by Ante GUGO
The culmination of the argument was the decision of the opposition representatives to leave the Parliament hall whenever Minister [for Reconstruction] Radimir Cacic enters it. And what is the essence of the problem in the amendments and changes of the Law About Reconstruction proposed by the new authorities and the Minister of Reconstruction and Public Works, respectively?
The problem is in article one, since Minister Cacic and his Ministry proposed the definition according to which "this law covers reconstruction of material goods destroyed in the Homeland War that were exposed to destruction or consequences of that destruction before May 15 1998".
Although the previous formulation is a true terrorist attack on someone not accustomed to the legal terminology, it should be emphasized that it does not fully correspond to the definition "material goods destroyed in the Homeland War", proposed by the new authorities, and which has caused the so far greatest dispute between the authorities and the opposition.
Namely, although the sponsor of the law in his justification claims otherwise, the definition of the material goods destroyed in the Homeland War can literally be extended to vacation homes, garages and other objects that were not even directly damaged by war activities. Of course, the aim of the lawmakers is obvious, and that is to under the pressure of the international community give to those Serbs whose houses were destroyed in completely unnecessary arson attacks after the liberation of some territories, as well as in the territories that were never under occupation, the right to reconstruct their houses. In the future lawyers could use these two categories in order to challenge the new Law About Reconstruction, that will probably be adopted in the Parliament, regardless of how much the opposition is opposed to it. Namely, while the destruction of houses in some liberated territory can really be treated as something related to war and fighting, the blowing up of houses in larger Croatian cities that were never occupied, such as Zadar, Vinkovci, and some others should never be covered by the Law About Reconstruction and similar other laws.
These acts are simply individual crimes which should be prosecuted under the Crime statutes and because of which the Police should conduct an investigation and arrest culprits while the courts should sentence them if their guilt is proven in a trial. The owner of a destroyed building should demand a compensation for the damage in a private civil suit.
However, in all that the biggest controversy was provoked by the definition of the persons who have the right to reconstruction and by that the sponsor of the changes and amendments of the Law has violated a whole series of other laws of the Republic of Croatia.
Namely, the current law specifies a whole series of conditions that must be fulfilled by those who are requesting the reconstruction of their property and one of them was that they are citizens of the Republic of Croatia. This rule was not the product of someone's whim or desire to use a legal trick in order to prevent Croatian Serb refugees to rebuild their homes, but was the result of several other legal provisions, as well as other articles of the Law About Reconstruction, and which all together specify the manner in which the reconstruction is conducted.
Thus, for example, those who make a request for reconstruction of their property must prove the ownership of that property, and according to some other laws, foreign nationals cannot own real estate in Croatia.
The refusal of Serbs escaped from Croatia to come to Croatian consulates or embassies in order to go through the formalities regarding their citizenship can only be interpreted in two ways: they either totally despise the Croatian state of have committed crimes and are afraid to show up even at the Croatian embassy abroad.
However, although the sponsor of the new Reconstruction Law gives to even such individuals an opportunity to have their property rebuilt using the money of Croatian tax payers, he also gives that opportunity to the individuals who aren't and cannot become citizens of the Republic of Croatia.
In our case most of them are officers of the former Yugoslav People's Army who were not born in Croatia and did not live in Croatia long enough to acquire the right to Croatian citizenship, but did remain in the country long enough to build a house of a vacation home, most frequently on the coast about which Serbia has been dreaming unsuccessfully for centuries.
Namely, modifying the existing law and the wording of article 4, the authorities are literally proposing that the right to reconstruction can be obtained "..by owners of other destroyed or damaged material goods who are citizens of the Republic of Croatia and persons who lived in the Republic of Croatia in 1991..."
Since this list of priorities has been erased, indeed Croatian defenders, disabled Croatian war veterans, Croatian widows and orphans are given the same status as the officers who mutilated them, or officers who murdered and mutilated them, and imprisoned their loved ones in concentration camps.
Isn't it a bit too much that the right to reconstruction is given even to those who even haven't found it appropriate to request Croatian citizenship, but too boot will have their vacation homes on the coast rebuilt by the Croatian tax payers?
Namely, both the current and proposed laws give the right to reconstruction to those who do not have other means for permanent accommodation on the territory of the Republic of Croatia. Of course the escaped rebels and aggressors against Croatia have the advantage here with respect to Croatian citizens and they will find it easier to obtain the right to reconstruction.
The lawmakers in the justification refer to the possible naturalization of refugees and their chance to obtain documents while already in the Republic of Croatia, but the manner in which persons without Croatian citizenship can return to the country is not specified anywhere, including their accommodation, and the order of actions between the application for citizenship and the acquiring of the right to reconstruction.
What are the consequences of the modifications and amendments to the Law About Reconstruction? If the individual crimes, blowing up of houses and arson attacks which are sanctioned under the Criminal Statues and private civil suits for compensation are made equal to the damages due to war activities, then the whole Homeland War becomes a civil war and the whole Croatian Army and all its volunteers are made equal to Martic's rebels and paramilitary groups from Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia-Hercegovina.
What does it mean that today a house of a rebel who took up arms against the Republic of Croatia is being rebuilt by the resources earned by a Croatian volunteer? That does not even make the two of them equal. That is nothing but a pure humiliation of Croatian defenders and victims.
What is most surprising in all that is that the new authorities have failed to capitalize on the improved standing of the state abroad and obtain donated financial resources for the reconstruction of Serb houses.
Finally, the government owes a direct answer to the question which portion of the announced 30% increase in the price of gasoline will be used for the reconstruction of houses and vacation homes of Serb aggressors against Croatia?