Croatian President and Supreme Commander Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, said on Friday in Knin at the central celebration of the 21st anniversary of the Croatian military and police Operation Storm and celebration of Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day that Operation Storm was an honourable victory for a righteous cause and that Croatia respected every victim.
To those who called Croatia an accidental state the president said that Croatia was created by the will of the Croatian people and the magnificent victory in the Homeland War.
"I want to send a message to those who called Croatia an accidental state and lately they have gone even further by saying that the modern Croatia was created by criminal Udba intelligence structures -- this Croatia was created by the will of the Croatian people and a vast majority of Croatian citizens, expressed at a referendum in 1991, and by the magnificent victory of Croatian veterans the culmination of which was Operation Storm which we celebrate proudly here in Knin," the president said in her speech.
We celebrate this anniversary primarily as a day of our freedom and peace for which Croatia had to fight for in a war, defending and liberating the country from a joint criminal enterprise of a unitarist Yugoslavianism and Chetnicism, the president said.
We respect every victim, the president said adding that every human life is valuable and that every family mourns their loved once the same way. "But (everyone) must know that 'Storm' was and will be remembered in history as a politically justified, ethically clean and military brilliant liberation operation on Croatian state territory. This was an honourable victory for a righteous cause," the president said.
'Storm' enabled the implementation of peaceful reintegration of the Croatian Danumber River region with the constitutional and legal order of the Republic of Croatia and President Franjo Tudjman wanted a peaceful solution so as to prevent new destruction and suffering, Grabar-Kitarovic said.
"Croatia and the Croatian people knew how to forgive -- all participants in the anti-Croatia rebellion had been abolished, all but the biggest war criminals, general and special minority rights have been met and the return had been enabled to all those who wanted to come back. This is the ethics of the victor and the ethics of peace," the president said.
As human beings, we can understand that 'Storm' is difficult personal and historical experience for many Serb refugees, the president said, underscoring that Croatia would never accept that Operation Storm be valued by non-Croat, even anti-Croat standards. "This means we will never accept the forging of the cause and effect of war, contempt for generosity we showed and the denial of rulings handed down by international courts or the denial of the legitimacy and legality of Operation Storm," the president said.
The Croatian people are not forgetting that several thousand Serbs helped defend and liberate Croatia and with that they had expressed their devotion to the country, the president said.
"All of us together must turn to the future and I believe we want to turn to the future with a clear awareness of our joint responsibility for social peace and prosperity in Croatia and in relations among countries, members of the former federal state. This is one of the motives of the renewal of political dialogue with Serbia on mutual protection of minorities and the development of overall relations, which is critical for peace and development of this part of Europe. It is in the interest of Croatia and Europe as a whole to see Serbia join the European Union. We will give our active and constructive support to that process, while closely protecting our national and state interests," Grabar-Kitarovic said.
The president also said she also appreciated Serbian government efforts aimed at securing the rights of the Croat minority in Serbia. Although Croatia has made significant progress over the past 20 years in the protection of the rights of the Serb minority, there is room for improvement, the president said.
We are aware that the Serb ethnic minority, notably in poorly-developed areas, is faced with problems, primarily of social character, but these problems can be resolved within the new development policy for counties, the president said.
Veterans' representative retired colonel Ivica Glavatora, who addressed those present before the president, said Croatia today celebrated the anniversary of the victory over the Greater Serbia fascist pretensions.