The Croatian state budget could be threatened by billions of Euros in expense claims from the ex Croatian fighters after a court ruled that the state must pay compensation to a HVO veteran for unpaid benefits.
The Croatian media revealed on Tuesday that a Croatian court has ordered the state to pay compensation to an ex Croatian Defence Council, HVO, veteran for unpaid disability benefits. The ruling, which was made in September, opens the doors to potentially thousands of lawsuits by HVO veterans.
The HVO was Bosnian Croat army during the war, which fought in southern Croatia in 1992, 1994 and 1995, under the command of the Croatian Army.
The former Croatian defence minister, Ljubo Cesic Rojs, recently said that Franjo Tudjman, who was president of Croatia during the conflict, had decided that wounded HVO members should receive disability benefits, just like any other Croatian Army soldier wounded in battle.
But those benefits, added Rojs, were not meant to result in actual payments. They were a way to get round a legal technicality, whereby the wounded fighters had to receive disability benefits, before they could receive pensions, the true goal of Tudjman’s measure.
However, one HVO wounded veteran sued the state in a Croatian court, which then ruled that Croatia has to pay him 4,5 million kuna (500 thousand euros) compensation for unpaid disability benefits.
The Croatian war veterans minister, Predrag Matic, admitted that there were more than ten thousand former HVO soldiers, who were entitled to the Croatian disability benefits and had not received them.
If these soldiers were also to bring cases, then the state might be forced to pay compensation to the value of nearly 60 billion kuna (8 billion euros) , a sum approximating to half of Croatia's annual budget.
"It is true that HVO soldiers were entitled to the Croatian army disability benefits, but there was a gentleman's agreement that they would not receive any money from it, in exchange for receiving a Croatian state pension. So, the current government’s stance is that the compensation claims are illegal", Matic told the Croatian media.
Ljubo Cesic Rojs warned that more former HVO soldiers might sue Croatia for non-payment of disability benefits.
The Croatian government announced that three of its ministries have been trying to solve the problem and to prevent numerous lawsuits against the state budget.
About seven thousand former HVO members have been receiving Croatian army family pensions, and Croatia cares for around 6,800 more former HVO members through a variety of state schemes.
An HVO veteran’s pension varies from 2,7 thousand kuna [400 euros] to 6 thousand kuna [800 euros] per month.