Saturday, 30 March 2019

NATO Providing Croatia with Long-Term Security, Officials Claim

ZAGREB, March 30, 2019 - Croatia on Friday marked the 10th anniversary since joining NATO, with senior officials saying that the alliance's defence umbrella ensured long-term stability for the country.

Croatia became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on 1 April 2009 together with Albania, becoming one of the greatest advocates of NATO's eastward expansion.

Since NATO's establishment in 1949, the number of its members has increased from 12 to 29, with Montenegro joining in the seventh enlargement round in 2017 as the newest member.

Since 2003, over 6,700 Croatian soldiers have participated in NATO-led operations, missions and activities.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović says that NATO is the most successful security alliance, one that shares the same values. "However, our primary task is to develop our own defence forces which must be the backbone and guarantor of our security," she told the press before a special reception in the Westin Hotel in Zagreb.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that Croatia had proved to be a reliable ally and would continue its present policy. "It's good for our security and our contribution to security both regionally and globally," he said.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that joining NATO was an important episode in the development of the Croatian state. "It put us in the company of the world's most developed nations and helped us secure long-term stability," he said.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević highlighted the role of Croatian soldiers in international missions. "The Croatian soldier is well respected. We are ambassadors and guarantors of peace and security of Croatia," he said.

The 10th anniversary of NATO membership is being marked at a time when relations between the alliance and Russia have reached their lowest point since the end of the Cold War and the US is exerting pressure on its European allies to increase their defence budgets.

The minimum level of defence spending of two percent of GDP, which the allies set themselves in 2014, has not been observed by most member states, including Croatia. After allocating 1.3 percent of GDP for defence for years, last year Croatia increased its defence budget to 1.7 percent of GDP, according to NATO's data from March this year.

Croatia established institutional relations with NATO in 2000 through the Partnership for Peace programme and began membership preparations in 2002 through a Membership Action Plan.

The political decision to invite Croatia, together with Albania, to join the alliance was made at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008, when the then US President George Bush personally came to Zagreb to announce the invitation. A formal invitation was sent on 30 March 2009 by the then NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer after the accession protocol was ratified by the parliaments of member states and by the Croatian parliament on 25 March 2009.

The protocol was deposited with the US State Department on 1 April 2009 by the then Croatian Ambassador to the United States, the current President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, whereby Croatia became a full member of the alliance.

The first NATO summit that Croatia attended as a member took place in Strasbourg and Kiel on 3 and 4 April 2009.

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

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Croatia Marks 10 Years of NATO Membership

ZAGREB, March 23, 2019 - Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković visited the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Friday, where the tenth anniversary of Croatia's membership was marked, and met with Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, supporting his candidacy for a second term.

With its membership in the alliance, Croatia has expressed willingness to participate in the common defence system and to contribute to peace and stability, Plenković said at the anniversary ceremony.

Croatia has proved to be a reliable partner over the past ten years, participating in operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo and Iraq, and in recent activities in Lithuania and Poland, he added.

In the year also marking NATO's 70th anniversary, Plenković recalled the importance the alliance had in strengthening international security after WWII and said that, with its enlargement policy, it had contributed to Europe's security.

He said Croatia had supported a Membership Action Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina as it wanted its neighbour to take the NATO journey, and that it had been among the first to ratify the accession protocol for North Macedonia, adding that he would have been pleased had it joined NATO together with Croatia and Albania.

Plenković welcomed the gradual increase of the defence budget to 2% of GDP, 20% of which should go to modernise defence capabilities.

We are very well aware of what it means to be a member of the alliance. In the 90s, Croatia was faced with the aggression of Slobodan Milošević's Great Serbia regime, as were other countries of the former Yugoslavia, he said.

We are very aware of all that collective security guarantees and how much easier it would have been to confront the challenges that threatened our territorial integrity, the large-scale destruction, the war destruction which claimed the lives of many of our fellow citizens and left many wounded, and some are still unaccounted for. For us here, it's a matter of the recent past, as if it happened yesterday, which is why we appreciate our NATO membership all the more, said Plenković.

He recalled what former US President George W. Bush said in Zagreb in 2008, when the political decision on Croatia's accession was made: From now on, no one will take away your freedom again. That message still echoes in our public and best embodies NATO's value, said Plenković.

Speaking of his meeting with Stoltenberg, he said he told him that Croatia supported his candidacy for another term as NATO secretary general. We support him because we believe he is doing a very good job. He is Croatia's friend. He was in Croatia six months ago. The dialogue is continuous. We talked about Croatia's contribution to NATO's capabilities and everything awaiting the alliance in this anniversary year, Plenković said.

Croatia joined NATO on 1 April 2009. Since 2003, more than 6,700 Croatian troops have participated in NATO-led operations, missions and activities.

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

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Croatia Ratifies Protocol on North Macedonia's NATO Accession

ZAGREB, March 1, 2019 - The Croatian parliament on Friday ratified North Macedonia's NATO accession protocol with 116 lawmakers voting in favour of the country's accession to the alliance as its 30th member and two being against.

In attendance at the session was a state delegation from Skopje and Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković congratulated them on this success.

Jandroković also said that Croatia "will continue supporting Macedonia on its journey towards the European Union".

The parliament also adopted a law on the election of councils and representatives of ethnic minorities with an aim of enhancing the status of minorities. Thus, elections for those councils and representatives will be held on the first Sunday in May every four years.

More news on the relations between Croatia and Macedonia can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

Most Parties Support NATO Membership for North Macedonia

ZAGREB, February 28, 2019 - During a parliamentary debate on the ratification of the protocol of North Macedonia's admission to the North Atlantic Treaty, a majority of Croatian parliamentary clubs supported the entry of the 30th member into NATO, explaining that this would make the Euro-Atlantic space safer and more stable, whereas opposition party Živi Zid lawmakers used the debate to express their criticism against the alliance.

Presenting the motion for the ratification of the protocol, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Andreja Metelko Zgombić said that Croatia had always supported North Macedonia's accession to NATO, and that the support was intensified after Zagreb joined the alliance.

Branimir Bunjac of the Živi Zid accused NATO of killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, and said that neither Croatia nor Macedonia organised a referendum on their accession to the alliance.

Bunjac also wondered which left party could support NATO, which prompted Josko Klisović of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to respond that those left options that feel responsibility towards the security of their citizens and their countries supported NATO.

Klisović also retorted with a counter-question whether Croatia would have been exposed to the war in the 1990s, had it been a member of NATO.

The admission into NATO closes a gap in that part of Europe, he said adding that the collective security would be bolstered.

Vesna Pusić of the GLAS party congratulated North Macedonia for reaching the point at which it would enter the alliance, and described it as a historic moment.

Independent lawmaker Tomislav Žagar underscored North Macedonia's efforts including the acceptance of a compromise including the name change.

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

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Croatian Military Budget Increasing Both for Country’s and NATO's Sake

ZAGREB, February 16, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday the government was increasing Croatian military budget for its security and to meet its NATO obligations at a time when the US is pushing allies to set aside more for defence.

Since being elected, President Donald Trump has been criticising NATO's European member states, saying they are not complying with the obligation to set aside 2% of GDP for defence, the target allies set in 2014. Only six out of the 29 member states are meeting the target. Croatia, which joined NATO in 2009, is spending about 1.3% of GDP on defence.

Speaking to reporters at the Munich Security Conference, Plenković said the US pressure did not divide the US and Europe. "It's an ambition that's many years old. It's true that the US administration has put this issue on the table in a little stronger and more articulated way than before."

He said the Croatian government had been increasing the military budget since 2016 "first and foremost for us and for our security, to strengthen our army, but also for a wider contribution to the efforts of all allies."

Plenković said the US and its European partners had come closer recently, after Trump at one time threatened to leave NATO unless the allies increased their financing.

"If we go back to 2016 and certain comments on American unilateralism, on a diplomacy which is more oriented to the economy and trade... Today, after a series of meetings, this has been brought back to relatively similar frameworks as it used to be, and one feels that NATO is important both to the US and to European allies," he said.

On the fringes of the conference, he met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, saying ahead of the meeting they would talk about Croatia's contribution to NATO's global strategy.

Plenković said Croatia would soon ratify North Macedonia's NATO accession treaty.

On the first day of the conference, he attended a closed round table on the Three Seas Initiative, which is focused on strengthening cooperation between Baltic, Black Sea and Adriatic countries.

Prior to it, Plenković said the construction of an LNG terminal in Croatia fit into the Initiative, as did the current European troika – incumbent EU president Romania, its successor Finland in the second half of this year and Croatia in the first half of 2020.

More news on Croatia’s defence issues can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

US Secretary of State Meets with Croatian Troops in Poland

ZAGREB, Feb 14 (Hina) - NATO is fully committed to preserving Europe's peace and stability and maintaining its freedom, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a training area in Poland, thanking the NATO, including the Croatian troops in Poland, for their contribution to the alliance's activities, the Croatian Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

Pompeo on Wednesday visited NATO troops in the Bemowo Piskie training area who are taking part in NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence operation as part of the Battle Group Poland.

Among them are members of the Croatian Army, whom the US official thanked, as he did US, British and Romanian soldiers, for their engagement and contribution to security, the ministry said.

The coming celebration of NATO's 70th anniversary will be an opportunity to pay tribute to all those who laid its foundations and defined its main goals, which is that war horrors never happen again in this part of the world, Pompeo said.

He also attended a display of Polish and BGP tactical and technical military equipment, at which Croatian troops presented the Croatian-made M-92 VULKAN self-propelled multiple rocket launcher.

US and Polish officials also attended a live fire exercise, which also involved Croatian troops.

The Croatian troops in the northeast of Poland are taking part in NATO activities designed to accomplish and maintain readiness and support the strengthening of NATO and its member-countries' security.

More news on Croatia’s role in NATO can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018

Foreign Minister Attends Meeting of US-Adriatic Charter Allies

ZAGREB, December 18, 2018 - Croatian Foreign Minister Marija Pejčinović Burić attended in Podgorica on Monday and Tuesday a meeting of the US-Adriatic Charter (A5), an initiative for Euro-Atlantic cooperation in Southeast Europe, which discussed security challenges and future cooperation in the region, the ministry said in a press release on Tuesday.

The meeting was attended by ministers from the A5 member states (Croatia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, and the US) and observers (Kosovo, Slovenia, and Serbia).

Participants confirmed the significance of the US-Adriatic Charter as a framework for dialogue and cooperation which results in long term political stabilisation and stronger security in the region, the ministry said.

The ministers discussed cooperation between the A5 member states in NATO's Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan and ways to enhance cooperation in the period ahead.

In her address, Pejčinović Burić underlined the importance of NATO's open door policy, saying Croatia supports the Euro-Atlantic integration of Southeast European countries as a way to achieve long-term stability and security. She said EU enlargement would be one of Croatia's priorities during its presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2020.

Speaking of current global and regional security challenges such as terrorism, hybrid threats and irregular migration, she said A5 represented an added value to NATO and EU efforts to respond to those challenges.

Participants adopted a joint declaration on this year's achievements and goals for the period ahead. The conference marked the end of Montenegro's A5 presidency this year. Albania will preside in 2019.

While in Montenegro, Pejčinović Burić met with representatives of local Croats. The meeting underlined the importance of their presence in the political and public spheres as well as of nurturing the Croatian identity, the ministry said, adding that the minister underlined that support to Croats outside Croatia was an important government priority.

More news on the regional cooperation can be found in our Politics section.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Živi Zid against Deployment of Croatian Troops Abroad

ZAGREB, October 27, 2018 - Sending Croatian troops on nine international missions led by the UN, NATO and EU received support in parliament on Friday from the ruling majority and the opposition with the exception of the Živi Zid party, which supports the participation of Croatian troops only in UN missions.

Lawmakers debated the participation of Croatian troops in the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan and the EU-led EUNAVFOR Med Sophia mission. Also discussed was Croatian troops' involvement in NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Poland, in the KFOR mission in Kosovo, the NATO mission in Iraq, the EU NAVFOR Somalia Atalanta peace mission, and UN sponsored peace missions.

A maximum of 366 Croatian troops will be involved in these missions in 2019 and the Defence Ministry has allocated 124 million kuna for this purpose, State Secretary Tomislav Ivić said.

MP Branimir Bunjac (Živi Zid) objected to Croatia sending its soldiers around the globe while on the other hand it is not providing for its citizens. "Aside from supporting the puppet government in Afghanistan that sells drugs, what use do we have from sending our soldiers to the Russian border? What does Croatia's army have to do in Iraq?" Bunjac asked and added that the Živi Zid supports only those missions sponsored by the United Nations.

"It is dangerous to claim that Croatia will be better off and safer if it is left without allies," MP Davor Ivo Stier (HDZ) told Živi Zid MPs. "At the time of the Great Serbia aggression, we had to arm ourselves and were on our own and without allies," Stier said and underscored that Croatia must never again allow itself to be without allies. "That is why we need defence allies, so that no-one ever again considers attacking Croatia, that's the advantage of NATO membership," Stier said.

MP Anđelko Stričak (HDZ) underscored that the said missions were designed to help establish peace and reduce instability and should therefore be supported.

SDP MP Franko Vidović too voiced his support for deploying Croatian troops to serve in peace missions abroad.

For more on Živi Zid and Croatian politics, follow the TCN Politics page.

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

NATO Secretary General Visits Croatia

ZAGREB, October 9, 2018 - Croatia is a highly respected NATO ally, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after his meeting with Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević in Zagreb on Monday, commending the Croatian Army for participating in international peace missions and operations.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

NATO Helicopter Training Centre to Be Opened in Zadar

ZAGREB, October 4, 2018 - The defence ministers of NATO members Croatia, Bulgaria, Slovenia and Hungary signed in Brussels on Thursday a memorandum of understanding on the establishment of a multinational centre in Zadar, Croatia for the training of helicopter crews engaged in special missions.

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