Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Joint Statement by A5 Members: Cooperation in Region to Strengthen Security

ZAGREB, 28 Sept, 2021 - The chiefs of staff of the member states of the US-Adriatic Charter (A5) signed a joint statement at a conference near Split on Tuesday in which they advocate strengthening cooperation between countries in Southeast Europe for the sake of common security.

The statement was also signed by U.S. European Command (EUCOM) Deputy Commander Lieutenant General Michael L. Howard.

The conference, held in Podstrana outside Split, was organised by Croatia's Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Admiral Robert Hranj.

Apart from Croatian participants, also participating in the conference were the chiefs of staff of the US-Adriatic Charter countries Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and the United States, representatives of the observer countries Kosovo and Slovenia, and the commanders of the national guards of the partner US federal states, the Defence Ministry said in a press release.

"Since its establishment, the Charter has confirmed to be an important mechanism to strengthen regional cooperation and to assist countries in Southeast Europe on their journey to Euro-Atlantic, political, economic, security and defence institutions," the statement notes.

The A5 Charter is a regional security-defence initiative that was established in 2003 in an effort to assist member countries in accessing Euro-Atlantic associations.

"The point of the joint statement is that the US-Adriatic Charter is directed towards cooperation between countries in the region and our joint priority is to be secure," Admiral Hranj said.

"It is important that the United States is helping us through various mechanisms and one of those is cooperation with EUCOM," underscored Hranj, adding that that includes cooperation with the National Guard given that each of the A5 members has a partner in one of the US National Guards.

Croatia is the current chair of the US-Adriatic Charter and next year Montenegro will take over presidency of the initiative.

Montenegro's representatives informed us of their plans regarding US-Adriatic Charter presidency and I believe that Montenegro will successfully conduct its chairmanship, said Hranj.

Two large military exercises are planned for 2023 and the idea is to have all A5 member states participate with the assistance of U.S. forces, concluded Hranj.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Former Officials From Ex-Yugoslav Countries Issue Appeal to EU, NATO Over Montenegro

ZAGREB, 7 Sept, 2021 - Former office-holders from the area of the former Yugoslavia on Monday evening sent a letter to EU and NATO leaders, expressing concern about the situation in Montenegro and calling on them to join in active political dialogue and help resolve the crisis in that country peacefully.

"One more place of conflict and crisis in Europe is the last thing Europe and the world need right now. We therefore call on EU institutions and other allies to join in active political dialogue with the different political and social stakeholders in the current crisis in Montenegro and help them arrive at a peaceful solution to the escalating conflict in the country," the letter of appeal reads.

Signatories to the letter, including Croatia's former foreign minister Vesna Pusić, former Serbian prime minister Žarko Korać, and former Bosnia and Herzegovina prime minister Zlatko Lagumdžija, said that the recent events surrounding the enthronement of the new leader of the Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro were only superficially related to religious issues but in reality "have nothing to do with religion, and not even with politics or ideology."

"They are yet another manifestation of a conflict between forces that believe that Montenegro should not exist as a separate state and those who believe that Montenegro should stay independent, with all attributes of statehood," the letter reads.

"Since we have all witnessed the Balkan wars of the 1990s, we cannot help but notice alarming similarities between the current developments in Montenegro and those that led to the wars of 25-30 years ago," the signatories to the letter said, noting that Montenegro was not a country with a large population but that strategically it was very important for the stability of Southeast Europe.

Riots erupted in Montenegro on Sunday during the inauguration of the Serb Orthodox Church Metropolitan of Montenegro, Joanikije, with those whose opposed the ceremony being held in Cetinje putting up barricades on roads leading to the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica and clashing with police.

Metropolitan Joanikije and the head of the Serb Orthodox Church (SPC), Patriarch Porfirije, were taken to Cetinje aboard a police helicopter and the religious ceremony of Joanikije's inauguration was held there.

The protesters interpreted the SPC's insistence on holding the ceremony in the Montenegrin historical capital of Cetinje as an act of provocation and humiliation of Montenegrins, asking that it be moved to some other Serb Orthodox shrine in Montenegro.

Thirty police officers and protesters were injured in the clashes and police used tear gas and stun guns during Sunday's riots.

PM: Those who violated the law will be held to account

Montenegro has demonstrated stability and it has shown that the policy of peace is the most important to its citizens, Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić has said, noting that those who have violated the law in the latest events will be held to account.

The enthronement of the head of the Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro was an important moment that some tried to use to destabilise Montenegro but their attempt failed, said Krivokapić.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 17 August 2021

Možemo! Party: Croatia Should Secure Int'l Protection For Afghan Refugees

ZAGREB, 17 Aug, 2021 - The Možemo! political party said on Tuesday that Croatia should secure the evacuation of its citizens and support the international protection for refugees from Afghanistan, as should all NATO member states who have deployed their military forces in that Asian country.

"Given that it was militarily present in Afghanistan, a share of the responsibility lays on our country as well. But regardless, now we cannot turn our backs to all those citizens of Afghanistan who have tried to build Afghanistan as a democracy," this left-wing Opposition party writes on its Facebook wall.

The  party insists the least Croatia can do right now is secure the evacuation of Croatian citizens from Afghanistan and international protection for Afghan refugees, as should all NATO members states who have been sending their forces to Afghanistan, but also other countries willing to help people seeking international protection.

The party recalls that nearly 20 years ago, Western allies decided to launch a military intervention in Afghanistan to destroy the Al-Queda terrorist network and bring democracy to that country. After that, military interventions followed in Iraq, Libya, Syria, "often with suspicious motives and false evidence",  the We Can says.

"All these interventions have failed -- they have brought more problems than they have solved. Many human lives were lost, many families have been displaced, societies and cultural heritage ruined, economies devastated." the platform said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

 

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Croatian President Zoran Milanović Meets With EU Military Committee Chairman

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Croatian President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović met on Tuesday with General Claudio Graziano, the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the President's Office said in a press release.

Graziano thanked Milanović for the participation of the Croatian Armed Forces in EU-led missions and operations.

They talked about the Strategic Compass document which is expected to give the EU clear security and defence guidelines in the coming period.

The talks also focused on battle groups, operations and missions led by the EU, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the development of the Union's defence and security capabilities, the press release said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

President Zoran Milanović: Reference to Dayton Was Opposed by Germany, Italy And Other States

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that the reference to the Dayton agreement in NATO's communique adopted on Monday had been opposed by Germany, Italy and some other Western countries, and added that possible changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina must not happen without Croatia and Serbia.

Milanović made the statement in Slovakia, where he participated in the GLOBSEC 2021 Forum and met with Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová and Polish President Andrzej Duda.

He discussed with them the NATO summit held in Brussels on Monday, at which Croatia, Milanović said, managed to have a reference to the Dayton peace agreement (General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina) incorporated in the summit's closing declaration only after insisting on it for six days.

"That should not have happened, that should have been resolved a week ago. Somebody is against it, has a problem with the Dayton agreement and wants to dismantle it," Milanović said, adding that at the same time those countries were criticising the Serb BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik for violating the Dayton agreement.

"Something is not right about that way of thinking," he said.

Milanović noted that a number of countries - Germany, Italy and some other Western countries - had been opposed to mentioning the Dayton peace agreement in the communique.

"Western Europe - and I'm not talking about the leaders, definitely not about Angela Merkel, is acting foolishly, undermining one of the foundations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, regardless of how imperfect it may be, protects it against destabilisation," he said.

Criticism of German diplomacy

Milanović went on to say that talks on the communique had not been conducted by the German chancellor but by the German foreign ministry which, he said, was headed by a political camp different from Merkel's and one he felt close to, "namely by people who in their fantasy are prone to making silly experiments."

The current German foreign minister is Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democrats who are part of the coalition government with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Some Western European countries advocate a so-called civic model for Bosnia and Herzegovina to replace the concept of three constituent peoples envisaged by the Dayton peace agreement. Commenting on that on Monday, Milanović said that "it sounds very noble but is actually a hoax."

"They should do it back at home. Bosnia and Herzegovina is as it is, we share a long border and we will soon have to guard it for the Schengen area," he said.

Milanović stressed that plans for Bosnia and Herzegovina could not be made "under the radar" and that any changes in the neighbouring country had to involve Croatia and Serbia, co-signatories to the Dayton agreement, adding that he had explained this to his Slovakian and Polish counterparts.

"That is how things are done in diplomacy, as far as I can remember. I used to be a diplomat and I never caused a scandal. Then I entered politics and in politics you have to cause scandals to be heard," he said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 7 May 2021

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić Says Croatia Trying To Humiliate Serbia With Participation in Kosovo Force

ZAGREB, 7 May, 2021- Serbia wants to have good and fair relations with all neighbouring countries but Croatia's actions and statements by its officials are not expressions of respect for Serbia but an attempt to humiliate it, Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić said on Friday.

In a comment on the statement by Croatia's foreign minister that Croatia would increase the number of its troops in the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR) because that was important for maintaining peace in the region and on disputes triggered by Serbian Minister of the Interior Aleksandar Vulin's statements, Vučić said that Croatia could have refused to serve in KFOR but opted to do the contrary "in order to additionally humiliate Serbia."

Croatia's Foreign and European Affairs Ministry stated earlier in the day that Serbia's strong reaction to the planned deployment of a greater number of Croatian troops in Kosovo was "a hysterical speculation" intended to divert attention from the introduction of the Bunjevci dialect as an official language in the northern Serbian town of Subotica, which it considers an attempt to fragment the Croat community in Serbia.

The Serbian president today wondered "why anyone would need to participate in the KFOR mission or brag about it", alluding to Croatia's involvement in the international peace mission.

"They could have refused to take part in KFOR, but they intentionally made that decision to additionally humiliate Serbia. We get the message," Vučić told Serbian reporters during a visit to Obrenovac.

In a message to Serbs in Kosovo, he said that they "should not worry" and that he would soon talk with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, stressing Serbia's commitment to avoid conflicts and maintain peace.

"My message to all those who think that there will be new Storms, new pogroms and expulsions - I guarantee that that will not happen," Vučić said in reference to the 1995 Croatian military and police operation that liberated areas previously held by local Serbs who rebelled against the Croatian authorities.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 7 May 2021

DEFENDER-Europe-21: Zadar Doing Its Part in Large NATO Exercise

May 7, 2021 - As part of NATO, Croatia participates in a large military exercise called DEFENDER-Europe-21, and UK and US navy ships arrived in Zadar with valuable equipment to be distributed among training areas in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Large-scale, multinational, and army-lead, DEFENDER-Europe is a joint exercise designed to build readiness and interoperability between the U.S., NATO, and partner militaries. This year's edition DEFENDER-Europe-21, as reported by U.S. Army Europe and Africa website, focuses on „Building operational readiness and interoperability with a greater number of NATO allies and partners over a wider area of operations is defensive in nature and focused on responding to the crisis if necessary“, and also shows that „the U.S. commitment to NATO is ironclad.“

The exercise also includes strict COVID prevention and mitigation measures, such as pre-deployment COVID testing and quarantining and the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy show significant involvement and will utilize key ground and maritime routes bridging Europe, Asia, and Africa – continues the website.

„Exercises new high-end capabilities such the new U.S. Army Security Force Assistance Brigades, air, and missile defense assets and the recently reactivated V Corps and demonstrates our ability to serve as a strategic security partner in the western Balkans and the Black Sea regions while sustaining our abilities in northern Europe, the Caucasus, Ukraine, and Africa“, adds the exercise goals the official U.S. Army website.

Apart from the U.S., Approximately 28,000 multinational forces from 26 nations conduct nearly simultaneous operations across more than 30 training areas in 12 countries, and as a NATO member, Croatia has not been left out of the drill.

U.S._Naval_Ship_Yuma_arrives_in_Zadar_Croatia_Sgt._Alexandra_Shea.jpg

U.S. Naval Ship Yuma arrives in Zadar, Croatia © Sgt. Alexandra Shea

As part of the exercise, U.S. Naval Ship Yuma and U.K. Vessel Hurst Point off-loaded more than 300 pieces of military equipment in Zadar, Croatia’s Gazenica port, after ferrying it from Durres in Albania. The delivery started on Tuesday, May 4, and it was concluded on Friday. The journey of the equipment started back on March 24 at the Port of Jacksonville in Florida. The local U.S. National Guard units were shipping the equipment for three days onto USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR 300) after which, the ship stopped by Portsmouth in Virginia for the final pieces of equipment before heading towards Durres in Albania. In Durres, the smaller vessels took the equipment and finally loaded it to Yuma, and Hurst Point, which brought it to the gem of Northern Dalmatia, Zadar.

„This process is called Joint Logistics Over-the-Shore, a method used to ensure swift delivery of supplies and equipment in a variety of port situations“, explained the press release.

U.S._equipment_leaves_for_training_area-c-Sgt._Joshua_Oh.jpgU.S. equipment leaves for training area © Sgt. Joshua Oh 

While many would probably stop at Zadar and chill for a lovely holiday, the equipment, however, will continue its journey. Part of the equipment will remain in Croatia, but it will be transferred to Slunj, home of the Main Training Area, and the rest goes to training areas scattered in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). In BiH, the drills and maneuvers for which the equipment will be used are under the umbrella of the linked exercise named "Immediate Response 21” which will culminate in a joint, multinational live-fire demonstration called “Croatian Rampart 1991-2021” at the end of May. Not just as a test of possibility in the „God-forbid-we-are-attacked“ scenario, Croatian Rampart 1991-2021“ also celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Croatia Armed Forces.

The Main Training Area in Slunj, Croatia and training areas throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina to be used in drills and maneuvers alongside members of the Croatian Armed Forces, under the umbrella of the linked exercise named "Immediate Response 21.” The exercise culminates in a joint, multinational live-fire demonstration called “Croatian Rampart 1991-2021” - which celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Croatian Armed Forces at the end of May.

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British Major Dan Cornwell talking to Croatian press, screenshot / Defense Flash News

British Major Dan Cornwell told the Croatian press that the idea of being in Zadar is that Croatian, U.K., and U.S. forces operate together in loading U.S. equipment and personnel.

„We've done this before, on exercise last year in Germany, and I can say, it's a lot better down here in the south, it's absolutely amazing to be here in Croatia to do this alongside Croatian Armed Forces where we can better understand how we operate differently, how we operate similarly and equally building up our interoperability and our ability to operate better in the future“, said Maj. Cornwell, indicating that perhaps he can find Zadar, like many others, as a great holiday destination and not just the line of duty.

Learn more about Zadar on our TC page.

For more about the army in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 6 March 2020

Croatia's Job in Afghanistan Is Done, Says President

ZAGREB, March 6, 2020 - Croatia's job in Afghanistan is done and going there today is probably the last Croatian army contingent, President Zoran Milanović said on Friday.

The Croatian army has participated in the missions in Afghanistan since 2003. Today the 12th contingent is departing for the Resolute Support mission. A decision to that effect was signed by Milanovic, the Armed Forces Supreme Commander.

"I didn't want to dismantle a system that was built for 16 years and not sign the decision on sending another contingent to Afghanistan only two weeks after stepping into office," he told reporters.

"But after that, especially in light of the US-Taliban agreements, our job there is done. Especially considering that the US signed those agreements on its behalf. The Afghan government didn't participate in that, we even less. Therefore, we will be there for the next six months and I think that's fair enough."

He said a decision on the Croatian army leaving Afghanistan must be made by Croatian politicians. "Not the army, not our allies, not NATO and not the US on our behalf without our knowledge in negotiations we didn't even know were taking place."

"That's a US right and in 16 years we have contributed to that mission. Our army is needed here," said the president.

More news about Croatia and Afghanistan can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 5 March 2020

Stoltenberg: North Macedonia Soon to Become Member of NATO

ZAGREB, March 5, 2020 - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced on Wednesday in Zagreb that North Macedonia would become a NATO member within the next few weeks, and the alliance's chief thanked Croatia for its support to the open door policy.

We welcome the fact that Croatia has been a staunch advocate for NATO's open door policy. And soon, within the next few weeks, North Macedonia will become the 30th member, which shows that our door remains open, Stoltenberg said at a press conference after his meeting with Croatian President Zoran Milanović.

The Croatian president, who was sworn in on 18 February, said that "his old acquaintance and friend" Stoltenberg was the first foreign guest since he took office, noting that his own diplomatic career had started in NATO.

The focus of the two officials' meeting was on the involvement of Croatian troops in NATO-led missions, and they also discussed current challenges faced by the entire world.

Croatia is a committed and highly appreciated ally contributing in various spheres, the general secretary said, mentioning the presence of the Croatian contingents in Lithuania and Poland, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo, and welcoming the fact that Croatia is increasing funding for defence.

Speaking about the recent agreement between the USA and Taliban on peace in Afghanistan, which should result in the withdrawal of Western forces from the Asian country, Stoltenberg reiterated that the path towards peace was difficult, but that one should remain dedicated to it.

When the moment comes and all conditions are met, we will leave together, Stoltenberg stated.

Milanović said that Croatia would follow the developments and that it would slowly but definitely pull its troops from that mission. "However, this will not happen overnight," he said.

Milanović recalled that one of the first decisions he signed since his recent inauguration referred to the deployment of a new contingent of Croatian soldiers in Afghanistan. Nevertheless, plans are being drawn up in the meantime on the departure of the Croatian troops from that country, he added.

A few days ago, the US and Taliban signed an agreement which sets into motion the potential of a full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and could pave the way to ending the war which has been lasting for 18 years.

The Doha deal lays out a 14-month timetable for the withdrawal of "all military forces of the United States, its allies, and Coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting services personnel."

More news about Croatia and the NATO can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 20 February 2020

Plenković Confirms He and Milanović Discussed NATO Mission in Afghanistan

ZAGREB, February 20, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday afternoon that he had already held talks with the newly inaugurated president Zoran Milanović on the appointment of the new chief-of-staff of the armed forces and the engagement of Croatian troops in the peace mission in Afghanistan.

"Yes, we discussed some of those topics this morning. One of them being the appointment of the new chief-of-staff of the Croatian Armed Forces. The government will tomorrow nominate Mr Hranj and the new president has agreed with that," Plenković told reporters ahead of a meeting of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) leadership on Wednesday afternoon.

The PM confirmed that he had spoken with Milanović on the phone and that one of the topics was the participation of Croatia's contingent in the NATO-led peace mission in Afghanistan.

Plenković explained that they had agreed that the 12th contingent would be deployed now that the engagement of the 11th contingent had ended.

Milanović is supposed to sign the decision on the deployment of the contingent and after that senior officials will discuss the further presence of Croatian troops in that Asian country, according to Plenković's explanation.

Earlier in the day, Milanović said that he would agree with the government's proposal that Rear Admiral Robert Hranj be appointed new military chief of staff. In his address to reporters Milanovic, who was inaugurated on Tuesday, said that he had already discussed this topic with Prime Minister Plenković.

Speaking about the presence of Croatian troops in Afghanistan, on 15 February Milanović said that the Croatian Army had not belonged there for some time now.

"Croatia can make a decision entirely on its own, by sticking to the rules of gentlemanly behaviour and fairness. In half a year, things should be positioned differently," he said when asked by reporters if Croatia would make an autonomous decision on withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan.

He said that Croatian troops had not belonged in Afghanistan for three years and that troops should be withdrawn.

"Our soldiers who serve in the mission there will have the opportunity to use their competence and experience and make some money in other parts of the world. That's national policy," he stressed.

Currently 60,000 NATO troops are participating in the mission in Afghanistan, including 110 from Croatia.

Last Friday, Plenković said that a decision to withdraw Croatian troops could only be the result of agreement, within Croatia and at the international level.

More news about Croatia and the NATO can be found in the Politics section.

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