Thursday, 31 March 2022

PM, Defence Minister Remember Operation Plitvice

ZAGREB, 31 March 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Thursday remembered the first victim of the 1991-1995 Homeland War - police officer Josip Jović who was killed by Serb insurgents near the Plitvice Lakes 31 years ago.

"This is an opportunity for us to once again remember and thank all Croatian defenders, soldiers, police officers and all those who gave their lives for freedom," Plenković said.

In a separate message on this occasion, Defence Minister Mario Banožić said: "We are proud of Josip Jović and all defenders, Croatian police officers and Croatian soldiers, who showed how to fight for the freedom of Croatia and all its people, regardless of the gravity of challenges and despite sacrifices."

Croatia on Thursday commemorated the 31th anniversary of Operation Plitvice and the death of Josip Jović, the first Croatian police officer to be killed by Serb insurgents at the start of the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

The operation was mounted after rebel Serbs set up a police station in Plitvice and the Croatian state leadership decided to restore constitutional order there.

Jović, 22, was killed and nine other police officers were wounded in that police operation after the Serb rebels occupied Plitvice Lakes National Park and blocked the D1 state road that connects the country's north and south. Jović was a member of the Lučko Anti-Terrorist Unit.

The operation was launched on the morning of 31 March 1991, Easter Sunday, and is also known as Bloody Easter.

According to police reports after the operation, 29 Serb extremists were arrested and 18 were charged with armed rebellion, including Goran Hadžić, a member of the main committee of the Serb Democratic Party, and Borivoje Savić, secretary of the executive committee of the party's Vukovar branch. Although the Croatian police regained control of the local police station, they had to withdraw later and the area remained under rebel control until August 1995 when Operation Storm crushed the Serb insurgency.

Jović has been posthumously promoted to the rank of major and decorated with high state medals.

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Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Milanović Says He Has Never Heard of Paladina, But Sees He's Close to Russian Oligarchs

ZAGREB, 8 March 2022 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that he had never heard of Ivan Paladina, the candidate for the new construction minister, but that he could see that he was close to Russian oligarchs and that he would prefer to see a politician or an engineer in that post.

"The man has sizeable assets, which on the one hand deserves respect, but on the other hand, one always wonders how somebody's property was acquired, if they are not a top athlete or innovator but a broker," said Milanović.

Commenting on the fact that the new minister was not a member of the HDZ, Milanović said he saw that as a sign of caution having to do with the arrest of former construction minister Darko Horvat by the Office of the Attorney-General.

"When half of your government is arrested, with some members having been arrested unconstitutionally and completely inexplicably, you get extra cautious," said Milanović.

The ruling coalition earlier in the day unanimously supported Ivan Paladina as the candidate for the new Minister of Physical Planning, Construction and State Assets, to be voted on by the parliament on Wednesday.

Among other things, Paladina was also the CEO of the Institute IGH civil engineering company and the chief advisor at the Croatian Postal Bank (HPB).

On ministry's reaction to court decision on Burčul's retirement

Milanović also commented on the Defence Ministry's reaction to the Administrative Court's decision to quash its decision to send into retirement Colonel Elvis Burčul, commander of the Honorary and Protection Battalion, which protects the president.

The ministry said the court decision would have no effect on Defence Minister Mario Banožić's decision to send Burčul into retirement.

"The ministry's message is criminal behaviour, I do not consider it binding in any way," said Milanović.

He said that with its decision the court had actually told Banožić that he had made up the reason for Burčul's retirement and that his reaction was completely normal "for a petty thief and liar."

On sanctions against Russia

Milanović also commented on the sanctions which Croatia, as part of the EU's response to the Russian aggression on Ukraine, can impose on Russian companies and oligarchs, stressing that one should take care the sanctions do not turn into an act of retaliation.

"There has been in the HDZ, notably during (former HDZ leader Tomislav) Karamarko's term, a... group of people linked with Russians and Ukrainians," he said, adding that decisions on who could be subject to sanctions were very arbitrary.

"One should be careful with that and take care, regardless of what the document says, that Croatia does not suffer harm," he said.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Conflict of Interest Commission Launches Proceedings Against Minister Banožić

ZAGREB, 5 March 2022 - The Conflict of Interest Commission on Friday launched proceedings against Defence Minister Mario Banožić over his controversial decision to allocate himself a flat in downtown Zagreb for use at the time when he was State Assets Minister.

The proceedings were launched based on an article in the Nacional weekly, which in September 2021 reported that at the time when he was State Assets Minister, Banožić allocated himself a 92-square-metre flat in downtown Zagreb for use, as well as based on a report that sought determining the place of residence of Banožić's family.

The state-run Državne Nekretnine company, which manages state-owned property and which invested HRK 165,000 to renovate the flat allocated to Banožić, said in a submission to the Conflict of Interest Commission that the procedure to allocate the flat had been launched by the State Assets Ministry secretariat, by a note to Državne Nekretnine on 26 July 2019.

Državne Nekretnine said that in line with the relevant law, the allocation of the flat was conducted by the State Assets Ministry, and that the decision on the allocation of the flat in question was made by Banožić, at the time serving as State Assets Minister, on 6 September 2019.

Conflict of Interest Commission member Tatijana Vučetić said the Commission should establish if the office-holder met the criteria for the allocation of a flat of that size, to which he would be entitled in case his spouse and children lived with him.

However, it has been established that the place of residence of Banožić's wife and children is Vinkovci and that it has not been changed for the duration of both of his ministerial terms.

At the start of his term as State Assets Minister, Banožić was given a smaller flat in downtown Zagreb for use, with Državne Nekretnine saying at the time that the flat was not adequate and that another flat would possibly be available at another downtown location soon.

For that flat, as well as another two flats to be given to office-holders for use, their status had to be changed to that of flats used by office-holders, Vučetić said, noting that even though a decision to that effect is made by the competent commission, in this concrete case, Banožić himself made a decision changing the status of the flats in question and on the same day allocated himself one of the flats.

The Commission also notes that the regulation cited by the State Assets Ministry as the basis for changing the status of the flat and its allocation reads that decisions on the allocation of state-owned flats for use by office-holders are made by the competent body, which, the Conflict of Interest Commission notes, does not mean by default that such decisions are made by the body's head.

The Commission therefore believes the case is a possible violation of the law on the prevention of conflict of interest and that the official abused his special rights and made decisions securing for himself the right to use a state-owned flat.

Proceedings not launched against FinMin Marić

The Commission did not launch proceedings against Finance Minister Zdravko Marić for spending some of his vacation time on a yacht owned by his friend, businessman Blaž Pavičić.

It was established that Marić had in no way been involved in the making of decisions, identification of violations or misdemeanor proceedings involving businesses owned by his friend and that the ministry he heads did not have business relations with those companies.

Commission rapporteur Davorin Ivanjek said that the Commission had previously stated that in the case of declared friendships one could not speak of impermissible gifts considering that common gifts between family members, relatives and friends are allowed.

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Friday, 28 May 2021

Banožić, Hranj Extend Greetings on Croatian Army Day

ZAGREB, 28 May 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić and military Chief-Of-Staff Admiral Robert Hranj on Friday extended greetings on Croatian Army Day, Croatian Ground Army Day and the Croatian National Guard's 30th anniversary, saying Croatia was proud of its history and the Homeland War and focused on the future.

Banožić recalled the lining up of the Croatian National Guard 30 years ago in front of then president and supreme commander Franjo Tuđman, saying that in an imposed war, in fighting for freedom and independence, the resolute and brave Croatian youth in a short time grew into a reputable military power capable of defending and liberating the then occupied parts of the country.

"We proudly remember the glorious final operations, notably Flash and Storm, when the Croatian Army brought victory and ensured peace and freedom for the Croatian people."

Banožić said he was proud of the achievements of the Croatian Army at home and abroad, thanking every member for their honourable and professional service.

He said today was an occasion to remember all the defenders who gave their lives for Croatia's freedom, calling on all soldiers and officers to continue to protect their legacy.

Admiral Hranj said the Homeland War was a symbol of the strength of Croatia's citizens and the patriotism of its soldiers, adding that the present-day Armed Forces were built on those foundations.

He said the army's fundamental missions remained the defence of the country, contributing to international stability and assisting civilian institutions.

The Croatian Army is developing as an important part of all of the state's potential and as an inseparable part of society, he added.

President pays tribute to those killed in Homeland War

President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander Zoran Milanović today laid wreaths at Zagreb's Mirogoj cemetery and paid tribute to those killed in the Homeland War and all soldiers and police officers. He was accompanied by Hranj.

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Thursday, 27 August 2020

Banozic Participates in EU Defence Ministers' Meeting in Berlin

ZAGREB, Aug 27, 2020 - Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banozic attended an informal meeting of the European Union member states' defence ministers, which took place in Berlin on Wednesday, within Germany's presidency of the Council of the EU, the Croatian ministry stated in a press release.

It was the first physical ministerial meeting at the EU level since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the participants discussed EU’s operational commitments as part of operations and missions of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP).

The importance of cooperation with NATO and the United Nations was highlighted.

Minister Banozic spoke about the importance of efforts of the EU and NATO to keep their focus on and coordinate their activities in southeastern Europe, which is additionally exposed to security challenges and hybrid threats due to the circumstances marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He called for more efforts to be invested in making it more visible how much the European Union contributes to the stability and security of the bloc's neigbourhood in the southeast.

Also on the agenda was the new Strategic Compass, which is expected to give the EU a common strategic direction. In an initial step, a common threat analysis will be conducted during the German Council Presidency, which is a first at European level, according to the information provided on the website of the German EU Presidency.

The framework document on the Strategic Compass was on the agenda of the EU defence ministers' meeting in Zagreb in early March when Croatia chaired the Council of the EU.

Minister Banozic expressed confidence that the Strategic Compass can contribute to the understanding of the role of the European Union in the changing geopolitical environment and to strengthening the complementary defence capabilities and cooperation.

The meeting also revolved around PESCO, which is the Permanent Structured Cooperation, established in December 2017 to raise cooperation on defence among the participating EU Member States to a new level.

Also discussed was the European Defence Fund, which is expected to foster an innovative and competitive defence industrial base and contribute to the EU's strategic autonomy.

The fund will have an important role in developing the EU defence abilities and can help SMEs that do business in the defence industry, to be more engaged in those efforts, reads the ministry's press release.

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Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Defence Minister Says Has Demanded Report On Faulty Helicopters

ZAGREB, Aug 19, 2020 - Defence Minister Mario Banozic said on Wednesday that he had demanded a renewed report on the cases involving faulty helicopters and their overhaul.

Coming to Government House in Zagreb for an inner cabinet meeting, Banozic was asked by the press about the faults found on Croatian Air Force helicopters, and explained that two faults had been found and that Croatia had demanded the removal of those faults by those who had already performed the overhaul and this would be done at their expense.

He recalled that the overhauled helicopters had registered over 1,000 flight hours in a year.

The minister dismissed as tendentious, media reports that one of the faulty helicopters had intentionally been put at the disposal of the president, which was why he (Zoran Milanovic) was prevented from flying.

Asked about the priorities facing the ministry's organisation in the autumn, Banozic announced the reduction of the number of employees in his department.

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Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Banozic: Further Modernisation of Croatian Military Is a Priority

ZAGREB, July 21, 2020 - The future Minister of Defence, Mario Banozic, said on Tuesday that the priorities in his department would be further modernisation of the armed forces, development of infrastructure, and personnel training.

"It will definitely be the continuation of modernisation of the Croatian army, training, development of infrastructure, including accommodation and other capacities necessary for the Croatian army to be the pride of Croatia," Banozic told reporters ahead of the last meeting of the outgoing government.

He said that despite defence budget cuts, salaries for military personnel would not be reduced and should be increased.

Banozic has served as the Minister of State Assets in the outgoing government.