Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has agreed to meet with veterans of the 1991 Croatian Independence War, 222 days after the beginning of their protests in the capital city of Zagreb. The decision came following a clash between the veterans and the police.
The main reason for the protests has been the demand for the resignation of Veterans’ Minister Predrag Matic and his team because they failed to pass a law which would give veterans special status.The veterans began their protests in October by building tents in Zagreb.
The clash between the police and nearly 100 protester began after they tried to rally in front of the government building.
The protesters shut themselves in St. Mark’s Chruch, and police encircled the church to control the crowd. However the protesters managed to cross the police cordon and remove all the police barricades.
Following Prime Minister Milanovic’s declaration, the veterans left the church and headed to their tent camp to wait for the meeting day.
One of the leaders of the long-running protest, Josip Klemm, said that the protestors and government officials are 70 percent of the way towards a solution.
"Don't let this chance be wasted. We don't want to have winners, let us solve this," Klemm added.
Milanovic organised a press conference saying “I sympathise with the veterans, but I don't like threats, blackmail and ultimatums. That will not pass muster with me."
“What happened yesterday is what happened. I had no influence on it. The police enforced the law. That is the only way it can be,” Milanovic added.
“This is a country where order must prevail. This is not a bar, this is the Croatian government. One does not talk with the state in this way.”
The president of the Association of 100 Percent Handicapped Croatian Defenders Djuro Glogoski said that the “police tried on three occasions to enter the church but retreated because they were not allowed in. Some of the most severely disabled war veterans, who have their physiological needs, are in there.”
“We estimate the situation as serious. Because of what happened last night, we think our lives are in danger. The gentlemen from the police yesterday wanted to kidnap Josip Klemm, but they failed,” he added.
Five thousand veterans have been living in Croatia and the government has reserved a 800,000 euro budget for them annually.
Prime Minister Milanovic has claimed that this conflict between the government and veterans was started by the opposition the Croatian Democratic Union party (HDZ).
According to Milanovic, HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko used the veterans to harm the government before the 2015 elections.
The Croatian independence war lasted from 1991 until the end of 1995 and took place between the Croatians and Serbs who were against the independence of the country.
The country's 1991 proclamation of independence from former Yugoslavia sparked the four-year war with Belgrade-backed rebel Serbs who opposed the move.
In the early 1990s, over 20,000 people were killed alone in the war between Croatia and Yugoslavia.