The parliamentary Presidency decided on Tuesday that the commemoration at Bleiburg, Austria will no longer be held under parliament's auspices but that this year it will still finance with HRK 500,000 the commemoration of the innocent victims of the Way of the Cross, killed towards the end of World War Two on marches from Bleiburg back to the former Yugoslavia.
According to a conclusion adopted at today's meeting, the Presidency holds that all people killed for Croatia's independence and freedom should be remembered on November 18, together with Vukovar Victims Remembrance Day, and that August 23, as the Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes, should be observed in Croatia more actively.
The Presidency holds that opinions on events at Bleiburg and the Way of the Cross should not be imposed, since historians in Europe and Croatia agreed that an objective interpretation of facts is not possible and that political parties and parliaments do not make decisions about history.
Therefore, the Presidency believes that parliament should not sponsor only the commemoration at Bleiburg on May 15, but the commemoration of all those killed for Croatia's freedom.
Explaining the conclusion to the press, Speaker Boris Sprem said the Presidency was agreed that there was a uniform position in Croatia that the Way of the Cross victims were not the only innocent victims, but that there were many others who deserved full respect.
However, there was no consensus on the ruling parties' position that the Bleiburg commemoration should no longer be held under parliament's auspices, since the strongest opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), was against it.
Sprem said the ruling coalition felt that the Bleiburg field was the site of "the final and legitimate battles between the National Liberation Army and (Ustasha leader Ante) Pavelic's then almost defeated forces" and that soldiers were killed there on both sides, but not innocent victims killed without a trial.
"There were innocent victims on the Way of the Cross execution sites and graves. We feel that those victims should be honoured," he added.
Sprem said the ruling coalition wanted to clear up the "confusion" created with parliament's 1996 decision to commemorate at Bleiburg, as a memorial day, also the Way of the Cross victims, which he said was "an abuse that's still going on".
Sprem said that at the beginning of its autumn session, parliament should discuss amendments to the law on holidays, memorial days and non-working days whereby November 18 would not be only a commemoration day for the Vukovar victims, but also a memorial day for all Croatians killed for the freedom and independence of the country.
In the autumn, parliament will also discuss the most appropriate location in Croatia for honouring the Way of the Cross victims, Sprem added.
He added that the SDP's presidents had gone to Bleiburg because of the
established position that Bleiburg was a symbol of the Way of the Cross
"The Ustasha and fascist insignia dominated (at those events), you couldn't avoid it. We want to change that, we want all Way of the Cross victims to be commemorated in Croatia in a dignified and appropriate fashion," said Sprem.
HDZ president Jadranka Kosor described as hypocritical the decision under which the commemoration at Bleiburg would no longer be held under parliament's auspices but that parliament would finance it with HRK 500,000 this year, claiming that it would result in new rifts in Croatian society.
She wondered why the ruling coalition intended to pay taxpayers' money for something it considered bad.