Government Dismisses SDP’s Interpellation on Fighter Jets Acquisition

By 7 February 2019

ZAGREB, February 7, 2019 - The government on Thursday unanimously adopted a report on an interpellation submitted by 16 Social Democratic Party (SDP) MPs about its performance in the procurement of fighter jets, assessing the claims in the interpellation as unfounded.

"The government conducted this very complex process systematically and responsibly, guided solely by Croatia's national interests, in line with the Defence Act and the Public Procurement Act. The selection of the multipurpose fighter jets was conducted transparently, with clear criteria and equal terms for all interested parties," Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said presenting the report.

He said no bidding country complained about the procurement procedure. He said the parliamentary defence committee and the Defence Council were included in the process from the start and were informed about the procurement in time and in detail.

Israel's bid cost 475 million dollars. Greece's cost 171 million euro, although additional costs were not defined, the aircraft were not modernised and total costs could not be estimated. Sweden's bid cost 933 million euro and total costs were estimated at 1.11 billion euro. The basic US offer cost 1.553 billion euro, excluding weaponry and training costs and total costs could not be estimated.

Krstičević said "it was concluded that Israel's bid would be complete and the most acceptable, including financially." He said Israel provided preliminary approval for the transfer of technical data in the configuration requested so that its bid could be valid.

It was Israel's obligation to obtain the US government's final permission for the delivery of the aircraft in the appropriate configuration and Israel officially notified Croatia that, contrary to the obligation undertaken, it could not obtain permission from the US for the delivery of F-16 Barak aircraft.

Croatia could not influence that and is not responsible, the minister said. "We asked all the necessary questions and received the appropriate guarantees."

He underlined that Croatia had not undertaken any financial obligations and that it suffered no consequences in the procurement procedure. "The government acted with due attention and we didn't ignore the views presented during the procurement procedure," he said, adding that, "with the intention to obtain all the necessary information and examine the procedure and terms of acquiring the transfer, additional consultations were made with the most relevant interlocutors in Israel and the US."

During the whole process, the government showed determination to ensure the best aircraft for the most affordable price.

"Croatia remains a key strategic partner to the US and this won't change. We underline that no action in this process has threatened the long-term stability and viability of the Croatian Air Force," said Krstičević.

The government will continue to seek a solution for maintaining the capability of the fighter jets we developed during the Homeland War, he added.

"It's important that we continue to have good relations with Israel and the US. And when it comes to defence cooperation, we will adopt some decisions at this meeting, which further confirms the continuity and intensity of our cooperation," said Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Late last month, the opposition SDP submitted an interpellation to parliament on the government's failure to procure F-16 Baraks from Israel, demanding that the government tell parliament why the procurement had failed.

The SDP wants parliament to establish if Krstičević and Plenković were responsible for the failure and to ensure that future procurement procedures, especially such expensive ones, be carried out transparently and in line with the Defence Act.

The interpellation signatories maintain that the government, notably the Defence Ministry, did not act transparently and with due attention, claiming that they did not take into account Croatia's overall interests and the positions of the US as the third party. Citing Croatia-US correspondence published in the media, they say the US clearly indicated that it was against the procurement as Krstičević wanted to implement it.

More news on the fighter jet debacle can be found in the Politics section.