Saturday, 9 May 2020

Krstičević: I Resigned Because of My Sense of Responsibility and Honour

ZAGREB, May 9, 2020 - Former Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on his Facebook page on Friday that he had resigned because of his sense of responsibility and military honour.

"I resigned at Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence because of my sense of responsibility and military honour. I am above all a general who fought in the Homeland War and I always took responsibility and care for my men, both in wartime and in peacetime," Krstičević wrote.

He thanked Croatian Army servicemen and Defence Ministry staff for their dedicated work over the past four years.

"Keep on working to make the Croatian Army stronger and keep on building on the victorious spirit of the Homeland War. Strengthening the Croatian Army is your permanent mission and has no alternative," he said.

Krstičević resigned on Thursday after a military trainer aircraft crashed in the Zadar hinterland killing both airmen aboard.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković accepted his resignation, saying that he did not decide so because he thought Krstičević was responsible but because he respected him.

More news about the Ministry of Defence can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Plenković Accepts Krstičević's Resignation

ZAGREB, May 8, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković accepted Defence Minister Damir Krstičević's resignation on Friday, after a military plane crashed on Thursday killing two Croatian army pilots, saying that he did not make that decision because he believed Krstičević was responsible but rather because he respected him.

"Personally, I don't see any reason how I could in any way connect his political responsibility with the fact that that plane crashed, however, I understood from our talks that this situation has affected him personally," Plenković said after a four-hour meeting with Krstičević in Government House.

Plenković explained that he accepted minister's resignation because he respects him as a man and friend and not because he believes that Krstičević is responsible for anything.

"Accidents like this unfortunately occur. I am sorry that it affected him so much that he asked to be allowed to take a break from his duty in the government. I will not propose a new defence minister and one of the ministry's state secretaries will be acting as defence minister for the time being," said Plenković.

He added that Krstičević had informed him of the circumstances of the crash of a military trainer aircraft near Zadar in which two Air Force members were killed.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Plenković, Krstičević to Meet Today

ZAGREB, May 8, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević talked by phone on Thursday night and will meet on Friday, the government told Hina after Krstičević resigned over the death of two Air Force pilots.

Government spokesman Marko Milić told Hina the government "extends the deepest condolences to the families" of the two pilots killed in the crash of a military trainer aircraft near Zadar on Thursday afternoon.

The office of President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander Zoran Milanovic would not comment on Krstičević’s resignation on Thursday evening but it is expected that he will do so on Friday.

Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) president Krešo Beljak said on Thursday that by resigning, Krstičević did "the right thing for the first time in his term." He and the HSS extended their condolences to the pilots' families.

The chair of the parliamentary defence committee, Igor Dragovan of the Social Democratic Party, said on Thursday the resignation was a highly moral and responsible act by the man responsible for the functioning of the defence system.

Speaking to Hina, he said Krstičević was not responsible for the crash but that his resignation was honourable.

Živi Zid leader Ivan Sinčić said on Thursday Krstičević had shown a number of times during his term that it was more important to him to favour NATO, his former company KING ICT and the clients of his ruling HDZ party than soldiers' safety.

In a Facebook post, he extended his condolences to the pilots' families.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Minister of Defense Damir Krsticevic Announces Resignation

May 7, 2020 - An extraordinary press conference of the Ministry of Defense started at 7:45 pm in Zemunik, after a military plane crashed after 4 pm, killing two soldiers. During the press conference, Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic announced his resignation.

Minister of Defense Damir Krsticevic and Armed Forces Chief of the General Staff spoke at the conference concerning the military plane crash, reports

Admiral Robert Hranj said instructor Lieutenant Marko Novkovic was killed in the crash.

The cause of the crash is still unknown. An investigative commission has been formed. Hranj expressed his condolences to the families.

It was said at the conference that the plane crashed half an hour after takeoff. There were no problems with the plane, and Marko Novkovic was a very experienced pilot.

Minister Damir Krsticevic said that it was very difficult to lose a soldier. He remembered the accident that happened in January in Zablace, where two soldiers also lost their lives. Krsticevic received information about today's accident shortly after 4 pm. He expressed his condolences to the families.

"I received information around 4 pm that an accident had taken place. I immediately went to Zemunik. During the trip, I heard from the president and the prime minister and informed them about this event. It is tough to lose a Croatian soldier, and it is difficult for every defense minister and every commander in the Croatian Army. As we know, three months ago, we had a tragic helicopter accident when we also lost two young lives.

What is important is that everything is investigated, I am talking about the whole system, and the truth must be told and we must be transparent about everything. We are forming a commission with the chief aviation investigator who needs to do a detailed investigation into this event," the minister said.

"I also ordered the Chief of the General Staff to form his own commission to investigate all military circumstances and to look into everything that needs to be investigated," Krsticevic added.

"Our task is to be with families and we will provide all the necessary help and support. Everything we know and can do. As Minister of Defense, I want to express my condolences to all members of the Croatian Air Force and the entire army. This is a huge loss for the Croatian Army. As of today, I am resigning from the position of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Republic of Croatia," Krsticevic concluded.

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


Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Krstičević: Investment in European Defence Industry is Investment in Citizens' Security

ZAGREB, March 5, 2020 - Investing in the European defence industry is an investment in the security of citizens and that requires appropriate funding, Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Wednesday, the second day of an inter-parliamentary conference in Zagreb.

"I would like to stress how important it is to have adequate resources for research and development in defence. Investing in the European defence industry is an investment in the security of our citizens, European cooperation, economic development and employment," Krstičević said at a meeting on strengthening Europe's defence cooperation and industry.

That meeting opened the second and final day of the Inter-parliamentary Conference for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and the Common Security and Defence Policy (CFSP-CSDP).

Krstičević presented the priorities and activities of Croatia's presidency of the Council of the EU in the field of defence and security.

He underlined four priorities: further implementation, consolidation and coherence of EU defence initiatives (PESCO, CARD, military mobility, European Defence Fund), strengthening EU-NATO cooperation and trans-Atlantic relations, strengthening the industrial and research dimension in defence with emphasis on the role of small and medium-sized enterprises, and strengthening the EU's efforts in Southeast Europe in the field of security and defence.

The aim of those initiatives is to develop capabilities through cooperation, avoid duplication and unnecessary spending of both tangible and human resources, he said.

Croatia considers that the European Defence Fund (EDF) is one of those tools that will have a positive impact on strengthening the European defence industry and will stimulate further synergy between the armed forces and the civilian industrial sector, said Krstičević.

"Hence, we consider it to be very important to secure adequate finances for the EDF within the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) for 2021 to 2027," he added.

However, currently it seems that no more than €7 billion is planned for EDF, which is a significantly decreased amount, Krstičević said, adding the Croatia supports the original proposal of €13 billion which was also supported by the European Parliament.

Timo Pesonen, Director-General of the European Commission's Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs directorate which his responsible for the Defence Industry and Space Department, said that it was important to develop strategic partnerships and transatlantic cooperation but also to strengthen investments in research and development with the aim of strengthening self-autonomy.

He also underlined the importance of financial support for the EDF and said that cuts negatively impact defence cooperation between members.

Pawel Herczynski, Director for the Security Policy and Conflict Prevention (SecPol) in the European External Action Service and Deputy Secretary General of CSDP, said that he hoped there would be sufficient funds for defence in the new MFF.

EU's ambitions in the area of security and defence can be credible and efficient only if they are supported with the necessary resources, he underscored and added that that must be ensured.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Krstičević Submits Declaration of Assets, Then Withdraws It

ZAGREB, January 30, 2020 - A spokeswoman for the Conflict of Interest Commission confirmed on Thursday that Defence Minister Damir Krstičević had completed an on-line Declaration of Assets on Wednesday, but later withdrew it in order to amend it.

"The information that he submitted an on-line Declaration of Assets yesterday is true. The procedure is such that an official completes an on-line declaration and then submits a signed hard copy to the Commission and only then it is published," spokeswoman Martina Jurišić told Hina.

However, she added, after he completed the declaration on Wednesday, Krstičević found that there was something he still needed to amend and the Commission is now waiting for a new declaration.

The news website reported on Wednesday that the Defence Minister had declared a lower value for a house near Šibenik compared to how much he had paid for it. The declaration of assets noted that the house owned by his wife was assessed at €80,000, yet the sales contract indicated a price of €160,000.

Krstičević also did not declare the exact size of the house because he declared that the holiday house measures 120 square metres in area when in fact, according to the Land Titles Registry, it measures 302 square metres.

More news about conflict of interest issues can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Croatia Searching for Fighter Jets Again, Negotiations with USA and Sweden

The recent fighter jet story was a bit of a flop (yes, that's an understatement) for Croatia, but it seems that not all is lost, despite the entire situation having been made the butt of numerous jokes ever since.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 18th of May, 2019, a delegation from Sweden was led by an individual from FMV, a state-run company that deals with arms export operations.

Throughout 2019, the Croatian Government will try its hand at yet another attempt to procure some fighter jets. It appears, despite the total and utter failure to reach a deal with Israel and Croatia's previously desired acquisition of some F16's, that the government just isn't giving up on its plans.

As Vecernji list reports, after the Croatian Military Delegation returned from the United States over a month ago from the initial round of talks about the aircraft, the same type of initial meeting was held on the 8th of May, but with the Swedes, in which Croatia's "interest" was activated once again, this time for the purchase of the JAS-39 Gripen.

The delegation to the United States was headed by General Mirko Šundov, while Robert Hranj was placed in charge of the talks on the specific topic of the aircraft. All that was found out after that was that from the American side, no offers on the aircraft had been made.

As for the Swedes, they showed somewhat greater ambition. As Croatia's delegation had returned from the United States visibly disappointed, and they'd even heard that the Americans were astonished when they realised that Croatia still had a firm intention to acquire those jets, MORH set up a similar meeting, but this time with the Swedes.

As stated, the delegation from Sweden was led by an individual from FMV, which is a state-run company that runs and deals with arms export operations. In addition, there was also a representative of SAAB, the manufacturer of the JAS-39 Gripen aircraft. The Croatian delegation consisting of ten persons was headed by Hranj.

Make sure to follow our dedicated politics page for much more.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Croatia Participating at Belt and Road Forum in Beijing

ZAGREB, April 26, 2019 - Croatia and China have turned a new page in their relations and China has recognised Croatia as a partner in Europe, Croatian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said in Beijing on Friday, during his talk at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, which is being held on April 25-27.

Krstičević took part in a theme debate called "People connectivity", saying that he was honoured to be representing Croatia at the forum, the Croatian Defence Ministry said in a press release.

"I would like to express my satisfaction with the fact that Croatia and China are strengthening their cooperation and strategic partnership. We have turned a new page in relations with China and I am glad that China has recognised Croatia as a partner in Europe. The new Pelješac Bridge that is being built by a Chinese company on the Croatian coast is a symbol of that cooperation," Krstičević said.

He recalled that the international forum in China was taking place after the successful China + 17 summit held in the southern Adriatic resort of Dubrovnik. Croatia recently hosted the biggest summit held as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

"The Belt and Road Initiative can follow our motto from Dubrovnik: 'We build new bridges through openness, innovation and partnership," Krstičević said, adding that on April 27, Croatia and China were marking the 27th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

The theme debate in Beijing was also attended by the deputy prime ministers of Indonesia and Uzbekistan, the foreign and economy ministers of Argentina, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Russia, Singapore, Syria, Somalia, Grenada, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tajikistan and Bangladesh.

The Beijing forum is attended by 37 leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan and the heads of state of the 10 ASEAN (Association of South-east Asian Nation) states. Delegations from 150 countries and high representatives of 90 international organisations in all are attending the event.

Chinese President Xi Jinping made the keynote address. The Belt and Road Initiative must be green and sustainable, Xi said opening the forum on Friday, adding that that major infrastructure and trade plan had to result in high quality growth for all the countries involved.

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

Friday, 15 February 2019

Government Defends Failed F-16 Fighter Jets Purchase

ZAGREB, February 15, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in the parliament on Thursday that he supported Defence Minister Damir Krstičević because all activities regarding the failed purchase of F-16 fighter jets from Israel had been conducted transparently and in line with the law, recalling that one of the reasons why the purchase of the military aircraft had been launched was the failed overhaul of MiG21 jets in 2013, when the government was led by the Social Democrats (SDP).

"The government rejects all allegations from the motion (for a debate on the failed jet purchase) as unfounded and incorrect and proposes that the parliament reject the conclusions in the motion," Plenković said during a debate on the SDP-sponsored motion. He said that no such motion had been filed over the failed overhaul of MiG jets even though the case was subject to legal proceedings in Croatia and Ukraine.

Plenković dismissed allegations that the failed jet purchase had jeopardised Croatia's security and position in the international community, adding that the allegations were based on superficial assessments, lack of understanding of the subject matter and political opportunism.

"As regards the US approval for the Third-Party Transfer (TPT), I want to stress that the country owning and selling military equipment, in this case Israel, is responsible for obtaining approval for TPT. Croatia was aware of the need to obtain approval for TPT from the start of the procurement procedure, but it is impossible to entirely eliminate all risks in any process," he said, explaining the chronology of the failed jet purchase.

The public was informed of every step of the procurement procedure, including difficulties in obtaining approval for TPT, he added.

"It is not true that Croatia's international reputation has been compromised. Both the US and Israel have stressed that they want to continue developing ally and partner relations with Croatia and deepen their defence cooperation with Croatia. Israel has stated publicly that Croatia demonstrated professionalism and sound judgement at every stage of the process and could not impact the outcome of the process and therefore could not be considered responsible, which is what the US has confirmed as well," said the prime minister.

He reiterated that there was also no harm for the state budget. "We will learn lessons from this, but we are determined to modernise the Air Force, and based on analyses and preparations, we will embark on new activities towards that goal. The government backs Defence Minister Krstičević," Plenković said.

Krstičević did not address MPs, but Plenkovic's address drew numerous reactions.

"You have reduced one of the most important strategic decisions to a cheap PR exercise and crisis communication. With your non-transparency, you have given new arguments to opponents of the plan to purchase combat aircraft and thus jeopardised the future of the Croatian Air Force and national security. How can one trust your vision if one day you want more used aircraft and the next day you want fewer new aircraft. You are no better than those who think that the Croatian skies should be given over to Italians and Hungarians," said Nikola Grmoja of the opposition MOST party.

HRAST MP Hrvoje Zekanović said that Defence Minister Damir Krstičević had done a good job, while the prime minister and the president had failed. Citing military analysts, he said that NATO's strategy did not foresee Croatia having its own combat aircraft. "You did not do your lobbying of President Trump," he said.

"Neither you nor these people from MOST will ever be in a position to decide anything that concerns the government, either the development of the Air Force or the conduct of the foreign policy. These are nothing but the dreams of the people who use these issues to attract public attention, without providing any arguments," Plenković replied.

More news on the failed jet purchase can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

(VIDEO) Under Pressure, Defence Minister Loses Temper in Parliament

ZAGREB, January 16, 2019 - A heated debate during Question Time on Wednesday about the failed deal between Croatia and Israel on the procurement of fighter jets angered Defence Minister Damir Krstičević who snatched a model plane out of the hands of SDP MP Franko Vidović, shouting at him: "To hell with you and this!"

Before that, Social Democrat lawmaker Vidović said that two years had been lost in the procrastinated procedure for the purchase of multipurpose planes for the Croatian Air Force.

"You have undermined the combat capabilities of the Croatian army," the opposition deputy said, claiming that Croatia was exposed to disgrace on an international scale.

He also wondered how Prime Minister Andrej Plenković was planning to embark on a new tender procedure without first dismissing Krstičević from the ministerial post.

Plenković responded that it was not true that national security was put at risk. This is a fabricated and untrue claim disseminated by those who in the past did not advocate the upgrade of the Croatian air force, some of whom opposed that process, the prime minister responded. Croatia's government remains committed to the modernisation of the national air force, he said.

Croatia has fighter jets, it is a member of NATO and is covered by collective security and by cooperation within the European Union, Plenković explained.

He recalled the timeline of the first tender for the fighter jets procurement. "On 29 March 2018, Croatia's government made a decision on the choice of F-16 Barak jets, irrespective of the email correspondence between representatives of the US embassy in Zagreb and people in the expert group or officials of the defence ministry," Plenković said.

The signals from the correspondence were not clear to me, given that the tender procedure was under way, he added.

We sent delegations to Washington and Israel to find out if Israel could obtain approval from the USA and if the USA was OK with that. They said then that it was all right. We would not have made this decision on that choice, if we had not checked that out. However, the problem has occurred now, Plenković said.

Dissatisfied with the prime minister's answer, Vidovic brought to the bench where government ministers were sitting a model plane saying that if things go on as the government plans, Croatia can have only such planes.

This upset Minister Krstičević very much. He took the model plane from Vidovic's hand and threw it to the floor.

After the incident, Krstičević said that he was not nervous and insisted that the behaviour of the SDP lawmaker was unsporting and that the intention of Vidović's performance was to humiliate him. Although he admitted that he overacted to some extent, Krstičević told the press: "I was very calm, but you must realise that I was a wartime general and I am now the defence minister."

Krstičević said that in the past two years he was dedicated to finding the best solution for the Croatian Air Force and now "somebody is bringing that model plane in front of you, without any respect." "I find this humiliating and unsportsmanlike ," the minister said.

Vidović said later he respected Krstičević as a commander and a soldier, but that in parliament they were all equal. He added that he did not wish to provoke the minister and that he gave him the model plane in jest.

More news on the aircraft procurement can be found in the Politics section.

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