milorad pupovac.jpg
Photograph: FaH/ Mladen VOLARIĆ/ ua

A member of Parliament from the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) and head of the Serb National Council (SNV), Milorad Pupovac, said on Thursday that if someone thought that they would stifle ethnic minorities by reducing budget funds for the operation of their institutions, they were wrong, while an MP from the Bandic Milan 365 party and head of the parliament's War Veterans Committee, Miodrag Demo, said that he would stop planned cuts in the budget funds for the War Veterans Ministry.

"If someone thinks they will stifle us by reducing funds for the work of minority institutions, I can only say - they will not," Pupovac told reporters in a comment on the budget proposal for 2016 under which funds for the SNV for this year would be cut from HRK 7.5 million to 1.8 million.

He clarified for reporters that data "on the budget cut refers to all budget users so far and to the first three months of this year and is part of a decision on temporary budget financing." As for financing until the end of the year, Pupovac said he believed that the reduction would be around 8% for all users of budget funds allocated to institutions of ethnic minorities through the Office for Ethnic Minorities and Human Rights.

Budget funds will be allocated through that office based on agreements, Pupovac explained. "The same goes for the Council for Ethnic Minorities. Its funds have been cut by slightly less than 11%, which is a significant decrease considering that we have been recording cuts in budget funds every year. In the last three years, those funds were cut by more than 20%, but considering the situation in the country and the fact that we all need to contribute to reducing costs, representatives of ethnic minorities' and the SDSS parliamentary benches accepted it at a meeting with the Prime Minister yesterday," said Pupovac.

Pupovac said that cuts in housing reconstruction programmes were too big and added that he expected the Prime Minister not to accept the proposed reduction. "If of the 230 million kuna (for housing reconstruction), 60 million is taken away, then it can seriously jeopardise reconstruction and housing programmes. I expect the reduction not to be that radical and that the Prime Minister will at least halve it," said Pupovac.

An issue of special importance for all representatives of ethnic minorities are underdeveloped areas, which are particularly vulnerable in terms of population growth and economic development and which are largely populated by ethnic minorities, he said.

The head of the War Veterans Committee, Miodrag Demo, who is a member of Parliament elected on the slate of the Bandic Milan 365 party, told reporters that he would stop plans to reduce budget allocations for the War Veterans Ministry by HRK 56 million, saying that those entitlements would not be touched by anyone.

"The proposed cut (in funds for war veterans) amounts to HRK 56 million and I believe that the Committee on War Veterans will not approve it," said Demo.

Those financial entitlements cannot be cancelled that easily because they have been acquired and cancelling them would require amending the relevant law, said Demo. "That won't happen as long as I am the chair of the Committee. The only cuts that can be made are administrative ones," Demo told reporters.

Asked if benefits for veterans would be determined based on a means test, Demo said that that would not apply to veterans. "The Committee on War Veterans will meet on Monday and we will try to stop it," he said.

Asked about Djuro Glogoski, a new candidate for the post of War Veterans Minister, Demo said he believed HDZ secretary-general Milijan Brkic should take over that ministry.

Asked if that meant that no other candidate would be given sufficient parliamentary support, Demo said: "I claim responsibly that they will not."

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