Serbian Minister of the Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic has described as scandalous his Croatian counterpart Vlaho Orepic's statement that once people who had falsely registered their residence in Vukovar were removed from registers of residents, there would no longer by any grounds for bilingual, Latin-Cyrillic signs in Vukovar.
In a statement carried by the Serbian public broadcaster RTS, Stefanovic said this was an attempt to "deny the few Serbs who have not been expelled from Croatia the right to use their language and script."
According to a report carried by the regional N1 TV network, Orepic has accused the Serb minority of manipulating residence registrations, saying that "after false registrations in Vukovar are deleted, the legal grounds for the setting up of Cyrillic signs" in that eastern city "will no longer exist".
"No one wants to say the truth, but I believe that if all false registrations of residence are removed, the Serb minority will not have the 30% (share in the local population entitling it to the equal use of its language and script). If that has been the only ground for using the Cyrillic script in Vukovar, after this, it will no longer exist. The Serb minority has manipulated residence registration," Orepic told the Vecernji List daily.
"The wish to find any reason, regardless or how false it may be and how little sense it may make, to strip Serbs in Croatia of their guaranteed human rights - the right to use their own language and script and the right to live without fear of repression by state bodies - only shows that the Croatian leadership does not understand European values," Stefanovic said in his statement.
He also resented the Croatian leadership's interpretation of the rule of law.
"They obviously also do not understand the meaning of the fight for equality and the rule of law just as they do not understand what is the best way to show that you do not support fascist regimes, which communicated with the Serb people exclusively with mallets, knives and pits," the Serbian minister said.
In the new Serbian government, which was sworn in on August 11, Stefanovic kept the post of Minister of the Interior and was appointed one of four deputy prime ministers. In the Serb Progressive Party (SNS), he is considered to be a close associate of SNS leader and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.