Vukovar Mayor Penava doubles back on his anti-Serb statements



Osijek, 251017. Ivan Penava, gradonacelnik Vukovara. Foto: Vlado Kos / CROPIX

Ivan Penava

SDSS leader Pupovac: "Penava is tarnishing Croatia's credibility with his statements. The real question is who is leading him into this rather risky game."

-We have not discussed the position of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) in the ruling coalition. Yesterday I talked about the positive aspects of the peaceful integration process and thanked representatives of the Serb minority who accepted it and continued building Croatia with us… It is fascinating that the media reported after the meeting yesterday that I was leaving the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) - said Mayor of Vukovar Ivan Penava one day after the said that Vukovar was the "epicenter of continued, creeping Greater Serbian aggression." Penava made the statement after the meeting with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković last night. He said that he had a friendly conversation with Plenković.

-We know who tailors State policies. However, when someone remains sitting in Vukovar, where people died defending Croatian coat of arms and the anthem, do not deny me the right to step up and say that is unacceptable - said Penava last night. Asked why he did not ask for a meeting with the PM before he made the statement, he said that he probably lacks experience as a politician.

Tuđman's message

SDSS president Milorad Pupovac responded to Penava at a press conference yesterday.

-Penava's statement presents the sort of statement characteristic of people who protested against me and reintegration of the Serb minority in 1996, 1997 and 1998, who were in favor of reintegration of territory only and favored the war option, as one of his advisers said in the series of protests - stressed Pupovac. He added that the late President Franjo Tuđman told him in a discussion after peaceful reintegration started that "some people do not want what I want."

-We see Penava as one of those people. He is trying to undermine the accomplishments and results of peaceful reintegration and is declaring everyone who has been fighting for protection of these accomplishments for years, like I and the party I am part of, enemies of Croatia and aggressors. I never said anywhere that someone should be dealt with through military operations, unlike Penava's advisers - said Pupovac. He did not want to say which advisers he is talking about, but added that they are from Catholic, veteran and right-wing milieus.

-It is obvious that the Mayor and his group are trying to exert pressure on Croatian investigative and judicial bodies with the aim of achieving after the war what they could not have when they thought they needed - to remove Serbs from this area - said Pupovac and announced calling for legal protection as well as informing international institutions. He said that Penava's statements tarnish Croatia's credibility. He pointed out that the real question is "who is leading the Mayor into this, for him rather risky, adventure."

-The real question is whether they are aware of all the consequences that could arise from this with regard to interethnic relations and Croatia's reputation in the world - said Pupovac.

Plenković commented on Penava's statements, as did his deputy Milijan Brkić. - We have to be aware of the historic truth that Croatia was the target of brutal Greater Serbian and Chetnik aggression and that Vukovar was especially exposed to this aggression. State institutions should do everything in their power to bring criminals to justice and addressing the issue. I understand Penava because he is hearing these stories every day, but pointed out on several occasions that we have to address all the problems we face through dialogue - said Brkić.

Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević said that Penava's job is to take care of Vukovar, rather than tailor State policies.

- I would like to invite him to continue developing projects that are in Vukovar's interest in cooperation with the Government and work on reconciliation, rather than fight and divide - said Kuščević.


Croatian Democratic Alliance of Slavonia and Baranja (HDSSB)'s Branimir Glavaš commented on possible sanctions against Penava.

-Considering my political experience, I can say that someone could get toasted as they are talking too much - said Glavaš.

Penava's adviser Tomislav Josić commented on statements from HDZ top that Penava's job is to take care of Vukovar, rather than tailor State policies.

- Zagreb can meddle in Vukovar's affairs even though those people do not understand the situation here, but when Penava says that things are not great here - that is a problem. They have a problem with him telling the truth. When we all say the truth about the situation here, we are branded as extremists, but we all know what is happening here. They want to sweep the problems under the rug, but the rug has become too small for that - said Josić. He added that Penava would have been removed a long time ago if he was mayor of some other city.

- They would prefer someone obedient who would claim that the situation here is excellent - said Josić.

HDZ members noted yesterday that Penava, if he keeps this up, could be expelled from the party, but majority of party members believe that Penava will leave the party himself.

Inačica na drugom jeziku / Alternate language version