Conflicts in the late `90s in the West Balkans region left a large pool of decommissioned veterans across Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro. The degree and quality of veteran welfare provided by these countries varies, but veteran populations play a very important role in all of their domestic politics. In recent years, a rise in involvment by veterans from these countries in conflicts across the globe, most notably in Ukraine and the Middle East, has been noticed. In this lecture, we will explain the roles that the veterans assumed on different geopolitical stages and contextualize them in the perspective of the veteran welfare system of their respective countries. In conclusion, we will offer considerations for global approaches to veteran welfare and suggestions of policies, based on examples of good practice, that help veterans remain heroes after they take off the uniform, and prevent villains from recruiting them.
A unique aspect of this lecture is the first hand experience of Predrag Matic, decorated war hero and Croatian minister of Veteran's Affairs, who spent nine months as a POW in three Serbian concentration camps, enduring physical and psychological abuse.
Predrag Matic was born in Vukovar, Croatia. He studied to be a teacher, but as the Homeland war started he volunteered to serve in the Croatian Armed forces. During the three month long siege of Vukovar, he fought on one of the most exposed positions at the enterance to the city. He is credited for single-handedly destroying eight tanks and one armored vehicle. For this, as well as for saving the life of one of his brothers in arms, Predrag Matic received the highest decorations and medals. After Vukovar fell to Serbian forces, Matic was captured and kept as POW for nine months in three concentration camps. He was liberated in an exchange of prisoners on 15.8.1992., and today he celebrates that day as his second birthday. He continued his military career and served in the Croatian Armed Forces throughout the Homeland War, holding functions such as the Chief of Staff to the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia and Spokesperson of the Armed Forces, before retiring with the rang of Colonel. In 2009 he was appointed Advisor for Veterans to the Croatian President Ivo Josipovic, and in 2011 he becomes Minister for Veterans' Affairs in the Cabinet of Zoran Milanovic.
Bojan Glavasevic was born in Vukovar, Croatia. His father was a decorated war reporter who was killed by the Yugoslavian People's Army and Serbian paramilitary forces and interred in a mass grave near Vukovar. Bojan Glavasevic studied general linguistics and sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy and Social Sciences, graduating cum laude with a thesis on linguistic programming of AI personalities, for which he received the Dean's award. He was a phd fellow at the Department for General Linguistics before accepting the positions of Chief of Staff and Spokesperson to the Minister Predrag Matic at the Ministry of Veterans'
Affairs in 2011. In 2012 he is appointed Director of the largest scholarship foundation in Croatia, the Foundation for the Children of Croatian War Veterans. In 2013 he is appointed Assistant minister in charge of Legal Affairs and Veteran Housing.