Croatia Marks 10 Years of NATO Membership

By 23 March 2019

ZAGREB, March 23, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković visited the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Friday, where the tenth anniversary of Croatia's membership was marked, and met with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, supporting his candidacy for a second term.

With its membership in the alliance, Croatia has expressed willingness to participate in the common defence system and to contribute to peace and stability, Plenković said at the anniversary ceremony.

Croatia has proved to be a reliable partner over the past ten years, participating in operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq, and in recent activities in Lithuania and Poland, he added.

In the year also marking NATO's 70th anniversary, Plenković recalled the importance the alliance had in strengthening international security after WWII and said that, with its enlargement policy, it had contributed to Europe's security.

He said Croatia had supported a Membership Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina as it wanted its neighbour to take the NATO journey, and that it had been among the first to ratify the accession protocol for North Macedonia, adding that he would have been pleased had it joined NATO together with Croatia and Albania.

Plenković welcomed the gradual increase of the defence budget to 2% of GDP, 20% of which should go to modernise defence capabilities.

We are very well aware of what it means to be a member of the alliance. In the 90s, Croatia was faced with the aggression of Slobodan Milošević's Great Serbia regime, as were other countries of the former Yugoslavia, he said.

We are very aware of all that collective security guarantees and how much easier it would have been to confront the challenges that threatened our territorial integrity, the large-scale destruction, the war destruction which claimed the lives of many of our fellow citizens and left many wounded, and some are still unaccounted for. For us here, it's a matter of the recent past, as if it happened yesterday, which is why we appreciate our NATO membership all the more, said Plenković.

He recalled what former US President George W. Bush said in Zagreb in 2008, when the political decision on Croatia's accession was made: From now on, no one will take away your freedom again. That message still echoes in our public and best embodies NATO's value, said Plenković.

Speaking of his meeting with Stoltenberg, he said he told him that Croatia supported his candidacy for another term as NATO secretary general. We support him because we believe he is doing a very good job. He is Croatia's friend. He was in Croatia six months ago. The dialogue is continuous. We talked about Croatia's contribution to NATO's capabilities and everything awaiting the alliance in this anniversary year, Plenković said.

Croatia joined NATO on 1 April 2009. Since 2003, more than 6,700 Croatian troops have participated in NATO-led operations, missions and activities.

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