Friday, 6 March 2020

National Security Council Discusses Migrant Movements

ZAGREB, March 6, 2020 - During a meeting of the National Security Council on Thursday, the chiefs of security and intelligence agencies and the interior minister presented data on migrant movements, briefed on activities by Croatia's police in protecting the state border, and discussed the possibility of providing support to the police.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković informed of activities related to the potential development of a new migrant crisis on the eastern-Mediterranean/western Balkan route, the crisis in Syria and the situation on the Turkish-Greek border, a press release issued after the meeting said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Davor Božinović presented the conclusions of an extraordinary meeting of the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council on Wednesday which he chaired.

The National Security Council was briefed on the activities by Croatia's police in protecting the state border and in that regard, the possibility of providing support to the police by other relevant state institutions and services was considered, the press release said.

All measures regarding COVID-19 conducted in timely manner, efficiently and transparently

Members of the government and the national civil protection authority briefed the Council on all the activities undertaken at the national level over the past two months related to the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus as well as at the level of the European Union, considering Croatia's role in presiding over the Council of the European Union.

It was concluded that all the measures were undertaken in a timely manner, efficiently and transparently. In addition to the activities regarding health and security, the possible consequences to finances, tourism and the economy were also analysed.

After a debate it was concluded that all the relevant institutions should continue with additional measures as required, including regular meetings of the EU health council, the press release from the President's Office said.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Migrant Issue Prompts Top Croatian Officials to Convene National Security Council

ZAGREB, March 3, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović said on Monday afternoon that he had agreed with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to soon convene a meeting of the National Security Council over the potential new migrant influx in the coming weeks.

However, Milanović said that he did not expect a huge tide of migrants soon, but the council would be convened "for the purpose of decision-making, if necessary."

"It may turn out to be unnecessary, however, who knows what can still happen," Milanović said during his visit to the Croat community in the Austrian city of Eisenstadt. Earlier in the day Milanović also visited Vienna for talks with his Austrian counterpart Alexander Von der Bellen.

Milanović, who served as Croatia's prime minister during the 2015 migrant crisis, added that this time nothing resembling those developments five years ago would occur again.

"Nevertheless, we must brace for (every scenario)," the Croatian president underscored.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that "millions" of migrants and refugees will soon head towards Europe, foreign media outlets have reported. Erdogan has been quoted as saying that Turkey could not cope with a new wave of refugees after an escalation of the Syrian conflict.

Milanovic also informed reporters that PM Plenković had telephoned him to say that he and Interior Minister Davor Božinović would soon fly to Greece to discuss the latest developments surrounding the migrant issue.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 26 February 2020

First Step Taken Towards Establishing Intelligence College in Europe

ZAGREB, February 26, 2020 - Twenty-three countries, meeting at a conference in Zagreb on Wednesday, signed a letter of intent to establish the Intelligence College in Europe.

"The Intelligence College is a tool for cooperation, and cooperation is the only way for Europe to remain safe and prosperous," said the Director of Croatia's Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA), Danijel Markić.

"A safe, stable and prosperous Europe is our common goal," he said, adding that the aim of this initiative was to become "a bridge towards other communities."

The initiative aims to ensure dialogue between the European intelligence community, decision makers and the academic community.

Markić said that it was necessary to find a better way of communicating at a strategic level because of the diversity of intelligence services. Some are internal or external, with police powers or without them, and SOA is a hybrid service.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković described the Intelligence College as "a very good form of cooperation which is more open than is usual in the intelligence community." He added that it would not be "operational cooperation", but that the College would deal with "strategic issues, communication and training."

The Intelligence College will not function as a platform for the exchange of security and intelligence data. It will be based in Paris, and conferences and seminars will be held in countries that join it.

Thirty countries, including all 27 EU member states, the United Kingdom, Norway and Switzerland, have been offered to participate in the initiative. To date, 22 EU member states and the UK have given the green light to the Intelligence College, while EU members Bulgaria, Slovakia, Poland, Luxembourg and Greece have not yet joined in. Plenkovic believes that "the other countries will join with time."

Ranko Ostojić, the chairman of the parliamentary Committee on Home Affairs and National Security, stressed the importance of intelligence services and their cooperation with other actors, stressing that "whoever is in control of information also controls the situation."

"You see what's going on with the new epidemic which may turn into a pandemic. Professional, experienced people who possess information can be of great help to decision makers," he said.

The idea to establish the Intelligence College was floated by French President Emmanuel Macron in a speech at the Sorbonne in September 2017, when he expressed the need to establish a kind of European intelligence academy where EU intelligence communities would converge through training, education and exchange.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

National Security Council Holds Session

ZAGREB, December 10, 2019 - The National Security Council on Tuesday held a regular session at which it discussed security threats and risks to national security and interests, notably in the context of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the EU in the first half of 2020, the Office of the President of the Republic said.

Participants in the session, called by President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, also adopted annual guidelines for the work of security-intelligence agencies in 2020 and approved a plan of work of the Coordinating committee for the system of homeland security for 2020.

The Council also approved the establishment of cooperation between Croatian security-intelligence agencies with foreign services, in line with the agencies' needs.

The co-chairs of an interdepartmental commission in charge of the purchase of multipurpose fighter jets informed the Council of the current status of their activities and steps taken so far at the national level and internationally.

The Council supported the project as well as Croatia's commitment to maintaining and upgrading its strategic defence capabilities, the statement said.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 20 September 2019

Croatia Ratifies Protocol on Prevention of Terrorism

ZAGREB, September 20, 2019 - The Croatian parliament on Friday ratified the Additional Protocol to the Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism which aims at facilitating mutual cooperation between member states and ensuring the efficient prevention and combatting of terrorism.

The protocol makes a number of acts, including taking part in an association or group for the purpose of terrorism, receiving terrorist training, travelling abroad for the purposes of terrorism and financing or organising travel for this purpose, a criminal offence.

By ratifying the protocol each party obliges to undertake the necessary steps for the timely exchange of all available and relevant information regarding persons travelling abroad for the purposes of terrorism.

With this protocol Croatia joins in international cooperation to prevent and sanction terrorism which today is a problem of global extent and is a direct threat to the freedom and lives of individuals.

Parliament adopted a report submitted by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković regarding meetings of the European Council over the past few months with 77 votes in favour.

The prime minister considers that the practice of informing parliament of these meetings is important for lawmakers and the public in general particularly considering that Croatia will be chairing the European Union in the first half of next year.

Plenković welcomed the fact that the new President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen chose Croatia as the third country to visit after she was elected to that position.

More political news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Israel and Croatia Sign Cyber Security Cooperation Agreement

ZAGREB, September 12, 2019 - Croatia and Israel will in future cooperate much closer in combating cyber attacks and a cooperation agreement to that effect was signed in Tel Aviv on Thursday by Croatia's Interior Minister Davor Božinović and Yigal Unna, the Chief Executive Director of the Directorate's Cyber Technologies Unit at Israel's Ministry of Public Security.

In a statement for Hina, Unna underscored that it was a great honour to sign this "historic agreement" on cyber security which is one of the fundamental threats. Cooperation is a must for all countries that share the same values, according to the Israeli official.

We are faced with growing threats and we have to stick together, Unna said and added that Croatia and Israel now have a way for our two countries to also protect Europe from cyber threats. I would hope for a lot of activities and programmes that we will work on together so that we can achieve cyber security, Unna said.

Božinović too underscored that the institution the agreement was signed with is one of the leading agencies of its kind in the world.

"Our lives are moving more and more into the digital sphere and that is why it is necessary to protect what we have at our disposal and what we are dealing with today and Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in that regard," Božinović told Hina.

"This is a big step for us and a great honour. We look forward to future cooperation in protecting the interests of our countries and peoples," he added.

The Interior Ministry underlined the number, seriousness and international nature of cyber attacks which requires growing effort and innovativeness from countries but also cooperation between countries. Cooperation on the national, regional and international level is essential for proper functioning and security in a digital environment and the ministry is convinced that this agreement will contribute to the cyber security of Croatia and of its citizens and institutions.

All our experiences are also yours, Unna said, who presented the work of his agency prior to signing the agreement.

The national cyber unit is directly responsible to the prime minister and is ranked along with other security institutions such as intelligence services.

The agency provides incident handling services and guidance for all civilian entities as well as all critical infrastructures in the Israeli economy, and works towards increasing the resilience of the civilian cyber space.

More news about relations between Croatia and Israel can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Security Situation in Croatia Stable, Says SOA

ZAGREB, June 4, 2019 - The security situation in Croatia is stable and there are currently no indications or visible potential for its more significant destabilisation, the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA) says in a public report on its activities in 2018, posted on its website.

The threat of terrorism in Croatia is small, however, considering the nature of modern terrorist threats, Croatia's membership of Euro-Atlantic associations and belonging to western democratic value system, and its developed tourism sector and visibility in global media, there is a potential risk of terrorist threats, SOA says, noting that there is also a constant risk of lone wolves who carry out terrorist attacks on their own, encouraged by public calls from terrorist organisations.

SOA says that one of the security challenges for Croatia is the transit of foreign nationals believed to support terrorist activities, in the context of migration trends.

"To reduce the risks of this challenge, SOA has been taking appropriate preventive action with the aim of protecting the Republic of Croatia as well as other European countries," says the report.

SOA also says that seven persons who (also) have Croatian citizenship - two men and five women - have stayed in the territory controlled by the Islamic State terrorist organisation. None of those people were radicalised in Croatia nor did they join ISIL from Croatia, SOA says.

According to available unconfirmed information, the two men were killed while fighting on the side of ISIL while some of the women have been staying in civilian camps in Syria that are controlled by the Kurdish-Arab Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The women followed their jihadist husbands into ISIL and some of them have had children during their stay in Syria and Iraq, but their exact location and fate need confirmation due to the chaotic situation after ISIL's defeat, says the report.

SOA also notes that no extremism, regardless of its ideological, religious or ethnic grounds, enjoys broader public support in Croatia, a significant number of followers or significant motivating potential.

Members of extremist groups have very small potential for causing violence, incidents or large-scale conflicts and their activities do not pose a more significant threat to national security, SOA says, noting that there is also no serious anti-immigration extremism but adding that the growing anti-immigration trends in Europe could in the medium term lead to the strengthening of such groups in Croatia.

SOA also notes that unlike western EU countries and countries in Croatia's southeast neighbourhood, Islamic radicalism has not managed to mobilise a more significant number of followers, which it attributes to the local Islamic community's good status, reputation and integration in the Croatian society.

Analysing security trends in the neighbourhood, SOA says that Croatia's southeast neighbourhood is still unstable and not entirely consolidated politically and security-wise. "The complexity of the current security and political situation in the southeast neighbourhood is evidenced by the fact that some of those countries continue to function with active involvement by the international community and that situation is not likely to change soon."

SOA also notes that Croatia was a target of a number of cyber-attacks in recent years and warns that considering the country's presidency of the EU in 2020 there is an increased risk of cyber-attacks against state institutions' information and communication systems. "In cooperation with other relevant agencies, SOA is working to enhance the capability of defence against such threats to national security."

The security-intelligence agency also reports about attempts by criminal groups from neighbouring countries to smuggle narcotics, illegal migrants and high-profit goods in Croatia, in cooperation with local criminal groups and individuals, and to hide in Croatia from criminal prosecution in their home countries or from rival criminal groups.

More national security news can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Homeland Security System Successful in Crises

ZAGREB, May 21, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday the Security 19 exercise showed how the homeland security system and the synergy of all stakeholders acted successfully in crises and in inaccessible terrain.

Speaking at Divulje Air Base after the exercise was held, he said, "It was impressive to see the air and naval forces, the good vehicles firemen have, the army support and the police security. This was indeed high-tech progress."

He said the communication equipment of the Transmitters and Communications and Croatian Forests companies was integrated into the fire protection system.

Speaking of the upgraded homeland security system, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said the system was a government brand and that only with it could Croatia deal with all the contemporary threats.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović said Security 19 was a great example of how to build a protection and rescue system. The system gets better, more coherent and more efficient by the year and more and more attention is paid to prevention, he added.

The coordination of all the forces which took part in today's exercise, held in Zadar, Šibenik-Knin and Split-Dalmatia counties, is excellent and Croatia is ready for the summer fire season, it was said.

More national security news can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Parliament Seeks Information on Alleged Monitoring of Interior Minister's Emails

ZAGREB, May 8, 2019 - The chairman of the parliamentary committee on home affairs and national security, Ranko Ostojić of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), said on Wednesday that he would ask state agencies for their position on alleged plans by former police IT specialist Franjo Varga, a suspect in the fake text messages affair, to monitor Interior Minister Davor Božinović's emails.

Ostojić said that he was surprised that the president and the prime minister did not intend to call a session of the National Security Council despite an abundance of information on possible threats to state institutions.

Noting that he would request an opinion of the relevant state services, Ostojić said: "Ongoing proceedings in the fake text messages affair are confidential and yet we have information leaks in some weeklies and dailies."

Ostojić said that the committee would discuss the matter once the requested information was obtained but noted that he needed the consent of a part of the committee on home affairs and national security to call a thematic session on the fake texts affair.

"The president and the prime minister say that they have no information on what is going on. That's security for you, hearing the prime minister, who is in charge of all services that need to report to him, say that he has no information. It could be that I'm informed better than the prime minister. This definitely deserves a serious session and serious answers," said Ostojić. He added that he believed the current developments were due to infighting in the ruling HDZ party.

Ostojić also expressed dissatisfaction with cooperation with Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović, saying that he had not attended any of the committee's sessions. "That says enough about his attitude to the parliamentary body in charge of overseeing the police's work," he said.

Prosecutors contend that Franjo Varga created fake text messages, including for former football mogul Zdravko Mamić, and that last September Blaž Curić, a close friend of Deputy Parliament Speaker and HDZ vice-president Milijan Brkić, warned Varga that he was under investigation.

The Nacional weekly, which has been following the fake texts scandal for months, said in its latest issue that in March 2018, Varga's co-defendant Curić, asked Varga to monitor Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović's emails, which Varga reportedly refused to do.

Police said recently they had brought charges against Brkić, his brother Jozo Brkić, Varga and Curić, for committing cybernetic offences against several persons.

The police allegedly found out about computer hacking by examining the computers and documents seized in the case against Varga and Curić.

The prosecutorial authorities have said that the investigation is confidential for the sake of protection of the private lives of the women whose computer systems were hacked.

More news about Interior Ministry can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Parliamentary Committee Discusses SOA Intimidation Allegations

ZAGREB, January 15, 2019 - The parliamentary Domestic Policy and National Security Committee did not conclude that the SOA (Security and Intelligence Agency) committed any abuse in the treatment of former presidential advisor Mate Radeljić, chairman Ranko Ostojić said after a committee meeting on Tuesday.

With two votes against, the committee endorsed an oversight report by the office of the National Security Council and took note of a report by SOA, and we did not conclude that SOA committed any abuse, Ostojić told reporters.

He said the Radeljić case was over for the committee. "Everything he may wish to present as his truth, Radeljić could have done so at the DORH prosecution office."

Ostojić said Radeljić was not invited to the committee meeting given the committee's powers. The committee can oversee SOA but we don't have the right to be an inquiry commission, he added.

Radeljić's dismissal as the presidential advisor on domestic affairs caused a storm on the political scene. After being fired in December, he said in a press release he was informed about his dismissal by the SOA director's chief of staff, Davor Franić, in a Zagreb coffee shop. Radeljić claimed he was threatened that he would be run over by a car and that he was told "the service will protect the president in every sense" from his possible actions after the dismissal. He also claimed President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović told him he did not fit her plans because he was an obstacle in her relations with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Radeljić's claims were dismissed by both the president's office and SOA.

A few days ago, SOA director Danijel Markić resolutely dismissed the claims that SOA had threatened anyone. "We don't do that, the service doesn't make death threats," he said, denying that the Radeljić-Franić meeting took place.

Markić attended today's meeting of the Domestic Policy and National Security Committee but did not speak to the press.

More news on the national security issues can be found in the Politics section.

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