The government has released a list of half a million former fighters in the independence war from 1991-1995 – in a drive to clamp down on the widespread abuse of veterans status.Three Ministers, of Defence, the Interior and Veterans, all three former soldiers, presented the registry, which has been published on the veterans’ website since Wednesday.
It lists 502,678 former fighters – 440,397 names of people who participated in combat, and 18,166 of people who took part in the war in other ways.
The number of soldiers who participated in the independence war has long been the subject of controversy in Croatia.
Many veterans claim that a lot of other people either exaggerated or lied about their involvement in the war in order to obtain the material privileges provided by law for former war veterans.
Publication of the registry was an election promise of the centre-left coalition led by Zoran Milanovic, who, as Prime Minister, appointed Predrag Matic, a well-known veteran from the battle in Vukovar, as Minister for Veterans.
The previous government, led by the centre-right Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, had completed the registry, but had refused to publish it, claiming that it would reveal secret personal data.
Critics of that move claimed that the HDZ was simply protecting its own “phoney fighters” from public exposure.
Controversy over who fought in the war is not likely to go away.
Within two hours of the registry being published, about 10,000 people had contacted the Veterans Ministry to complain about false fighters still on the list, media reports said.