milorad pupovac.jpg
Photograph: HINA / Mladen VOLARIĆ / mm

Unity in inequality is not possible, Serb National Council (SNV) president Milorad Pupovac said at a traditional reception on the occasion of Christmas celebrated according to the Julian calendar, which was attended by numerous public figures, including outgoing Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic and Prime Minister-Designate Tihomir Oreskovic.

"Unity in inequality is not possible, and calls for unity that do not take into account the fact that inequality in our society is growing by the day... cannot result in true unity."

Unity cannot be built if "the state continues to alienate itself from the citizens, if it serves more those who have power, money, influence, and less those for whom it was established, its citizens," said Pupovac.

One of the most important expressions of patriotism would be "to make our state as efficient as possible, and as close as possible to the interests of each of its citizens," Pupovac said, among other things.

Addressing those attending the reception, Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic said: "We should protect what we have built, a strong, democratic and civic Croatia, the home of the Croat people... as well as of all Croatian citizens, our neighbours, our brothers and sisters."

Milanovic went on to say that for him, especially since he was sworn in four years ago, "there has been only one church - the Croatian state. I have no other church."

"When I look at what was going on in the past four years, when I look at the amount of hatred, intolerance, contempt and hypocrisy that we were swamped by, I ask myself if it was worth it. It was, it is and it will be worth it and we will continue to fight. The values we have achieved must be protected and we must never give up," Milanovic said, adding that attacks on the Cyrillic script were attacks on the Croatian history, "on our identity, our uniqueness, on what makes us a special Slavic nation."

He said that he had dedicated his nine-year long political career as president of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to the fight for justice, equality and freedom and for the functioning of the rule of law.

"As a politician and as a public figure, I will continue that job because I believe that now it is especially important not to give up," Milanovic said, noting that the entire central and eastern Europe had given way to a wave of xenophobia, nationalism and intolerance. "... In the past year and a half the Croatian state has passed a test of humanity and efficiency and at the same time it did not jeopardise any of its national interests in any way. That's what makes us humane."

The Serb Orthodox Christmas reception was also addressed by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic's envoy Domagoj Juricic, Parliament Speaker Zeljko Reiner's envoy Jasen Mesic, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic and the head of the Serb Orthodox Church in Croatia and Slovenia, Porfirije.

Prime Minister-Designate Tihomir Oreskovic told reporters after the reception that his first move would be to form the government, to be followed by main reforms, but that the most important thing was to reduce the deficit and improve the country's rating and work for the well-being of Croatian citizens.

As for Latin-Cyrillic signs in the eastern town of Vukovar, Oreskovic said that he was confident that such signs would come to Vukovar, just as the Italian language was being used in Istria, however, in their own time because war wounds were still fresh.

Commenting on Cyrillic signs, Pupovac said that he distinguished between those who did not consider the Cyrillic script welcome in Croatia and Vukovar and those who believed that a little more time was needed to restore the Cyrillic script in Vukovar.

"That having been said, we cannot cooperate with the former, but we can cooperate with the latter and we will cooperate. And we will find a way for that time not to last too long," Pupovac told reporters.

Pupovac confirmed that he and other minority members of Parliament had met with Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leader Tomislav Karamarko and that the basis for talks with the parliamentary majority was not to restrict minority rights.

The HDZ international secretary, Miro Kovac, who also attended the reception, said that it was crucial to start working more efficiently this year so that the country's economy could recover, harmony could be restored in the Croatian society and the country's position on the international scene could be strengthened.

Asked about the topics of talks with representatives of the Serb minority held just before the Christmas reception, Kovac said that talks had been held with representatives of ethnic minorities also before that.

Those contacts are normal. Minorities are a part of the Croatian society. There are eight minority MPs and we will work together to make the situation in Croatia better, said Kovac.

At the end of the reception, Pupovac, Milanovic and presidential envoy Juricic put together a smashed sign with a Latin-Cyrillic verse, an art installation by Sinisa Labrovic featuring works of some of the best Croatian and Serb poets.  

Labrovic's performance, entitled "Smashing the Latin Script", consisted of 11 smashed signs that lay scattered on the floor of the room in the Croatian Journalists' Association building where the reception was held, and the visitors were invited to put those signs together.

Labrovic's performance was condemned by the Croatian Party of Rights - Dr Ante Starcevic, which described it as a prelude to a political play, and by an association of Zagreb war veterans who fought in Vukovar, who described it as an act of provocation by the SNV. 

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