zlatko hasanbegovic.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Nikša MILETIĆ / mm

Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic on Tuesday visited the Jasenovac Memorial Site, lying a wreath at the monument to the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp, regretting that three separate commemorations were being held for them this month and saying that present-day Croatia was not a successor to any criminal regime.

He visited Jasenovac ahead of the official commemoration to be held on Friday, under the auspices of parliament.

Asked by the press to comment on the fact that three commemorations were being held because the government had not distanced itself enough from the Ustasha ideology, he regretted that there were three events and once again called on everyone to attend the official one.

"Certain associations have objected to three points. The first are certain incidents in society from which the government has clearly distanced itself and behind which it never stood. Unfortunately, they exist even in developed EU democracies and in this sense Croatia is no exception," the minister said.

The second objection refers to the Jasenovac museum exhibits, but they were put up in 2006, receiving numerous international awards, and former Culture Minister Andrea Zlatar Violic postponed changing them by citing political pressure, the minister said. He added that exhibits could be changed but that it was not up to the minister or politicians but museum experts and historians.

The third objection refers to the fact that the Jasenovac Memorial Site Council has not been appointed after two and a half years, Hasanbegovic said, but added that nobody had boycotted official state commemorations because of that until now.

Asked why the police and state bodies did not react to Ustasha chants, he said the question should be put to the interior minister and that such things could not be prevented through repression but education and home upbringing.

"Anyone smart realises that the Republic of Croatia is neither the legal nor the real successor to NDH (1941-45 Independent State of Croatia) and that it should not inherit the Yugoslav communist totalitarian legacy in any way," he said. He added that present-day Croatia was born in 1990 on the idea of a people's right to self-determination, the idea of freedom, democracy and a parliamentary system, and that it was created and defended in the 1991-95 Homeland War.

Asked whether the Ustasha or the communists had committed more crimes, Hasanbegovic said crimes could not be compared. Every crime has a historical backdrop and its participants, and historiography does not research a competition in crime but historical phenomena in time, he added.

Present-day Croatia should have a clear discontinuity from all criminal regimes and it cannot carry legacies of the past, the minister said. Manipulation with the number of the Jasenovac victims during the communist regime was in the foundations of the Greater Serbia ideology, which led to that tragic war, he added.

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