Statement of the President of the Republic to the Citizens on the Occasion of the 30th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Croatia

08. October 2021.

Dear Croatian citizens, fellow Croats,

I have decided to address you today on 8th October, because every state has milestones in its history that must be remembered and marked with dignity.

There are many significant dates in the history of our Homeland, but I feel that two are inevitable – the cornerstones of Croatian freedom and independence. One was formally marked in August, Victory and Homeland Gratitude Day, the other one is today — Independence Day!

Our Croatian Republic is a young democracy. However, as the state of the Croatian people it has been known and recognized for centuries. The only thing that was missing in its long statehood was – independence! Independence from other crowns, rulers and states.

And that changed exactly 30 years ago, on 8 October 1991. On that day the Croatian Parliament decided to sever all state and legal ties with the other Republics and Autonomous Provinces of the former state, thus declaring the full and irrevocable independence of the Republic of Croatia.

That was the final confirmation – from the highest representative body of the Croatian state – the will of the overwhelming majority of the Croatian citizens. The will that the citizens unequivocally demonstrated at the referendum held on 19 May of the same year when they declared that they wanted to live in an independent and sovereign state.

The referendum on independence and sovereignty was proof of the greatest national unity in recent Croatian history. Proof enough of what we want.

Yet, unfortunately, not proof enough for others, both for our neighbours with whom we lived in the past one hundred years or so, and for the international community.

Neither the result of the May referendum nor the Constitutional Decision on the Sovereignty and Independence of the Republic of Croatia in June had been sufficient for the Croatian people to start living their European hopes and dreams. They didn’t immediately let us build a democratic, independent state in peace, to be masters of our own destiny, with our own potential and knowledge.

This 30th anniversary of Croatian independence is therefore an opportunity to repeat the truth to ourselves, but above all to our children and grandchildren. I say this for their sake, the young generations of Croatian people who were children then or weren’t even born.

They must know how difficult Croatia’s path to independence was. No member state of the European Union has experienced that path, and no modern European democracy.

During the summer and autumn of 1991, danger threatened everyone from Ilok in the east to Prevlaka in the south. In the west and in the north we lived in fear from air strikes.

That the enemy of Croatian independence would stop at nothing was demonstrated by the air bombing of Banski Dvori, the Seat of the Croatian Government, on 7 October 1991, an unprecedented crime that was never penalized. It was an attempt at the extermination, the assassination of the legitimate and democratically elected Croatian leadership, of Croatia. They did everything to stand in the way of Croatian independence, but in vain, because they could not deny or change the will of the people.

I’m not saying this for us to live in the past, exactly the opposite – for our safe future.

And our combatants and generals – whose words I have been listening to for the past months at ceremonies marking the lineup of famous Croatian Army units – keep saying that the war is over and that we must turn to the future. One of our famous war commanders a few days ago in Sinj, Dalmatia called on fellow combatants to give recognition to our citizens of Serbian nationality who fought together with Croats for their country, for Croatia.

We won’t dictate to our neighbours how they should live, we won’t decide when they should celebrate, and when they should grieve. We convey to them first of all messages of peace and words of truth.

The truth for Croatia is not painful, nobody should be ashamed of it.

Our children want a safe future, to make the dreams and hopes that had been taken away not long ago from their fathers and mothers come true.

To be and remain part of the progressive community of Western countries – so different among themselves, but equal in their right to their own identity – that is Croatia’s imperative today.

An opportunity lies before us which our people must and, I’m sure, can and will take advantage of. The opportunity is provided to us by our membership in European integrations, in the European Union, but also by the fact that for the first time in history we decide on our own on our national tasks and goals.

It is a great challenge, it will be how we do it on our own, and in terms of mistakes, which there will be, we alone will be responsible for them.

Three decades of independence have given us time to learn to decide for ourselves and take care of ourselves. Therefore, let’s build Croatia’s future in an intelligent and wise way, and sometimes, don’t get me wrong, selfishly. It is a debt of honour we owe all those who laid down their lives or gave a part of themselves, of their youth for the realization of Croatian independence.

And finally, I address you, the youth born in the 1990s, who are grown up today, and for whom I am certain you know what kind of Croatia you want 30 years down the road.

I especially call on you to use your knowledge and ideas, to make a commitment to do everything for our state and society to be our pride, the pride of your mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, all those who stood in defense of Croatia in the 1990s.

I wish all of us a decade of peace, and hope that no other generation of Croatian people experiences the horrors of 30 years ago. We all deserve it!

Happy Independence Day to all of us!