Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Defense Minister Mario Banožić: Problem of Substance Abuse Among Military Personnel Under Scrutiny

ZAGREB, 28 July, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Božinović said on Wednesday the Croatian Armed Forces had zero tolerance for drug abuse, and in the context of the latest drug abuse cases, the minister announced stricter control and disciplinary measures aimed at reducing drug abuse to a minimum and protecting the reputation of the Croatian Armed Forces.

Speaking to the press ahead of an inner cabinet meeting, Banožić said that in accordance with the Drug Abuse Prevention Act, the military police were implementing emergency control measures.

He confirmed that along with the four soldiers who had tested positive for drugs in early July, another three soldiers tested positive for illegal substances last Friday while one more soldier tried to avoid testing.

A total of 30 soldiers in barracks in Split, Ploče, Udbina, Delnice, Vinkovci and  Velika Gorica have been tested so far and drug testing will continue.

The minister expects everyone in the Armed Forces to make joint efforts to prevent drug abuse, announcing a set of measures to deal with this problem.

Banožić said the military police were still investigating recent suicide cases in the Armed Forces and that the public would be notified of the results of the investigation in due course.

The minister also announced increased counselling for members of the Armed Forces.

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

Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Croatian Defence Minister and Chief-of-Staff on Official Visit to USA

ZAGREB, 21 July, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić and the Croatian Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff , Admiral Robert Hranj are on an official visit to the USA to mark the 25th anniversary of cooperation with the Minnesota National Guard, as part of the State Partnership Programme, the Defence Ministry reported on Wednesday.

This is Minister Banožić's first official visit to the United States since stepping into office.

Banožić and Hranj visited the Sikorsky helicopter factory in Connecticut on Monday where they met with the company's executives and president Paul Lemmo.

The company is a subsidiary of the Lockhead Martin company which also producers UH-60 Black Hawk and SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. 

The Defence Ministry (MORH) points out the importance of military and technological cooperation with the USA which includes donations and the procurement of UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the armed forces. During the meeting, Minister Banožić said that a US donation in 2019 was an important support to Croatia's national policy aimed at transitioning to equipment originating in the West.

"After that donation, we decided to procure two more Black Hawk helicopters and have allocated $85 million for that purpose. Our ambition is to continue developing this investment because, being a reliable and credible member of the NATO alliance, the transition to Western technology is the only possible and correct path," Banožić said. He expressed his satisfaction that at the moment Croatia's military pilots and aviation technicians are attending various training courses in the US, specialising in particular on the  Black Hawk helicopter.

"We also have two pilots gaining additional flying hours in Minnesota in cooperation and assistance of the Minnesota National Guard. This is important for us, not only in the context of buying equipment but in the context of security because we will obtain the necessary support in training," added Banožić.

Black Hawk helicopters can be used to support civilian institutions - in fighting wildfires, search and rescue missions, and emergency medical transport.

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

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Defence Minister Banožić: "We Will Make Every Effort to Prevent Unfortunate Incidents"

ZAGREB, 20 July, 2021 - The Defence Ministry will make every effort to prevent unfortunate incidents in the Croatian Army, after five servicemen died off duty in less than a month, Defence Minister Mario Banožić said on Tuesday.

"Because of unfortunate incidents that occurred in the Croatian Army, we will invest all our efforts in the further development of programmes to prevent such incidents," the minister said, expressing his deep regret over the deaths of the servicemen.

He did not discuss the circumstances of the deaths.

"Profoundly shaken by the unfortunate incidents that happened recently, I express my deepest condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the Croatian soldiers who passed away. The loss of any member of the Croatian Army is a great loss to the system because it is they who contribute to the development of our Armed Forces," Banožić said, according to a press release from the Ministry

He said that these incidents were in no way connected with the situation in the Armed Forces, and that the Defence Ministry and the Army would do all in their power to ensure that there were as few such incidents as possible.

The Ministry said that servicemen and servicewomen could contact psychologists in their units at all times for counselling.

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

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

Defence Minister Mario Banožić: Reintroducing Conscription Being Considered

ZAGREB, 26 May, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić said on Wednesday the reintroduction of conscription was being considered and that, although he was sure it was the right move, he felt that Croatian society still had to deal with this subject a lot.

Speaking on Croatian Radio, Banožić said he tried to research the subject in recent months.

He said almost two in three citizens supported mandatory military service, but added that the motive for introducing it was important, and that was security and stability.

Parents are for introducing conscription first and foremost as an educational measure, which is not the right motive, he said.

Croatia needs security, stability and serving one's country as the motive, ideals which are the foundations of the Croatian army, courage and the desire to feel secure and whole, Banožić said.

Croatian society still has to deal with this subject a lot, but reintroducing mandatory military service is the right step, he added.

Asked if there was a road map and when that could be expected, he said that for now the ministry was researching public opinion and how to manage the process because of the sensitive subject.

Especially considering that once you abandon such a model, bringing conscription back is a much tougher challenge, he added.

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

Friday, 14 May 2021

Defence Minister Mario Banožić Expects Decision on Fighter Jets This Month

ZAGREB, 14 May, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić said on Friday he expected a decision on the best offer of multipurpose fighter jets to be made this month.

We were in a time of earthquakes and the pandemic, and perhaps the communication with the bidding countries did not take place when one wanted, he told the press in Petrinja.

"It all resulted in us having a superior time ahead of us when a decision will be made to the honour and glory of the Croatian army and the Croatian Air Force."

Asked when the decision would be made and what the deadlines were, Banožić said he expected it this month. He also commented on President Zoran Milanović's question as to when the government would finally decide.

He said "the president was invited to participate in the body which created the basis for making a decision" and that he could have "participated in that process."

Banožić said he tried to remain civil in his communication with the president. "First and foremost because I'm the minister of a department which is truly an honour for me, a person who should avoid conflict yet try to keep the situation under control regardless of the circumstances."

He said the military commander-in-chief should have a positive attitude and support the military and the Defence Ministry in making decisions on modernisation and equipment.

I understand what the president's fundamental constitutional duties are. I respect his role as such. I can't accept his attempts to have his way of communicating and political views reflected on the Croatian army, Banožić said.

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

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Defence Minister Mario Banožić Meets With Hungarian Ambassador Csaba Demcsák

ZAGREB, 5 May, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić on Wednesday met Hungary's incoming Ambassador to Croatia, Csaba Demcsák, expressing satisfaction with Croatian-Hungarian friendly relations.

"Both sides expressed their satisfaction with the long-lasting friendly relations between the two countries while Minister Banožić said that the two countries have developed excellent bilateral military cooperation," a press release from the defence ministry notes.

Banožić spoke about Croatian-Hungarian cooperation within the RACVIAC centre for security cooperation and the Central European Defence Cooperation (CEDC) and at the Multinational Division Command Centre in Hungary, established jointly by Hungary and Croatia, as well as about their cooperation in the EU and NATO.

Ambassador Demcsák presented Hungary's current defence policy, underlining that he believes in the continuation of the two countries' good cooperation, the ministry's press release notes.

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

 

Friday, 30 April 2021

Defence Minister Mario Banožić: "Croatian Army is Not Training Ground For Political Rivalry"

ZAGREB, 30 April, 2021 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić said on Friday that the Croatian Army is not a training ground for political rivalry, adding that he will never allow his actions to put the army in a position to be used for political recriminations.

"The key is a Croatian Army that needs to develop. It isn't a training ground for political rivalry. I will never do anything, regardless of whoever wants to put me in that position, to make the Croatian Army a topic for political recriminations. The Army does credit to us all, particularly now when we are marking the 30th anniversary of the Armed Forces and each week we have at least one event," Banožić told reporters after meeting with Kosovo's defence minister.

He recalled that according to his decision based on the Defence Act, the Croatian Army will attend the commemoration of the 26th anniversary of Operation Flash in Okučani. He added that no one had ever made a decision on where the Chief of Staff and other commanders would be, and that will not be the case now.

There's no such thing as the President's Army, there's only the Croatian Army

"This refers to people who participated in the Homeland War, people who are deeply aware of the emergence of the Croatian Army and the way it was formed. They are also aware of the fact that any commemoration, including the commemoration of Operation Flash, makes new generations proud as they need to learn how to behave and love their country," the minister said, underscoring that he expects everyone to behave in that spirit.

"That means that we do not have the President's Army, we only have the Croatian Army which is defined by the Defence Act," said Banožić. He recalled that the Defence Act was adopted in 2013 under the then prime minister Zoran Milanović and said that now as president Milanović certainly knows what changes were made to the act in comparison to the period before that.

"Vital changes occurred then. The Minister of Defence participates in creating the budget and in decisions on how the budget will be spent and reports to the government and parliament," said Banožić. He said he respects the authority of the President of the Republic as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and that they are clearly defined by the Constitution.

Banožić was referring to President Zoran Milanović's statement on Thursday that his delegation at the commemoration in Okučani would include military commanders, while "I don't know who will be with Plenković, but they won't be." 

"I think that is something that is quite damaging for the Croatian Army, to politicise it in that way. The Defence Act serves as the basis for further equipping, modernisation and development of the army. Topics like we have had until now concerning peace missions and operations, cooperation with other countries and support to civil institutions. While I am minister we will adhere to that and we will certainly not put any commander in any uncomfortable situation regarding where and with whom he will be," said Banožić.

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

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

President Zoran Milanović: "I'm Considering Not Having Army Attend Operation Flash Commemoration"

ZAGREB, 27 April, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that he was considering not having the army participate in the coming commemoration of the 1995 military and police operation "Flash" in Okučani, to protect it from politicking, and that he would discuss the matter with Defence Minister Mario Banožić.

"A situation where soldiers have to stand for hours while politicians and government officials successively lay wreaths to comply with epidemiological measures puts in an awkward position the Army Chief of Staff as well as the commander of the land army who, if they do not want to offend anyone, have to be on duty... after arriving with me, they have to wait for (PM Andrej) Plenković, then, I guess, also for (Parliament Speaker Gordan) Jandroković," said Milanović, who is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

"So I'm thinking about telling them to stay home, to simply protect them from any politicking... I will talk with the minister," said Milanović while visiting the Gašinci military grounds.

Milanović said that he did not see anything contentious about the fact that on Monday, at a reception he gave for retired officers and wartime commanders of the Croatian Defence Force (HVO) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he also met with retired HVO general Tihomir Blaškić, who was in the HVO delegation. 

Blaškić was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and served a nine-year prison sentence for the cruel and inhumane treatment of Bosniak civilians and POWs from 1992 to 1994.

"Had Blaškić been responsible for something that, let's say Ratko Mladić was responsible for, I would not have received him," he said.

He announced that he would also receive General Milivoj Petković when he is released from prison "because he isn't a war criminal."

The convictions against Blaškić and Petković were political convictions, he added.

The ICTY convicted Petković of crimes committed in 1993 against Bosniaks in the territory that was under the control of the Croat authorities of Herceg-Bosna

Asked if he would attend a ceremony marking the anniversary of the establishment of the 4th Guards Brigade in Split, Milanović said that he would attend the ceremony in Knin.

"I'm going to Knin, not Split, that brigade is in Knin and the army will conduct such events in barracks," the president said.

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

Friday, 23 April 2021

Commander of U.S. Air Forces For Europe, Africa Visits Croatia

ZAGREB, 23 April, 2021 - General Jeffrey Harrigian, commander of United States Air Forces in Europe and Africa and of Allied Air Command, visited Croatia on Thursday, the Defence Ministry said on Friday.

Harrigian met with the ministry state secretary, Zdravko Jakop, the director of the Croatian Armed Forces General Staff, Major General Ivica Olujić, and the commander of the Croatian Air Force, Brigadier General Michael Križanec.

They discussed the development of bilateral cooperation in defence and Agile Combat Employment, which is based on interoperability, as well as agreements regulating access to the Allied infrastructure and air space.

The Croatian Army, as an active NATO member, is participating in many international military exercises and activities which enhance the common capabilities and intensify cooperation between the member states, including the DEFENDER-Europe 21 and Astral Knight 21 exercises.

Jakop thanked the U.S. for donations and training assistance, saying that the bilateral relations were developed and that the U.S. "is the most important strategic partner in global security building."

Harrigian said he was looking forward to joint participation in Astral Knight, an exercise taking place in Croatia which, he said, offers an exceptional opportunity to train with some of the strongest allies.

Križanec underlined the importance of joint participation in international military exercises and activities this year, including  Adriatic Strike 21, Astral Knight 21 and Immediate Response 21.

Air forces, owing to rapid action and deployment in an exceptionally wide operations area, play a significant role in supporting deterrence as a key element of NATO's collective defence, he said.

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

Friday, 16 April 2021

Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team Visits Croatia's Krila Oluje Pilots

ZAGREB, 16 April, 2021 - Ten British Royal Airforce planes landed at the military based in Zemunik on Friday enroute to Greece to visit Croatia's Airforce - Krila Oluje (Wings of the Storm) aerobatic team, the Defence Ministry reported in a press release.

The British Red Arrow pilots were welcomed by their Croatian colleagues in the Krila Oluje team along with a team of aircraft technicians.

"After a long 2020 when we were not able to meet at base nor in the air, we are truly honoured to be able to receive our dear friends and offer them support on their way to Greece," Captain Darko Belančić said.

He hopes that the next season will be more successful despite all the challenges and that pilots will be able to conduct training and prepare for various performances.

"We look forward to their visit again on returning to the United Kingdom after the completion of the Springhawk exercise and hope that we can organise and plan a joint flight and exchange of experiences," added Belaničić.

This is the fourth time the Red Arrows have visited Zemunik as one of the bases on the way to Tanagra in Greece where they will conduct a five-week training in preparation for 2021 performances.

The Red Arrows, officially known as the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, is the aerobatics display team of the Royal Air Force based at RAF Scampton. The team was formed in late 1964 as an all-RAF team, replacing a number of unofficial teams that had been sponsored by RAF commands.

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

 

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