President of the Serb National Council (SNV) MP Milorad Pupovac said in Vukovar on Monday that for the past six months attempts have been geared toward destroying the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) and other Serb organisations in Croatia, and that for the first time the Joint Council of Municipalities (ZVO) and the SNV do not have funds from the state budget, whereby the government and the parliamentary majority have annulled a 2010 parliamentary conclusion.

Addressing a press conference, ZVO president Dragan Crnogorac said that the 2016 state budget does not have funds earmarked for the ZVO and SNV, which is the first time this has ever happened and that the work of these organisations is being brought into question.

Pupovac explained that based on the Erdut Agreement, a government's Letter of Intent and a parliamentary conclusion of 2010, the ZVO and SNV had funds set aside in the state budget to finance their activities and for the first time that is not the case in the 2016 budget.

"Attempts to make funding conditional on political relations constitute the undermining of the ZVO and SNV's autonomy," Pupovac said.

Asked by reporters whether the SDSS' support for the government could resolve the financial "blockade" of the ZVO and the SNV, Pupovac said that support or non-support by the SDSS for the government should not be a condition for the government to fulfil its obligations toward Serb minority institutions in Croatia.

"Had they spoken to us instead of trying to buy deputies, the relations might have been different. We are for cooperation with the government but when it comes to the question of political relations, they have to be the subject of serious political talks," said Pupovac. He noted that SDSS is ready to contribute to the advancement of political relations with the government but that this does not mean participating in the government.

According to Pupovac, for the first time Croatia has a government where minority policies are not represented as an important segment of the government's policies and that does not have a Serb representative, nor any other ethnic minority representative, while at the same time intolerance, both general and toward minorities, is continuing to grow.

He also said that the ZVO and the SNV will once again try and talk with the government and, if there is no progress, they will turn to institutions that guarantee the implementation of international agreements guaranteeing the rights of Serbs in Croatia which, in the case of the Erdut Agreement, is the United Nations.

He announced that minority MPs would meet in the next few days and discuss the "latest circumstances."

Crnogorac said that withholding funding was a blow to the ZVO's and the SNV's autonomy. "I express concern over the threat to the cultural autonomy of Serbs. I call on the government to adhere, in keeping with international agreements, to its obligations and secure funds for the work of our institutions," said Crnogorac.

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