The First Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party, Tomislav Karamarko, said during a visit to Vukovar on Monday that anyone who respects the victims of the WWII Jasenovac concentration camp should indeed respect them rather than use them for political purposes.

"Victims are victims and we should all treat them the same, rather than use them for political purposes," Karamarko said while answering questions from the press.

"We condemn any totalitarian system, the Nazi system and everything that occurred during that system. We regret all victims of that time. That's our position and it's anti-totalitarian in every respect," he said.

Speaking of the planned boycott of this year's commemoration of the Jasenovac victims by the Serb National Council and the Jewish community, Karamarko said he had not discussed the matter with them. He said that he had not visited Jasenovac since he became HDZ leader, but that he certainly would.

"I really sympathise with the victims of the Second World War and the Holocaust, as well as with the victims of the communist regime," Karamarko said.

Asked if Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic had become too great a burden for the government to bear, Karamarako said: "Why?", adding that Hasanbegovic was a good minister who was criticised by those who had been denied funds to which they were not entitled in the first place.

Asked if Croatia was blocking Serbia on its path to EU membership, Karamarko said: "Serbia decides on the pace of negotiations with the European Union on its own. Croatia, I would say, is the least to blame. Croatia will insist that Serbia meet all the EU standards. We are not an obstacle. They must deal with certain things among themselves. It's all up to them, not us." Asked what would happen if other EU members exerted pressure on Croatia to stop blocking Serbia, he said that this was a hypothetical question that need not be answered.

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