"Croats were not in charge of their own destiny for almost 900 years but lived in their territory under various foreign rulers and alien regimes until, at a time of tectonic changes in Europe, owing to the vision of President Tuđman and the courage of Croatian defenders and the unity of the entire Croatian people, we won the right to freedom and the right to our own state," Plenković said in Knin, at the central event marking Victory and Homeland Thanksgiving Day and War Veterans Day and the 27th anniversary of Operation Storm.
Operation Storm was a combined military and police operation that ended a Serb armed insurgency in August 1995 and restored Croatian sovereignty over occupied central and southern parts of the country, paving the way for the peaceful reintegration of eastern Croatia in January 1998.
Operation Storm enabled victory in Homeland War, peace in BiH
Plenković said that the magnificent victory in Operation Storm was decisive in making it possible for Croatia to win an imposed war and restore its constitutional and legal order throughout its territory.
Operation Storm also enabled peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and made it possible for Bihać to avoid a genocide unlike Srebrenica, and it also enabled the Dayton-Paris peace agreement, he said.
The government will insist on the protection of constitutional rights of the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the PM said, adding that "there can be no European Bosnia and Herzegovina until all its citizens, particularly Croats, who are often outvoted and disenfranchised, are legitimately and democratically represented in the country's executive and representative bodies."
Preconditions for that are a fair election law and a better functioning of the BiH Federation entity, he said.
Serbia's accusations about expulsion false, futile
In a message to Serbia, Plenković said Croatia would continue to work on peace, good neighbourly relations, stability and dialogue but also expected its neighbours to do the same.
Croatia will not tolerate questioning the character of the Homeland War as a just and legitimate war and it will not allow indictments against its war heroes, he said.
"There have been attempts lately again to malign Croatia with false and futile accusations about the expulsion of Croatian Serbs in 1995 even though it is well known that the leadership of rebel Serbs had forced them, in collaboration with Belgrade, to leave Croatia, as confirmed and proven with documents at the Hague war crimes tribunal by Serb indictees who repented their actions," Plenković said.
He said Serbian indictments against Croatian pilots and Serbia's expanding its jurisdiction to other countries were unacceptable.
The more so as it comes from a country which launched aggression against Croatia and is still not showing true readiness to acknowledge its responsibility "for the criminal enterprise of the Milošević regime," said Plenković.
Investing in security needed more than ever
Given the current geopolitical situation, it is important to invest in security more than ever because the war in Europe has upset the security balance and its impact on the economy, finance, energy and food in Europe and the rest of the world is evident, he said.
"That results in the weakening and destabilisation of fragile and vulnerable states, in poverty and hunger and new migration waves. Even though 27 years have passed since the end of the Homeland War, this is a warning that we must continue to strengthen our defence capabilities," Plenković said, stressing that Croatia set aside HRK 7.6 billion annually for defence.
He noted that his government was leading Croatia at a time of crises - from the coronavirus pandemic and earthquakes to the financial, energy and economic crises, but that it was weathering them while managing to maintain political stability, ready to intervene to the benefit of citizens and the business sector.
The government will continue doing so in order to prevent social fracture and strengthen the business sector, in line with the principle of modern sovereignism and respecting the sacrifice of Croatian defenders, Plenković said.