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News 17 Feb 17

Croatian Serb Leader Targeted by Conservative Activists

Milorad Pupovac, a leader of Croatia’s Serb minority who is also an MP, dismissed allegations of conflict of interest levelled at him by a conservative Christian campaign group.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Conservative NGO In the Name of the Family holds a press conference outside parliament. Photo: In the Name of the Family.

Milorad Pupovac rejected allegations made by a conservative Christian campaign group that his roles as a member of Croatian state Council for National Minorities and the leader of the Serbian National Council, which was funded by the Council for National Minorities, represented a conflict of interest.

The Conservative NGO In the Name of the Family reported Pupovac to the state committee responsible for dealing with conflicts of interest on Wednesday, arguing that his role as a member of the Council for National Minorities, which gave almost 500,000 euros to the Serbian National Council, was unacceptable.

But Pupovac, who is also an MP in the Croatian parliament, told BIRN that his roles in both organisations were in line with Croatian law.

“According to the constitutional law on rights of national minorities, the Council [for National Minorities] is composed of members or presidents of associations [of national minorities], while all eight national minorities’ MPs are members of the Council,” Pupovac said.

“Regarding myself, due to my personal understanding of my role in the Council [for National Minorities], I don’t take part in discussions about or in deciding upon funds given to the Serbian National Council or any other Serb organisation,” he added.

Pupovac said that he had already been reported several years ago to the state committee responsible for dealing conflicts of interest, which had discounted the allegations.

Aleksandar Tolnauer, the president of the Council for National Minorities, confirmed to BIRN that Pupovac “isn’t taking part in discussions on funding specific organisations”.

Tolnauer alleged that the attacks on Pupovac were politically motivated.

“This only creates animosity towards minorities and this isn’t good for either the minorities or society as a whole,” he warned.

He explained that according to the law, members of the Council are all minority MPs, representatives of the national minorities’ NGOs and members of local councils for national minorities, and said that In the Name of the Family “doesn’t know the procedures”.

At a press conference in front of parliament on Monday, the conservative NGO also criticised weekly newspaper Novosti, which is published by Pupovac’s Serbian National Council, claiming that state funds for national minorities were being misspent on the publication.

In the Name of the Family alleged that Novosti “promoted intolerance” towards the country’s Croat majority and should therefore be banned from receiving state funds.

Novosti is known for its left-wing orientation and satirical approach to politicians, with a number of editors and journalists coming from the anti-establishment weekly Feral Tribune, which ceased to exist in 2008.

Nikola Bajto, the editor-in-chief of Novosti, said that In the Name of the Family was wrong about all its claims.

“In the Name of the Family doesn’t understand the system of national minorities, they have absolutely no clue about it, since it is not in their sphere of expertise,” Bajto told BIRN.

In the Name of the Family promotes conservative Christian values and became widely known as the driving force behind a referendum in 2013 in which people voted to change the Croatian constitution to redefine marriage specifically as a union between a man and a woman, effectively blocking the possibility of gay marriages.

 

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