Saturday, 14 December 2019

Croatian Scientist Creates Bomb Detector, NATO Provides Funding

When Croatian scientist Dr. Ivana Capan first announced back in the autumn of 2016 that she would develop the prototype of a sophisticated nuclear material control detector with an international team of collaborators, it sounded like an optimistic vision and not much more. We couldn't have been more wrong.

As Novac/Tanja Rudez writes on the 13th of December, 2019, three years later, Dr. Ivana Capan of the Ruđer Bošković Institute (IRB), fulfilled her promise and recently presented a detector for cargo control and the discovery of special nuclear materials for seaports at a press conference.

This sophisticated silicon carbide-based neutron detector was developed as part of the E-SiCURE project, one of the largest projects in NATO's Science for Peace and Security programme in Croatia. As the head of the 400,000 euro E-SiCURE project, this Croatian scientist assembled a respectable international team of scientists from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, from the Aveiro University of Portugal, from Japan's National Institute of Quantum and Radiological Sciences and Technology, and from the Jožef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

''As I deal with semiconductors that are the basis of microelectronics and electronics, I'm interested in concrete applications. I was thinking about how to find a small niche where we'd have enough knowledge on it, and this would not require some sophisticated equipment, so I decided to research silicon carbide material. It's an excellent material and is currently being produced in maximum quantities in Japan. As I have colleagues in Japan, they've been my ideal partners. So, we started gathering one consortium that covers everything from material research right up to the finished device. Because our device has a security component, NATO was a logical choice as a source of funding to support such a consortium,'' this innovative Croatian scientist recalled.

She also stressed that everything evolved rapidly: from the very first contact between the members of the consortium to the start of work on the E-SiCURE project (Modifying silicon carbide for enhanced security at borders and ports). Of the 396,500 euros, which is how much this project is worth, as much as 31 percent of the funds have now arrived where they need to be in Croatia.

''Current neutron detectors are mainly based on He-3, a naturally occurring helium isotope. The helium isotope used until recently is a legacy of the Cold War, and its supplies are projected to be completely consumed in the next ten years. Therefore, scientists are trying to find quality new materials for detector development,'' said Dr. Capan, adding that the idea was to make an inexpensive neutron detector that would be easy to use.

''For the past three years, we've devoted ourselves to seeing if we can make such a detector at all. And we did it: the whole system is complete, and it's simple - plug it into a laptop and see the signal right away.

Our detector is one to four square millimetres in size. With it, for example, we can detect neutrons from so-called ''dirty'' nuclear bombs. This makes this detector specific and harder to create. We're now working on its further development and we've already signed up for the continuation of the project, in NATO, too. The results of the tender will be announced early next year,'' said Dr. Capan.

One end user of this very sophisticated device could be Croatia's own customs administration, but so far, only the Slovenian Ministry of the Environment, more specifically the Nuclear Safety Administration, has shown interest.

Make sure to follow our dedicated Made in Croatia page for much more.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Training Centre of NATO's Multinational Special Aviation Program Established at Zemunik

ZAGREB, December 11, 2019 - An international training centre of the Multinational Special Aviation Program (MSAP) was inaugurated on Wednesday at the Zemunik barracks near Zadar, and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said that MSAP centre could become a new NATO centre of excellence.

This confirms that Croatia is a trustworthy member of the alliance, the minister said at the ceremony.

"We are building new capabilities for the Croatian army, for Croatia and for NATO and what is more important, we are building the future together with our partners and allies," Krstičević said.

He said he was proud of the fact that at Zemunik the best pilots would be trained to carry out special aviation forces' operations, which, he added, was proof of the power and respectability of the Croatian Armed Forces.

The 11-million-euro centre will provide training for helicopter crews from Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovenia. The MSAP program is intended for multi-purpose helicopter crews for special air operations and consists of theoretical and multi-week flight training programmes for the implementation of unconventional special air force tasks.

The Croatian Armed Forces chief-of-staff, General Mirko Šundov, said that the establishment of the MSAP created prerequisites for conducting training in complex and diversified conditions, which would enable the achievement of the goals defined for each of the countries-contributors to MSAP.

NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment, Camille Grand, said that the development of capabilities of special air forces showed NATO's ability to develop new capabilities.

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

Thursday, 5 December 2019

Plenković: “Bonds Between NATO and EU Inextricable”

ZAGREB, December 5, 2019 - Croatia considers NATO and the European Union main partners in projection of peace and also believes that the bonds between the USA and the European Union are inextricable and inseparable, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in London on Wednesday after a two-day summit meeting of NATO which observed its 70th anniversary.

"The cooperation between the USA and Europe as regards security is firm and inextricable," he added.

This is the message given today by all heads of state or government and they have underscored that the development of strategical autonomy at the EU level, which implies the strengthening of the EU defence policy, can and is simultaneously complementary to the strengthening of the European pillar of NATO, the Croatian premier said.

Plenković said that Croatia had a unique experience in comparison to other NATO member states and in this context he recalled that while it was a non-member of the alliance, Croatia was a victim of the aggression launched by the regime of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milošević in the 1990s, and now after it became a NATO member, Croatia contributes to efforts to restore in crisis areas worldwide.

He said that this information about the transformation from a victim of the aggression into a country which is going to chair the EU in the first half of 2020, makes it clearer to other counterparts in NATO how the alliance is important for the security.

During his participation in the summit, Plenković met with the summit's host Boris Johnson for the talks on the role of Croatia, as the next EU chair, for preparations of a negotiating framework for the future relations between the EU and Great Britain in the event that the next British parliament ratifies the Brexit agreement.

Plenković said that he had also talks with French President Emmanuel Macron about possible scenarios for the exit from the current situation after the opening of the EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania was vetoed by Paris

It is in our interest that the EU-Western Balkans summit, set for May in Zagreb can be successful, the Croatian premier said.

Plenković and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed plans for the Croatian prime minister's possible visit to Berlin in January.

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

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Plenković Participates in NATO Summit in London

ZAGREB, December 4, 2019 - The Croatian army guarantees the country's security and the NATO membership and its Article 5 give Croatia the key umbrella of collective security, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in London ahead of a NATO summit.

"For us it's important that the Croatian army is the guarantor of our security, thanks first and foremost to the freedom achieved with the dedication of Croatian defenders, and membership of NATO and its Article 5 give us that key umbrella of collective security which in future, and today as well, will prevent any aggression against Croatia such as the one we had in the early 90s," Plenković told the press.

He downplayed French President Emmanuel Macron's statement that NATO was "brain dead."

"France is known for starting some processes and raising topics, so in the years ahead a group of experts will consider the future of the alliance. NATO is firm, strong, sometimes there are arguments, there are outstanding issues, but the alliance is here."

Croatia arrived at the London summit with a plan to increase its defence budget to 2% of GDP by 2024 and to allocate 20% of the defence budget for equipment and modernisation.

According to the plan, Croatia should set aside 1.74% of GDP for defence in 2020, 1.79% in 2021, about 1.86% in 2022 and 2023, and about 2% in 2024. Also, it should earmark 9.74% of the defence budget for modernisation and equipment in 2020, 12.92% in 2021, 17.98% in 2022, 19.66% in 2023 and 20% in 2024.

Croatia's current defence budget is 1.68% of GDP and only 6.73% goes on equipment and modernisation, the least in NATO, but the purchase of Black Hawk helicopters raises that to almost 10%.

In nominal amounts, the defence budget should be 7.19 billion kuna in 2020 and 9.4 billion kuna in 2024. The allocation for equipment and modernisation would rise from 700 million kuna in 2020 to 1.88 billion kuna in 2024.

The funds would be used to procure a squadron of fighter jets and Black Hawk helicopters, for the development of special operation capabilities, to procure Bradley vehicles, and to upgrade Patria vehicles with additional weapons.

Another goal is to develop a mechanised brigade according to NATO standards.

Plenković said Croatia had those funds and that the government was pursuing a responsible fiscal policy, not borrowing and spending what it could.

The NATO summit will be an opportunity for informal talks with the leaders of the member states, including U.S. President Donald Trump.

"America is an extremely important country for everyone, including Croatia. Important to us are talks on the alliance and the advancement of bilateral relations. If we resolve the issue of double taxation and the waiving of U.S. visas for Croatian citizens, that will automatically create the prerequisites to intensify our relations," said Plenković.

The Croatian delegation comprises Plenković, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman and the military chief of staff, General Mirko Šundov.

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

Monday, 2 December 2019

Croatia Will Set Aside 9.4 Billion Kuna for Defence by 2024

ZAGREB, December 2, 2019 - After Croatia was almost given an ultimatum by the U.S. and NATO in Brussels at the end of October, like some other NATO member states, to come up with a plan in six weeks on how to set aside 2% of GDP for defence, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević has told Večernji List daily of Monday that an action plan has been drawn up.

"Croatia will be in the green," he was quoted as saying.

Krstičević and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković are going to London for a NATO summit on December 3-4 and on that occasion they will undertake the commitment that Croatia will be able to set aside said 2% by 2024, when it is estimated that its annual defence budget will be 9.4 billion kuna.

Now Croatia spends about 6.7 billion kuna on defence, so a 40% increase will be achieved by 2024. NATO believes Croatia must invest more in defence and a lot more in the equipment and modernisation of its army.

Although on paper, thanks to a new NATO methodology, Croatia now sets aside 1.68% of GDP on defence, this amount (6.7 billion kuna) includes veterans' pensions, which means that 5 billion kuna is spent annually on the active army.

When salaries are added to the pensions, it turns out that Croatia spends 73% of its defence budget on personnel. Consequently, much less is spent on equipment and modernisation which, Večernji List says, is disastrous, notably after the failed procurement of fighter jets.

More news about defence issues can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Split Hosting EU-NATO Cooperation Conference Next June

ZAGREB, December 1, 2019 - Croatia and Germany will co-organise a NATO-EU cooperation conference in Split next June, Defence Ministers Damir Krstičević of Croatia and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Germany agreed in Trogir on Sunday.

The conference of European defence ministers and NATO officials will be held on June 8-9, Krstičević told reporters.

"Germany is the most important partner in security and defence in Europe and strengthening our cooperation is my priority," he said.

The conference will be a sort of transition between Croatia's and Germany's EU presidencies, said Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Croatia offers a unique opportunity for us all to meet as well as prove our common views, she added.

Krstičević said today's meeting was yet another proof of the real friendship between Croatia and Germany. "The most concrete example of our defence cooperation is the joint participation in operations and missions, from Afghanistan to Kosovo. I'm glad that as of January next year we will again be together in Lithuania under Germany's leadership."

Kramp-Karrenbauer underlined Croatia's role in the region. We know that Croatia paid a high price for its freedom, which is why it has a special perspective and plays a special role in the stability in this region, she said.

She supported EU enlargement and said it was wrong to veto the beginning of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.

She said the joint role of Germany and Croatia in NATO was important. We consider NATO an important pillar of the security structure within which transatlantic partnership and friendship is extremely important, she added.

It is necessary to enhance and develop security and defence cooperation in Europe, which will be an important topic next year when Croatia and Germany chair the EU, Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

I am firmly convinced that it will be an excellent presidency of the Council of the EU, she said of Croatia's presidency in the first half of 2020.

After Croatia, she is visiting Kosovo and Afghanistan. Croatian troops are important mission partners to German troops, with valuable experience, and we can learn a lot from them, she said.

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

Friday, 22 November 2019

Peović to Advocate Demilitarisation, Exit from NATO

ZAGREB, November 22, 2019 - The presidential candidate of the Workers' Front party and the Socialist Workers' Party (SRP), Katarina Peović, said on Friday that if she won the presidential election, she would be a completely different president than the HDZ's Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and would advocate demilitarisation and Croatia's exit from NATO.

"I will push for radical changes in the interest of the national majority, including protection of available and free health care and education, demilitarisation, a reduction of investments in the military, the withdrawal of Croatian troops from international military missions, and ultimately, Croatia's exit from NATO," Peović said at the launch of a campaign to collect citizens' signatures for her candidacy in downtown Zagreb.

The Workers' Front and the SRP want a better and more just society, which is what a majority of people in Croatia also want, and that means that we need radical changes, protection of education, healthcare, housing and food, she said.

"Privatisation, plunder and ownership transformation have put us in a situation in which we have to defend our basic needs. They cannot be defended within the framework in which we live today. Radical changes are necessary, which is why we have joined in these elections," Peović said, noting that her rivals advocated only cosmetic changes and keeping the country on the current course.

Even though presidential powers mostly concern protocol, Peović said that the conduct of the incumbent president bore witness to the importance of appointing to that position a person who advocates the basic needs of the majority.

Apart from Zagreb, Peović will be collecting citizens' signatures for her candidacy in Split, Pula and Rijeka as well as in Makarska, Varaždin, Samobor and Sisak.

More news about Katarina Peović can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Croatia Has No Doubts about NATO's Relevance

ZAGREB, November 13, 2019 - The European Union and NATO are not mutually exclusive, they are complementary and Croatia has no doubts about NATO's relevance, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Tuesday.

"NATO and the EU have to cooperate. They are not mutually exclusive and we always have to take their complementarity into account. NATO and the Croatian Army are the foundation of security. NATO is the largest, strongest military-political alliance and we have no doubts whatsoever about its relevance," Krstičević told reporters in Brussels when asked to comment on French President Emmanuel Macron's recent statement that NATO had experienced "brain death."

Krstičević was attending an informal meeting of EU foreign and defence ministers, the last prior to Croatia taking over the presidency of the Council of the EU.

"Croatia's presidency is a huge responsibility and a great opportunity to present our beautiful country. We are completely prepared for the presidency," Krstičević underscored and listed the topics that Croatia wishes to highlight in the area of defence.

"Those are the continuation and coherence of defence initiatives that have been launched (PESCO, CARD, European Defence Fund and Military Mobility), with emphasis on developing capabilities and strengthening cooperation between the European Union and NATO, the strengthening of the defence industry and the strengthening of the EU's efforts in Southeast Europe with regard to security and defence," said Krstičević.

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

Friday, 25 October 2019

NATO Expects Croatia to Make Plan How to Increase Defence Budget

ZAGREB, October 25, 2019 - Croatia has six weeks to come up with a concrete plan on how to increase its defence budget to 2% of GDP by 2024, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Friday in Brussels. "NATO considers that Croatia has to invest more in equipment and the modernisation of its army. The heads of state of NATO member states are set to meet in London in six weeks' time and NATO considers that Croatia has to come with a concrete plan on how to achieve a defence budget of two percent," said Krstičević who attended a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.

NATO heads of state agreed at a summit in 2014 in Wales that within a period of ten years, i.e. by 2024, member states need to increase their defence spending to at least 2% of their respective GDP with at least 20% of that going to modernisation and equipment. US President Donald Trump in particular is insisting that this be met during his term in office.

Croatia currently allocates between 1.7 and 1.75% of GDP for defence.

Krstičević said that he would pass on NATO's message to the government and the president, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

Croatia can increase its defence budget with the procurement of fighter jets.

After the procurement of Israeli jets fell through, a second procedure has been launched and it is being conducted by a interdepartmental commission. The first phase of that process which involved sending an enquiry to countries for a show of interest in selling their planes to Croatia, has been completed and the second phase is for Croatia to seek concrete offers and that is expected to be conducted soon.

"I hope that the interdepartmental commission will soon launch the second phase and request particular countries to send concrete bids which will then be given a deadline of a few months," he added.

Asked whether recently appointed US Defence Secretary Mark Esper was familiar with the fact that Croatia is seeking to procure fighter jets, Krstičević said that Esper was informed of all the activities in relations between the USA and Croatia.

"I informed him of the Croatian Army's development plans and he reiterated that the USA is prepared to continue intensively helping the Croatian Army's development," Krstičević said.

He added that the United States is a key partner and ally to Croatia and the two countries are collaborating in a lot of areas, "with three priority" areas, he concluded.

In late August, the Croatian interdepartmental commission for the procurement of multi-purpose combat aircraft said that it had received five letters of expression of interest to provide the country with new fighter jets and eight letters of expression of interest for second-hand jets.

In early August, the interdepartmental commission, set up by the government on 4 July, sent requests to 26 potential bidders concerning the procurement of multi-purpose combat aircraft, the government's press office recalls.

Since then the commission has considered the proposals made by those bidders who expressed interest in this project.

During the selection procedure, the commission is going to check the validity of all potential bids and to see if they comply with the tactical and technical requirements made by the Croatian Air Force.

Media outlet speculate that the expressions of interest have been submitted by Italy, France, Sweden, the USA, Norway, Denmark and Israel.

More news about defence issues can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

11th Croatian Contingent Departs for Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan

ZAGREB, September 5, 2019 - The 11th Croatian contingent numbering 110 members, including seven women, was seen off in Zagreb on Wednesday to the Resolute Support peace mission in Afghanistan in which 39 states are participating, including 27 NATO members, with 17,000 troops.

The ceremony was attended, among others, by Defence Minister Damir Krstičević as Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's envoy, President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's defence and national security advisor Zrinko Peternel, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Mirko Šundov, and partner countries' military envoys.

A minute's silence was observed in memory of lance corporal Josip Briški, a member of the 10th Croatian contingent killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan in July.

Minister Krstičević thanked all Croatian Army members and their families for their support during preparations for the mission and for their understanding for the calling of their dearest ones.

Speaking of the new circumstances and remembering Briški, he said the circumstances of participating in the mission were constantly changing and that the situation in Afghanistan was complex. "We must be aware of the circumstances and the environment we are in and be focused on the job. What is certain is that this government is following the current situation and we are ready to adopt adequate and timely decisions."

The 11th Croatian contingent will be deployed in the Train Advise and Assist Command – North in Mazar-i-Sharif and in the Resolute Support HQ in Kabul. The Croatian troops will also advise the Afghan army, police and special forces.

The contingent includes 38 troops of partner countries - 27 from Montenegro, seven from North Macedonia, two from Albania and two from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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

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