Monday, 20 December 2021

Milanović: Citizens and People Respect and Love Croatian Army

ZAGREB, 20 Dec 2021 - The President of the Republic and Armed Forces Commander in Chief, Zoran Milanović, said on Monday that the Dr. Franjo Tuđman Croatian Military Academy was created amid the war and nation-building, underscoring that the Croatian Armed Forces served to defend the country and were respected and loved by the people.

"I've arrived from an institution that has marked its 30th anniversary this morning -- the Croatian National Bank (HNB). That 30th anniversary isn't actually real because that institution had existed before. This one, yours and ours, hadn't existed, it was created amid the war and state-building process. And it's completely new and in that sense completely ours," said Milanović at an event marking the 30th anniversary of the Dr. Franjo Tuđman Croatian Military Academy and a graduation ceremony.

He added that after 30 years of the Croatian state, the Dr. Franjo Tuđman Croatian Military Academy and the HNB were the only two institutions that had done their job well and with honor and had never disgraced themselves.

"One of these two institutions is financial and it enjoys a good reputation but doesn't inspire love. The other one, your and our Croatian army is special, it is only ours, it serves to defend our country and did so when it was hardest, and it's respected and loved by the citizens and the people. These two institutions, these two pillars, do what is good in the Croatian state," he said.

He announced that he would visit the Republic of Kosovo in two days, where he would also visit Croatian soldiers who are there as part of NATO's KFOR operation. He stressed they were there "because that is our decision".

"No solidarity, no force made us go there, that is our decision and our assessment that it is good for us and the region. We will increasingly have to be guided by our interests and then solidarity," Milanović stressed.

You have something to be proud of, you've chosen a difficult job

He told the military academy graduates that they had something to be proud of and that they had chosen a difficult job of being a Croatian soldier in a country that is a NATO and EU member.

In addition to President Milanović, the event was attended by his adviser on war veterans, Marijan Mareković, the Commander of the Dr. Franjo Tuđman Croatian Military Academy, Lt. Gen. Mate Pađen, and the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, Lt. Gen. Siniša Jurković.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 29 November 2021

Banožić: Defence Ministry Won't Cover for Incompetence of President's Office

ZAGREB, 29 Nov 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić on Monday responded to accusations from the president's office that soldiers were not receiving per diems, telling the head of the president's office and the president's defence advisor that the ministry "will not cover for their incompetence".

"Instead of holding unconvincing press conferences and shifting responsibility to others, the gentlemen from the Office of the President should be more responsible in spending their office's budget, so there would be no problems they had mentioned. While I am minister, the Ministry of Defence will not cover for their incompetence," Banožić wrote on Facebook.

The head of the president's office, Orsat Miljenić, and presidential defence adviser Dragan Lozančić said today that Banožić's abuse had spread to soldiers who supported the president because they had not received their per diems.

Miljenić said Banožić decided a month ago not to pay per diems to soldiers who supported President Zoran Milanović in any way, specifically soldiers who recently were lined up in Vukovar and carried wreaths in Škabrnja.

Miljenić said the military chief-of-staff warned the president's office about dozens of such cases in the past month. He added that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković was notified but has taken no action.

Miljenić said this situation was unacceptable and hoped that Banožić would rescind his "unconstitutional and unlawful decision" and resume paying people what they had earned.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Minister Worried About Drugs in Military

ZAGREB, 25 Nov 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić on Wednesday expressed concern about narcotics in the military, saying they should be eradicated after a member of the special forces commands tested positive for cocaine.

"A clear instruction about zero tolerance has been given. Constant checks are being done. In that way, there are certain results every week and I am sure that we will eradicate this thing from the Croatian Army," the minister told Nova TV.

He said this was not a new problem and that no one wanted to tackle it seriously until now.

The latest case was discovered on Monday during extraordinary testing at Lora Naval Base in Split as part of the month of combating addiction.

It was not the first time that cocaine was discovered among members of the special forces command and Banožić said the whole situation worried him.

"As soon as you have any form of addiction in the environment, of course, it's not healthy and as such, it can't be part of the Croatian Army, as a moral message to society as well as for the development of Croatian soldiers in the system."

Earlier this month, police discovered five kilos of marijuana in the family house of an active serviceman in Dalmatia.

Asked if the drugs were for personal use or if this was something bigger, the minister said "there are certain conclusions based on the investigation done by the military criminal police that it's a larger quantity, just as the marijuana case we had last week. It seems there were five kilos. It suggests that it was not only for personal consumption."

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 22 November 2021

Croatian Contingent Given Send-Off to Kosovo Without Presence of Media, Minister

ZAGREB, 22 Nov 2021 - The 36th 130-strong Croatian Army Contingent, including six servicewomen, is being given a formal send-off on Monday to join NATO's KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. The media and the defence minister are not present at the ceremony.

The ceremony is taking place in the barracks of the 132nd Croatian Army Brigade in the eastern city of Našice without the presence of the media. It is being attended by President Zoran Milanović in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces, while Defence Minister Mario Banožić has canceled his attendance.

The Defence Ministry said that Banožić had canceled his attendance because neither he nor the contingent commander was scheduled to address the ceremony and because the media were not allowed into the barracks to cover the event.

"The Croatian Army is above all of us politicians. We are all transient, and it will exist as long as there is Croatia. I did not go to Našice for the send-off ceremony because I wanted no part in a show by the gentleman who unfortunately does not understand the first two sentences in this post. I wish the members of the 36th Croatian Contingent a safe journey and a successful mission. See you soon," the defence minister wrote on Facebook.

Although the Ministry's press office on Sunday invited the media to cover the event, the President's Office later said that the ceremony "does not envisage the participation of the media," adding that the public would be informed about the event in a press release which would include photographs.

Representatives of the media gathered outside the barracks gate on Monday morning but were denied entry.

The President's Office said that the sole purpose of the send-off ceremony was to show the commander in chief, military commanders, and the defence minister the contingent's readiness for the mission. "Such an important event for the military cannot and will not be used for anyone's daily political interests," it said.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Saturday, 6 November 2021

FM Expects "Constructive Dialogue" With President at Meeting on Tuesday

ZAGREB, 6 Nov 2021 - Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Saturday he expected a constructive dialogue between the president of the republic and the prime minister at a meeting of the Defence and National Security Council on Tuesday in the interests of the functioning of the state, its institutions, and national interests.

President Zoran Milanović has proposed a meeting of the Defence and National Security Council because of the escalation of his conflict with Defence Minister Mario Banožić, whom he accused of politicizing the Armed Forces. The government proposed three dates for the meeting and Milanović chose 9 November.

"I expect a constructive dialogue, an exchange of views and proposals because we politicians and officeholders are accountable to our citizens. Everything that is in the interest of the functioning of the state and its institutions, national interests, will be on the table," Grlić Radman told reporters during a visit to his ministry's stall in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg square as part of events marking the 25th anniversary of Croatia's membership of the Council of Europe.

"We are facing a serious task ... because Croatian citizens deserve what they need, and that is social stability, economic growth, a higher vaccination rate, and security. The government will provide an appropriate answer in that regard," he added.

Ambassadors are a priority

Speaking of filling ambassadorial positions, Grlić Radman dismissed Milanović's claim that he did not want an ambassadorial nominee because he was an ethnic Serb. "I never said that," Grlić Radman said, calling Milanović's claims "empty talk" and "base insinuations".

Grlić Radman said that ambassadors were a priority to him. "We have three important positions - Paris, Vilnius, and the Vatican, and they need to be filled. This will also be discussed" at the Defence and National Security Council meeting, he added.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Friday, 5 November 2021

Defence Ministry Refutes President's Allegations About Irregularities

ZAGREB, 4 Nov 2021 - The defence ministry on Thursday refuted President Zoran Milanović's claims that the early retirement of Colonel Elvis Burčul was an act of abuse of the minister's powers, saying that in this case, it was the cessation of active military service with the right to a full age pension.

It is in the remit of the defence minister and not the armed forces' chief-of-staff to define the needs of the service for active military service personnel, in compliance with the law.

Responding to President Zoran Milanović's letter which he sent to Prime Minister Andrej Milanović accusing Minister Mario Banožić of wrongdoing, the ministry's statement says that the President cannot appoint a military commander without the consent of the defence minister.

The ministry also points out that sending Colonel Burčul into retirement is not within the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces' Chief-of-Staff, and proposals to that effect need not be made by the army chief-of-staff, and retirement is within the powers of the defence minister.

The explanation for the cessation of the service of Colonel Burčul as the commander of the Honorary and Protection Battalion cited the plan for the cessation of the active service of personnel in 2021 and not a list, as claimed by the president.

The plan is a document based on the law regulating service in the armed forces, the ministry says.

The plan was adopted unanimously at a college meeting chaired by the defence minister, and in attendance were the Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff and his deputies, says the ministry, adding that this plan also specifies a law-based criterion under which Colonel Burčul's active service ceased.

Concerning the President's objections to the poor equipment of the armed forces, the ministry recalls that the revised budget for 2021 increased defence outlays by HRK 2.387 billion.

The current financial plan has increased from HRK 4.8 billion to nearly HRK 7.2 billion, according to the statement.

The president accused Banožić of attending ministerial meetings in NATO and the EU without informing him "as the President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces, and without obtaining consent for the positions he is presenting there on behalf of the Republic of Croatia."

The minister responded by saying that he had attended the EU and NATO ministerial meetings in accordance with the Constitution and laws.

The statement also dismissed the allegations about irregularities in the employment of staff at the Defence Ministry and countered that there were irregularities at the Office of the President.

Minister accused President of nepotism

Earlier on Thursday, Banožić reiterated his claims that Milanović had insisted on a specific officer to succeed Burčul, although the man concerned had no qualifications, that is necessary ranks, for that position.

Banožić elaborated that he had been asked to promote the officer concerned in an extraordinary procedure so that the candidate could meet the requirements for the new commander of the Honorary and Protection Battalion, which he refused to do. The minister described this as a pure example of nepotism on the part of the president.

He went on to say that he could forget all that had happened in recent days provided that all the activities are back within the framework of the Defence Act.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 4 November 2021

PM: Government Firmly Opposed to Politicization of the Military

ZAGREB, 4 Nov 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday that the government was firmly opposed to any politicization of the Croatian armed forces, stressing that the position of Defence Minister Mario Banožić in his cabinet was absolutely stable.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Plenković said that the matter would be discussed by the Defence Council on Tuesday and that the meeting would be preceded by a preparatory meeting on Monday with the college of military commanders so that he could "hear first-hand what problems are facing the military and see how the government can help resolve them."

The pace of the fourth wave of the pandemic determined by those not vaccinated

Commenting on the largest daily count of new coronavirus cases in the country since the start of the pandemic, Plenković said he would see what would happen with case numbers in the coming days, adding that colder weather had contributed to the considerable increase in the number of confirmed cases.

He said that the monthly report submitted by the Croatian Public Health Institute showed that the epidemiological situation and the pace of the fourth wave of the infection were mostly determined by people who have not been vaccinated.

Last month, 65,558 new coronavirus cases were registered, of which 77 percent were people who were not fully vaccinated. 554 infected persons were placed on ventilators and 427 or 77.1 percent of them were not vaccinated. 578 people died and 75 percent of them were not vaccinated, the prime minister said.

He added that the majority of the people who had died from COVID-19 in October had underlying health conditions and were elderly. All 22 people aged below 50 who died from coronavirus last month were not vaccinated, he noted.

Plenković once again appealed to elderly people who are at risk of contracting COVID-19 to get vaccinated because nearly one in four people aged above 65 have not been immunized yet, which is more than 230,000 people.

He said that 1,922,763 people have been vaccinated to date, which is 56.7 percent of Croatia's adult population, expressing satisfaction that recent days have seen a rise in the number of newly-vaccinated people, albeit small.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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, 24 August 2021

30th Anniversary of Military Police Marked

ZAGREB, 24 Aug, 2021 - The 30th anniversary of the establishment of the first Croatian military police unit was commemorated in Odra near Sisak on Tuesday.

A memorial plaque was unveiled on that occasion at the Odra Community Centre by the head of the Croatian Armed Forces Military Police Directorate, Lieutenant General Mate Laušić, and Brigadier Ivica Kranjčević, an envoy for President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović.

Addressing the event, Laušić recalled that military police had a special role in the 1991-95 war and that their work had been characterised by professionalism, education and resolve.

Kranjčević said that the first military police unit comprised a small group of honourable men with a strong feeling of patriotism, great resolve and professionalism, who knew how to act appropriately at any time during the Homeland War.

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

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Roma in the Homeland War: More Research on Defending Croatia Needed

August 5, 2021 - When talking about the fight for Croatian independence, the public often tends to forget about the contributions of minorities such as Roma in the Homeland War. TCN reporter Ivor Kruljac reminds us of a 2019 book that researched Roma participation in defending Croatia, which is a great starting point for further research today.   

Croatia is marking the 26th Anniversary of Operation Storm, a military action that, on August 5, 1995, marked the liberation of occupied territory (apart from Eastern Slavonia, which was returned to Croatia later on during peaceful reintegration).

Victory Day is filled with pride, but for some, there is a shade of bitterness as a result of the questionable treatment of civilians and prisoners of war that to this day continues to divide the opinion of the Croatian public and remains a topic of numerous historical debates.

As noticed by the Youth Initiative for Human Rights (YIHR), things changed significantly in 2020. This came as a result of moves made by Croatian politicians, not only with words but also by their honouring of Serbian civilian victims in Varivode and Gruber.

''Last year's anniversary was marked by changes in the official policy towards Operation Storm (Oluja), known in Croatia as Victory Day (Dan Pobjede) and Homeland Thanksgiving Day (Dan Domovinske Zahvalnosti). August 2020 saw the public space filled with messages about reconciliation, dialogue, the importance of facts, condolences for war crime victims, and appeals for a conversation about different views on Operation Storm in both Croatia and Serbia,'' said YIHR.

With 2020 evoking feelings of sympathy for all victims of the Homeland War, a significant step was also made back in 2019 to recognise that not only ethnic Croats fought for the freedom and independence of their country. 

We defended Croatia Too: Roma People in the Homeland War“, is a monography by Borna Marinić which was presented in 2019. It was the first publication to gather info on the contribution made in the war by the often discriminated against and socially isolated minority in Croatia. The presentation was held in the "Zvonimir Home" of the Croatian military in Zagreb. The publication was the first to really delve into the contribution of Roma in the Homeland War.

The promotion gathered many VIP attendees of political and military Croatian authorities at the time. Marinić, a historian and the editor of the website ''Dogodilo se na Današnji Dan'' (It Happened on This Day), pointed out that not a lot is known about the actions of the Roma in the Homeland War, and this lack of documentation was the biggest problem he had to tackle when it came to verbal storytelling from witnesses.

''I visited Roma veterans and their commanders as well as other relevant people across Croatia, recording their statements and testimonies about the Homeland War,'' said Marinić. His research saw more than 50 people interviewed, but the total count of Roma people who participated in the war still remains unknown.

Dr. Martin Previšić pointed out while reviewing the book that it doesn't provide readers with a linear story of the war's history, but rather an authentic view on the hell of wartime and the solidarity which trumped very many differences. 

''Vukovar, Baranja, Pakrac, Novska, and Karlovac were places in which Croatia was defended, but they were also places where Roma people gave their tribute to that same defense,'' said Previšić.

Veljko Kajtazi, a member of the Croatian Parliament, elected as a representative of the Roma community, attended the representation, delighted to see that this important but unexplored subject was finally being tackled by a researcher in the first-ever book published on the topic. He pointed out, however, that this book cannot be viewed as an encyclopedia as it didn't record the experiences of all Roma people, nor does it have all of the information from all fronts, but it is a terrific base for further research.

''I'm grateful to my fellow Roma people who shared their stories and whose faith is the cornerstone of this book. I felt the obligation for Roma people to come forward and present themselves in a different light. Roma people, in large numbers, defended Croatia and gave their contribution to the defense in key moments,'' concluded Kajtazi.

Kajtazi talked about the need for Roma people to begin presenting themselves in a different light and stated that there are definitely numerous issues caused by stereotypes that Roma people are involved in crime and as such can't be trusted. 

As TCN previously wrote, The Human Rights in Croatia 2020 Overview report by Human Rights House Zagreb noticed how Roma people in Croatia still face very many obstacles in achieving their rights, which include employment, access to services, and adequate living standards, and there is still segregation in the Croatian education system too.

Additionally, the global issue of COVID-19 brought new problems for Roma people in regard to vaccination against COVID-19, a topic both Kajtazi and the Croatian Public Health Institute (HZJZ) spoke about for TCN.

Roma people helped Croatia during the darkest of its days as a new and young country. Respecting and working on actively including Roma people in our society as equals is the very least Croatia can do in return.

Learn more about Croatian politics and history from the 1990s on our TC page.

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

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