Serbia sends protest letters to European Parliament

Ivica Dacic has condemned in the harshest terms the opening of the exhibition and conference "Croatian Saint Cardinal Stepinac" in the European Parliament (EP).

Source: B92, Tanjug
(mfa.gov.rs)
(mfa.gov.rs)

The Serbian first deputy prime minister and minister of foreign late on Wednesday "underlined that this act does not contribute to reconciliation, but is an attempt at rehabilitating the Ustasha movement," the government said on its website.

The Ustasha were in power in the Nazi-allied Independent State of Croatia (NDH) from 1941 to 1945 and operated death camps for Serbs, Jews, and Roma. The EP-hosted exhibition dedicated to the Croatian Catholic cleric was previously condemned by Serbia's labor minister, and the head of the Democratic Party (DS).

According to the government, Dacic stated that it was "incomprehensible that an exhibition is opened in the center of the European Union for someone who participated in the pogrom of thousands of Serbs, Jews and other non-Croat population and who was sentenced in his country to 16 years in prison and deprivation of all civil rights for a period of three years."

The First Deputy Prime Minister stressed that this exhibition is an attempt at removing responsibility from Stepinac and rehabilitation of the Ustasha movement and is not a step towards reconciliation nor to the truth, but on the contrary, it only deepens the division.

"We are witnesses that the world is now faced with an attempt to revise and make relativization of victories and defeats, of crime and punishment, " he said and added that Serbia, as a victim of such efforts at the international level, has an obligation to fight against it.

Dacic said that Head of the Mission of the Republic of Serbia to the EU Ambassador Dusko Lopandic was instructed to send a harsh protest.

Lopandic sent the Letters of Protest to President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz, to Chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament Elmar Brok, President of the Group of the European People's Party (EPP) Manfred Weber, and he will also inform about the above-mentioned Rapporteur for Serbia David McAllister, the shadow rapporteurs and other EU members, he said.

In these letters, the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs points out that it is unacceptable to organize an exhibition to glorify the figure and work of Stepinac, who is presented there as a “true gem of the Catholic Church and the Croatian people”.

In 1946, the Supreme Court of Croatia - then a republic of Yugoslavia - sentenced Stepinac in Zagreb to 16 years in prison and loss of civil and political rights for a period of three years for his actions, abetting crimes, treason and collaboration with the Ustasha regime and for mass conversions of tens of thousands of Orthodox Serbs, the statement notes.

The statement adds that, after meetings with Serbian state and church officials, Pope Francis has suspended the process of canonising Stepinac and that the Vatican and the Serbian Orthodox Church have set up a joint commission to investigate the case.

The Serbian people and the Serbian Orthodox Church consider Stepinac responsible for mass crimes against the Serbian and other non-Croat population during the Second World War in the territory of the so-called Independent State of Croatia (NDH), Dacic stated.

The events in Brussels were organized by the Croatian Peasant Party MEP Marijana Petir in collaboration with the Catholic University of Croatia, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Zagreb and the EPP Working Group on Intercultural Dialogue and Religious Affairs.

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