Zagreb - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said at a ceremony marking the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm in Knin on Monday that the 1995 operation was the moment that changed Croatia's history, telling citizens to awaken the self-confidence that helped them overcome the obstacles at the time and to look at the future with optimism.
"Under the leadership of the first Croatian president Franjo Tuđman we liberated one-fifth of the then occupied areas and showed the world that the Croatian people decides about its fate on its own. The Croatian flag at the Knin Fortress told the world boldly that the cradle of the Croatian state... the ancient town of Knin... will forever stay Croatian. And it also (told the world) that the strength of the newly built Croatian army had made it possible to finally complete the historic act of creation of an independent and sovereign Croatian state," Plenković said at the event marking Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and Croatian Veterans Day.
He said that Operation Storm was the decisive endeavor that secured the survival of the Croatian state and its territorial integrity, a legitimate response to the occupying forces and the final battle that dealt a fatal blow to Great Serbian claims to Croatian territory. Recalling that Croatia was remembering with pride all Croatian soldiers killed in the war, Plenković told their families that state institutions were working tirelessly to shed light on all war crimes and locate all the missing persons.
Plenković noted that Croatia's coming presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2020 would be dedicated to Croatian defenders. He said that Croatia was oriented towards the future and towards building a more just and more solidarity-based society. "We want a prosperous, demographically vital and poverty-free country, we are working to strengthen the rule of law because we want a more equitable Croatia, free of corruption and unlawfulness, based on its tradition and identity, and with the political will and strength to include all its minorities and ensure respect for their rights," said the PM.
President Grabar-Kitarović: Making Croatia prosperous politicians' main task
President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović said in her address at the Knin commemoration that Croatian politicians had the duty to make Croatia a prosperous, free country. Quoting General Ante Gotovina's statement in which he said that the war was over and that Croatians should turn to the future, Grabar-Kitarović said that the future was primarily the responsibility of politicians but also of all citizens. "The defenders gave their lives and health so that we could live... in our own, free and democratic country. We were given the responsibility to make Croatia a country where work is valued, where every citizen's dignity is beyond dispute, where Croatian identity and tradition are developed in freedom that fosters initiative, learning and creation and not destructiveness. That is our responsibility and my message today," said the president.
Jandroković: We celebrate Croatian people's historic achievement
Addressing the commemoration, Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that on the 24th anniversary of Operation Storm Croatians celebrated "their historic achievement with a feeling of unity, pride and joy."
"... today we celebrate the joint act of liberation of Croatian territory occupied by the Serb aggressor and the entire Homeland War," Jandroković said, adding that Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day was also an opportunity to remember the Croatian people's aspirations for independence that had lasted for centuries. Expressing gratitude to Croatian defenders for self-sacrifice in the defence of their people, Jandroković said that the values for which they had fought should be passed onto young generations.
Croatia's future is up to its people and Croatians must be aware of that, said Jandroković. "Our homeland must be a country that protects its identity, tradition and values on which it was founded, which respects its saints and heroes and objectively evaluates its history, and which rejects the legacy of totalitarian regimes that oppressed it and made it retrograde," Jandroković said, calling for "stronger engagement in the accomplishment of the set goals and for the creation of positive trends and a positive atmosphere in the country."