use the instruments available to us for our own interest, including to defy those who want to devalue us.” 

Speaking about the situation in Croatia in 1995, when it was offered the Z4 peace plan, President Milanović said the following: “That plan was not favourable for Croatia. By a twist of fate, the short-sightedness, the arrogance of those who could get more and better for themselves, who in the days ahead of Operation Storm did not want to agree to the Z4 peace plan, and that’s when the best among us, the bravest stepped in.” The President added that Croatia could have emerged differently from the situation and that the then government would have accepted the peace proposal.

“However, the circumstances were such, the history was such that those who, perhaps even a day before the military operation, stepped on the scene not knowing what would happen. Operation Storm was a great risk and uncertainty. Today, it looks simple and routine to liberate this much space from the enemy within a few days. You have to remember and be aware 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,” said President Milanović.

“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! 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 great precision. Today, that is being shamelessly devalued and we must oppose that, and constantly emphasize that we are doing that by peaceful means, in a civilized but vocal way. So we are not defending ourselves with silence,” he said, adding that the arguments and instruments are on Croatia’s side.

“For the Croatian voice to be heard, for Croatian rights and fundamental rights to be respected – that is the task of this generation of politicians. Today, Croatia is no longer a hostage to anything. We have nothing to be ashamed of. I believe that the people who gave their lives for Croatia would not be unhappy today,” President Milanović concluded and congratulated his fellow citizens on Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day, and the Day of Croatian Defenders.

Speaking at the central ceremony apart from President Milanović were the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia Andrej Plenković, Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Gordan Jandroković and Lieutenant General Mladen Markač (retd).

Ahead of the central ceremony, President Milanović laid a wreath and lit a candle at the monument to the Croatian victory “Storm ’95.” The Head of the Office of the President of the Republic Orsat Miljenić, Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces Admiral Robert Hranj, Head of the Cabinet of the President of the Republic Bartol Šimunić, Adviser to the President of the Republic for Defense and National Security Dragan Lozančić, Special Adviser to the President of the Republic for Homeland War Veterans Marijan Mareković, Secretary General of the Office of the President of the Republic Dinko Suton, Head of the Military Office of the Cabinet for Defense and National Security Rear Admiral Predrag Stipanović and Aide-de-Camp to the President of the Republic Colonel Vlado Čulina were alongside President Milanović at the central ceremony.

At the wreath-laying and candle-lighting ceremony, the President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces was joined by the Mayor of Knin Marijo Ćaćić, Mayor of Vukovar Ivan Penava, Mayor of Split Ivica Puljak, Mayor of Zagreb Tomislav Tomašević and Šibenik-Knin County Prefect Marko Jelić.

PHOTO: Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia / Marko Beljan