Croatian war veterans' organisations on Tuesday criticised the Croatian government and diplomats for allowing Serbia to open two chapters in its EU accession negotiations in Brussels on Monday even though it had not repealed its law on universal jurisdiction in prosecuting all war crimes committed in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Speaking at a press conference in Zagreb, the veterans' organisations said that the present, caretaker government no longer had their support.

Retired general Djuro Decak, the head of one of the organisations, said that the government's decision to greenlight the opening of Chapter 23 - Judiciary and Fundamental Rights and Chapter 24 - Justice, Freedom and Security was not based in law. "It is unacceptable that a government that is going into history disgraced because it has not endured even six months in power should make such a crucial decision, and to the detriment of Croatian veterans," he said.

Josip Djakic, the head of the Association of Disabled Homeland War Veterans (HVIDR), also expressed his dissatisfaction, saying that the Croatian government had given the green light to Serbia to open negotiations in the two chapters despite warnings from veterans that it should not do so considering claims by Serbia that it would never repeal the disputed law.

Djakic said that Croatia should have taken a tougher stance on undiplomatic statements from Serbia, adding that the HVIDR and other veterans' organisations were of the view that "the current caretaker government should not have been the one to open Chapter 23 in negotiations with Serbia."

General Decak said that at meetings with government officials held in the past few days veterans had been assured that everything was all right, even though the government was aware "that it was already signed." He added that the government "made fools out of veterans, which is unfair because we could never have expected that from our government."

Djuro Glogoski, the head of the association of fully disabled veterans, said that their position was clear, that Serbia should not have been allowed to open the two chapters until it had met the criteria. He said that the Croatian government had turned its back on the veterans by not accepting their proposal.

Asked if protest rallies were possible, Glogoski said that elections were due soon and that everything would be said during the election campaign. He did not rule out a possibility of renewed protests after the early elections in September.

Asked who they considered responsible for greenlighting the opening of the two chapters, the veterans' leaders said that it was the prime minister, Croatian diplomats and the government as a whole, adding that Minister of Veterans' Affairs Tomo Medved was against it and that they trusted him.

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