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

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.


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.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Plenković Comments on Possible Withdrawal from Afghanistan

ZAGREB, February 15, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday that a decision to withdraw Croatian troops from Afghanistan can only be a result of agreement, within Croatia and on the international level.

"That operation is continuing. We've exchanged quite a large number of contingents there and shown responsibility. We are a member of NATO and the (European) Union. We participate in key security activities on a global level and there must be agreement on any such decision, not just within Croatia," said Plenković, adding that other partners' positions would be taken into account.

The Jutarnji List daily said on Friday that Croatia could begin withdrawing its troops from the mission in Afghanistan. Quoting a source at the Defence Ministry, the paper said that there was talk of the future of that operation at a meeting of NATO defence ministers held on Wednesday and Thursday, which was also attended by Croatia's Defence Minister Damir Krstičević.

Discussed was the future of the operation in the context of US-sponsored peace negotiations which Afghan authorities are conducting with the Taliban in an effort to end the conflict.

According to Jutarnji List, the meeting "concluded that members of the mission, including Croatia, are inevitably heading toward reducing the number of their troops."

"I spoke today with Deputy Prime Minister Krstičević who attended the NATO ministerial meeting and I asked him if that topic was discussed. There was no talk of that at all, so all in due time," said Plenković when asked if Croatia was withdrawing from the mission.

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

Thursday, 13 February 2020

Croatian Troops to Continue Participating in Iraq Mission

ZAGREB, February 13, 2020 - NATO defence ministers, including Croatia's Damir Krstičević, in Brussels on Thursday reaffirmed their support for Iraq and strengthening NATO's mission to train Iraqi forces, in which Croatia will continue to take part.

Krstičević said that Croatia has seven soldiers in the mission, two of whom have already returned home while the remaining five will gradually return to Iraq from Kuwait.

After the conflict in Iraq escalated at the start of the year, following America's attack and the death of the commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Qasem Soleimani, Croatia withdrew its troops to Kuwait.

"It was agreed that everything will return to the starting position as of 4 January which means that NATO's mission in Iraq will continue. A document arrived last night from the Iraqi government which supports and guarantees the safety of NATO personnel, hence a decision has been made for soldiers to gradually return," said Krstičević.

At the two-day meeting in Brussels, which ended on Thursday, the NATO defence ministers addressed key issues, including the alliance’s training mission in Iraq and the fight against international terrorism.

Croatia is currently participating with 438 troops in seven NATO peace missions and two Enhanced Forward Presence missions.

Krstičević underscored EU-NATO cooperation and announced a conference to be held in Split, Croatia on 9 June aimed at strengthening that cooperation, adding that senior officials from the EU and USA would be participating in the conference.

The ministers also discussed the Exercise DEFENDER-Europe 20, the largest European-US military exercise in the past 25 years. The exercise will involve the deployment of a division-size combat-credible force from the United States to Europe, with 37,000 troops expected to participate.

"American soldiers will leave from four European ports and be distributed to six countries to test the mobility of equipment and troops...Croatia will participate with its troops stationed in Poland and Lithuania," said Krstičević.

Krstičević held bilateral meetings with his Polish and Lithuanian counterparts, Mariusz Blaszczak and Raimundas Karoblis respectively. Krstičević said that he was pleased Minister Blaszczak confirmed that he would attend the first international CROIMAS air show that will be held in Zadar on 30 May, marking the 30th anniversary of Croatia's statehood.

So far, we have received confirmation from the French, Italians, Austrians, Swiss and Poles that they will be attending, he added.

More news about Croatian army can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 30 December 2019

2nd Croatian Contingent Departs for NATO Mission in Lithuania

ZAGREB, December 30, 2019 - The 2nd Croatian 188-strong contingent was seen off from the Knin-based barracks to NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Lithuania on Monday.

The ceremony was attended by Defence Minister Damir Krstičević as the president's envoy, as well as Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Mirko Šundov, Lithuania's Ambassador to Croatia Jurate Raguckiene, France's military attache Brigadier Fabrice Duda along with family members and the local community.

In his address at the ceremony, Krstičević said that he was convinced the Croatian troops would conduct their duties in Lithuania successfully and show all their military know-how.

General Šundov said that this would be an opportunity for the troops to obtain new know-how and strengthen their capabilities as well as promote the Croatian Army and Croatia's defence industry products.

Croatia and Lithuania, together with other member states (of NATO) preserve the alliance so that it remains united in areas of freedom, peace, security and common values, Ambassador Raguckiene said thanking Croatia's troops on behalf of the Lithuanian people for their contribution in preserving joint security.

The NATO-run Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Lithuania is led by Germany and in addition to Croatia, also troops from the Netherlands, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, France and Lithuania take part in it.

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

Saturday, 21 December 2019

NATO General Thanks Croatia, Its Troops for Serving in Afghanistan

ZAGREB, December 21, 2019 - The commander of NATO's Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces - Afghanistan, General Austin Scott Miller, on Friday thanked Croatia and its troops for serving in Afghanistan.

Miller met Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević at the mission's HQ in Kabul, the Croatian Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Krstičević, on an official visit, and Miller talked about Croatia's contribution to the Mission, NATO's plans for the Mission's future and the security situation in Afghanistan.

Miller thanked the Croatian people, saying that serving in Afghanistan was important for all NATO states, for partnership within NATO, and that it was important to protect everyone.

He also thanked Krstičević and Croatia for their dedication and the committed service of its troops in Afghanistan.

"Croatia is one of the 36 countries participating in the mission in Afghanistan. Together with our partners, we are contributing to the establishment of international peace and security, we are counselling and mentoring Afghan forces so they can assume responsibility for peace and security in their state," Krstičević said, adding that he was proud to hear Miller praising the Croatian troops.

Krstičević and Miller extended greetings to the 11th Croatian contingent in Afghanistan and their families for the upcoming holidays.

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

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Defence Minister Visits Croatian Contingent in Afghanistan

ZAGREB, December 19, 2019 - Defence Minister Damir Krstičević visited the Croatian contingent in Afghanistan on Wednesday, in the run-up to the Christmas holidays, and on that occasion he met German Brigadier General Juergen Broetz who praised the Croatian contribution to NATO's mission in that Asian country, the defence ministry stated.

"The Croatian troops are doing a great job here and giving contribution in several segments: healthcare, military police and the command," Brig. Gen. Juergen Broetz, the TAAC North Commander of NATO's Resolute Support in Afghanistan, was quoted as saying.

He expressed gratitude to Croatia for its great contribution to this mission.

Krstičević, who visited members of the 11th contingent of the Croatian Army in the Marmal camp, said that Croatian troops were recognised as professional highly-trained soldiers.

The Croatian delegation also laid a wreath for soldiers killed in Afghanistan, including Josip Briški, who died in an attack of Talibans in Kabul, and who was the first Croatian serviceman to die in this mission.

Currently, 110 Croatian soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan, and some of them are in the TAAC North, which stands for Train Advise Assist Command.

It focuses on training, advising and assisting (TAA) Afghan National Defense and Security Forces development in several key areas. The efforts taken by TAAC-North within the Resolute Support mission are part of the broader engagement of the international community in Afghanistan to ensure Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorism. TAAC-North conducts the TAA mission with the 209th Afghan National Army Corps and the 217th (Pamir) Afghan National Army Corps (former 20th Division). Including TAA for the nine provincial police departments and other security forces.

Currently, approximately 2,000 Coalition Forces and 45,000 ANDSF Forces are operating in the area of responsibility (AOR) of TAAC-North.

NATO's Resolute Support includes 17,000 soldiers from 39 members of the Alliance in Afghanistan.

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

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