The new Veterans' Affairs Minister Mijo Crnoja on Monday took office, saying that he wanted to be the minister of all veterans of the 1991-95 Homeland War and that his first move would be to stop the separation of veterans' pensions into the part acquired in line with special regulations and the part acquired based on years of pensionable service.
"I want to and will be the minister of all Croatian defenders, regardless of their religion or ethnic background," said Crnoja after taking over from Predrag Matic, whom he thanked for the work so far.
Noting that volunteers of ethnic background other than Croatian had not been given adequate attention so far, Crnoja said that among Croatian veterans there were 10,500 Serbs as well as a large number of Bosniaks, Albanians and people of other ethnic background.
Crnoja said one of the first measures he would propose to the government would be stopping the separation of veterans' pensions into the part acquired in line with special regulations and the part acquired based on years of pensionable service.
Wishing the new minister a lot of success and fewer problems than he himself had had, Matic thanked his associates for the work done to the benefit of veterans and their families.
He said that the new minister would not find any "skeletons in the closet" just as he had not found any after taking office, adding that the State Audit Office's reports on the Veterans' Affairs Ministry had been positive for years.
Matic added that he would request discontinuing police protection for him because those in charge of his security had now been put in an absurd situation.
"These great guys who have been with me every day for the last 15 months can no longer protect me from those from whom they have protected me because now they have become their commanders. It's a slightly absurd situation," he said.
The former minister said goodbye three times, noting: "My first 'goodbye' is to the silent majority of Croatian defenders who work, of whom some do not receive pay for their work, and who still dream of the Croatia they fought for."
He said his second goodbye was to the part of the protesters who have been protesting against him for the last 15 months and who, he said, had been manipulated a number of times by the same people and would be manipulated again.
"My third goodbye is to those protesting defenders who could not help but insult me for 15 months and who tried to humiliate me, sending threats to me and my family. I will never forget that," said Matic.
The protesting veterans left for Matic a chair outside the ministry with the message reading "The chair is so dear to you, take it along", booing at him as he was leaving the ministry building.
Asked about the publication of a register of traitors of national interests, Crnoja said that the register would not be made by his ministry but by legislative and judicial institutions. He said that considering that the register of Homeland War veterans had been published, there was no reason why other registers should not be published, such as a register of privatisation, a register of aggressors, etc.
Matic said he supported his successor in his plans, adding that in the next elections voters would decide if his moves were good or not.
He underlined that all planned ministry projects had been completed over the past four years and that HRK 900 million more was envisaged in this year's budget for the veterans' affairs ministry than in the 2015 budget.
After the takeover ceremony, the offices of the ministry were consecrated by Sisak Bishop Vlado Kosic.