President Milanović: The European elections are over and the posts have been filled, now is the time to fight for the rights of Croats in BiH

06. July 2024.

“You have fought hard and bloody in the recent war. You had no weapons, equipment, money. The Croatian state helped as much as it could, Croatia gave a lot, but the Croatian Defence Council gave a lot too”, the President of the Republic Zoran Milanović said on Saturday in Tomislavgrad on the occasion of the 32nd anniversary of the foundation of the “Kralj Tomislav” Brigade.

In his address, President Milanović recalled that he had bestowed the Order of Nikola Šubić Zrinski on the Croatian Defence Council’s Croatian Guards Brigades, the Military Police Brigade and the “Kralj Tomislav” Brigade. “That is an exceptional decoration that shows how I, as the current Croatian president, see things. And I see that your contribution is the same as the contribution of the Croatian Army, that you fought and suffered in the same way and that you are part of a combat corps, one idea and one defence, one mission to defend and one mission to liberate”, the President noted.

“Without the Croatian Army, today there would be no free Bosnia and Herzegovina, which we respect, which we do not lay claim to, but in which we demand equal rights for the Croats as set out in writing, i.e. the Dayton agreement, which is not honoured. The Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina deserve to have their rights respected,” President Milanović added, underlining that the Croatian Defence Council’s Croatian brigades were decorated for those great merits. “If war was fought on the basis of an agreement and a written document that we, our army and you in our neighbouring state fought legally, then it’s not nice to hear complaints about some kind of joint criminal enterprise or that the Croatian Army was an occupying force”, he stated.

Furthermore, in his address, he talked about the treatment of members of the Croatian Defence Council and their rights. “Their rights have not been fully resolved, and I am sure that this is not because someone in the current Croatian executive authority has something against the Croatian Defence Council. This is something that the Croatian state will have to take up, even after 30 years, because these people are still alive and they are not content,” President Milanović pointed out.

He expressed confidence that very soon Croatia, in a symbolic fashion, will be able to help the Croats get their rights through amendments to the election law. “It’s a symbolic matter, but an important one. To Croats it matters who and how their representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina are elected, which means that that state matters to them. Croatia had the opportunity to do this a number of times in recent years, but some other interests were taken into consideration, there were calculations. But now that the European elections are over, when the posts have been filled, now is the time – without fear of offending someone – to say, this is Croatian and we will get this”, the President explained.

He repeated that Croatia wants, like the Croats from BiH, “for BiH to enter the European Union, but in a proper and dignified way, and not as a welfare case because the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina never were a welfare case”, and said that the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Zagreb will never hear from him personally any words or gestures that would instruct them to work against the country they belong to, which is Bosnia and Herzegovina. “But that you will hear about your rights, you will indeed hear that, and I will advocate for that all the time because it is my constitutional duty,” he pointed out.

“The best symbol of your belonging and feelings was the moment, not just here, when after the playing and intonation of the Croatian anthem – which you announced here as the anthem of the Croatian nation – you applauded. This demonstrates a special kind of spiritual devotion and solidarity, so keep applauding after the Croatian national anthem. It is the anthem of the Croatian state, the Republic of Croatia, a modern state, open, tolerant, a state that remembers but does not forget what has been done. It is your song and the song of Croats all over the world”, President Milanović concluded.

Prior to the ceremony, President Milanović and his delegation laid a wreath at the Memorial to the fallen Croatian defenders. The delegation of President Milanović included the Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina Ivan Sabolić, the Head of the Cabinet of the President Bartol Šimunić, the Special Adviser to the President for Homeland War Veterans Marijan Mareković, the Consul Counsellor in the Consulate of the Republic of Croatia to Livno Božo Vodopija and the Military Attaché of the Republic of Croatia to Bosnia and Herzegovina Davor Kiralj.

PHOTO: Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia / Tomislav Bušljeta