ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — Croatia’s conservative government on Thursday formed a council to deal with the country’s previous pro-Nazi and Communist regimes in a bid to overcome the deep divisions that still exist over the Balkan nation’s past.
Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said that the move is an attempt to resolve the issues of the past for the future of new generations in the European Union’s newest member state.
“Croatia is still facing the consequences of the heritage of the non-democratic regimes,” said Plenkovic. “There are different interpretations of the past, which are not always based on scientific research and expert discussions.”
The government move has faced criticism from both liberals and Jewish groups, who argued that it treats as equal Croatia’s Ustasha puppet Nazi World War II regime and its postwar Communist leadership, and would only encourage fascist admirers.
Tens of thousands of Serbs, Jews and Roma were killed in World War II Croatian concentration camps before the country became part of the post-war Communist-run Yugoslavia.
Right-wing supporters in Croatia admire the wartime pro-Nazi regime for establishing an independent Croatia and believe that crimes committed by the victorious communists were never punished. Left-leaning Croats take pride in the country’s anti-fascist struggle during the war.
Plenkovic’s government acted to create the council after Croatian veteran groups from the 1990s’ war for independence from Yugoslavia last year set up a plaque bearing a notorious Ustasha call in the town of Jasenovac, the site of a WWII concentration camp.
Croatia is facing a rise in far-right sentiments, especially against minority Serbs who remained in the country after the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.
The US Embassy in Croatia on Monday strongly denounced a march by far-right nationalists in the capital of Zagreb who waved an American flag and voiced support for US President Donald Trump.