Row Between Croatian President and Serb MP Deepens

The Serb community in Croatia is divided over a dispute between the Croatian President Ivo Josipovic and Milorad Pupovac, the Serb minority representative in the Croatian parliament.Seven associations representing the Serbian minority in Croatia have declared their support for Ivo Josipovic, the Croatian President, in his dispute with Pupovac, the Serb MP.

They claim that the money Pupovac receives through the Council for National Minorities, as the legal representative of the Serb minority, is used for his own gain rather than to help Serbs in Croatia.Previously four Croatian Serb associations had expressed their support for Pupovac on Sunday, claiming that Josipovic’s attack on Pupovac is “neither in accordance with the role of the president, nor with the rules of parliamentary democracy.”

The dispute was provoked by Josipovic’s statement on Saturday that “the interests of the Serbian minority in Croatia are blocked by the monopoly of Pupovac and his political party,” explaining that this was best seen during the commemorations for Operation Storm.

Jospovic said that the dispute started in the town of Knin, where Operation Storm was commemorated on August 8, when a representative of the Serbs, Veljko Dzakula, was present for the first time.

Dzakula’s presence at the commemorations was harshly criticized by Pupovac and his party, as well as by a number of other Serbian minority associations in Croatia.

Josipovic accused Pupovac of failing to uphold the interests of his minority group, and said that he was instead running an “ethno-business” by spending the state money intended for the Serbian minority in a non-transparent manner.

Pupovac responded by saying that the Croatian President was trying to restrict political freedom in the country, and was diminishing the role of the legitimate Serbian parliamentary representatives by associating himself with marginalized Serb representatives who did not receive public support in the elections.

“If Josipovic wants to be the leader of the Serbs in Croatia, then he should resign his post as the president of Croatia,” said Pupovac.

Associations of Serbs from Croatia in Serbia remain divided on the Josipovic-Pupovac dispute.

Savo Strbac, from the NGO Veritas, says that Josipovic’s “attack” on Pupovac was purely for political reasons.

“It is not a coincidence that the attack came right after the commemoration of Operation Storm in which Pupovac refused to participate,” Strbac told the Tanjug news agency.

But the Coalition of Refugees Associations in Serbia agrees with Josipovic that Pupovac has failed to address the interests of the Serbs in Croatia.

They say that Pupovac has supported the Croatian government since the establishment of the Croatian state, but that he has failed to improve the status of the Serbs there, and has not even enabled the safe return of Serb refugees to Croatia.

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