News 04 Jul 14

Croatian Government Authenticates Anti-Cyrillic Petition

The authorities confirmed that a petition for a referendum to end official use of Serbian Cyrillic script in parts of Croatia has over 526,000 signatures – enough to trigger a vote.

Josip Ivanovic
Anti-Cyrillic protest in Zagreb in 2013. Photo: Beta.

Minister of administration Arsen Bauk reported to the government on Thursday that over 526,000 people had signed the anti-Cyrillic petition – well over the 450,000 signatures required for a referendum.

The petition was launched in November last year by the Headquarters for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar, a campaign group led by war veterans angered by the installation of signs in Croatian Latin and Serbian Cyrillic in the wartime flashpoint town of Vukovar.

The Headquarters was at the forefront of protests in Vukovar last year against the installation of bilingual signs in Latin and Cyrillic on official buildings in the town, which was devastated by Serb forces in 1991.

The dispute erupted at the start of 2013 after the authorities said that they intended to introduce the official use of the Serbian language and Cyrillic script into areas where Serbs made up more than a third of the population, in line with the country’s minorities legislation.

Pedja Grbin, a Social Democratic Party MP and president of the parliament’s Committee on the Constitution, said that the petition would now be checked by the constitutional court.

“Once parliament receives the official report from the government, a meeting of the Committee on the Constitution will be called to check this demand for a referendum. My proposal will be to test its constitutionality,” said Grbin on Thursday.

Davorin Mlakar, a member of the centre-right main opposition party, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, agreed that the petition should be checked.

“I am positive about the fact that the ruling majority will check the referendum question at the constitutional court,” said Mlakar.

But Mlakar, along with the campaigners have criticised the government for its delayed reaction on this matter.

The Headquarters for the Defence of Croatian Vukovar criticised the length of time it has taken for the petition to be verified.

“It took 15 days for us to collect the signatures, and they need six months to count them. I think it’s funny and sad,” said Tomislav Cosic, one of the Headquarters’ leaders, in April.

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