Thursday, 20 January 2022

Plenković: I Want No Involvement in Conflict Between Banožić and Milanović

ZAGREB, 20 Jan 2022 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday he wanted no involvement in the conflict between the Defence Ministry and the Office of the President, adding that President Zoran Milanović's letters to him were irrelevant but that the ministry and the president's office had to communicate.

"Sending me letters and then making them public via the media is absolutely unacceptable, I consider all of his letters totally irrelevant," Plenković told reporters after a government session.

Defence Minister Mario Banožić said earlier today that President Milanović should declassify documents on his travels and that he would then declassify the findings of an inspection in the office of the Chief of the General Staff, Admiral Robert Hranj.

The PM said that he had not read the report on the inspection in Hranj's office but would do so once he found the time.

"I do not consider it to be very important, the minister has stated his position on the matter," Plenković said.

As for Milanović's statement that he sees no possibility of cooperation with Banožić over the latter's campaign of strategic harassment, Plenković said that he could say the same about Milanović.

"I think the President of the Republic has been strategically harassing a huge portion of civil institutions, commentators, media, and political actors and we do not see any possibility of further cooperation, yet we are open to dialogue," the PM said.

Asked if he would demand that Banožić make the said report public, Plenković said that he would not because it was not Banožić who had classified the document.

Asked again why he would not, given that Banožić had been the one to request the inspection, the PM said that Banožić had not requested it for the public's sake but for his own sake.

"Banožić has said that he is satisfied with the report, if he is satisfied, it's fine with me," he added.

Asked if the Armed Forces could function if there was no communication between the Defence Ministry and the Office of the President, Plenković said that they had to communicate and that he recommended they do so.

He confirmed that he would soon forward agreements on the purchase of the Rafale multi-purpose fighter jets to the Office of the President.

"He has every right to it, he is the head of state. Whether there is room for cooperation is irrelevant, he has the right to see the agreements and he will obtain them, of course, they, too, are confidential."

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

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.

Thursday, 19 August 2021

Less Wildfires in First 8 Months Than 5-Year Average, But Intensifying Lately

ZAGREB, 19 Aug, 2021 - Chief firefighting commander Slavko Tucaković informed the government on Thursday that in the first eight months of 2021, 2,389 fires had occurred in areas of combustible vegetation, or 8% less than the five-year average, however in the last eight weeks, the number of wildfires has risen by 25%.

The area covered by blazes in the first eight months has been 12,207 hectares, or 54% less than the five-year average.

However, extreme weather conditions have fuelled wildfires in the last eight weeks, and as a result the area consumed by those fires has increased by 385%.

The highest number of blazes in rural areas has been registered in Šibenik-Knin County, seven to date.

The biggest wildfire this years has been in the Split hinterland, when it burnt an area 1,643 hectares large near the village of Seget Gornji.

Lion's share of wildfires put out within four hours

Tucaković said that as many as 87% of wildfires in the Croatian coastal area had been extinguished within four hours, which could be interpreted as evidence of the good engagement of firefighting services.

Interior Minister Davor Božinović said that firefighters' interventions in the coastal and Karst regions lasted 2.23 hours on average this year, while in 2020 this average was 3.37 hours.

Croatia's firefighting planes have been deployed abroad to put out fires six times so far this year: once in Greece and once in Turkey and four times in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The allocated funds in the state budget for firefighting services stand at HRK 104 million (€14 million) and so far this year 62 million kuna (€8.3 million) has been disbursed, Defence Minister Mario Banožić said. 

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

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.

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.

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Government endorses defence and security university bill

ZAGREB, 4 March, 2021 - The government on Thursday endorsed a bill on the establishment of a defence and security university which will be sent to parliament, with Defence Minister Mario Banožić saying the university would produce leaders for the Croatian army and other components of the homeland security system.

"In the year when the Croatian army is marking its 30th anniversary, a legislative framework is being created to transform the Croatian Military Academy into the University of Defence and Security, which is of special state interest," Banožić said, according to a ministry press release.

The university will facilitate the development of a teaching staff for military, defense, security and intelligence sciences and skills, and it will also be able to apply for EU funding, Banožić said, adding that the university would also develop and conduct scientific research in support of military, defense, security and intelligence activities.

"Working together, we will create an organisation which will be ready to produce leaders for the Croatian army and other components of the homeland security system," said the minister.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Aircraft Purchase Commission to Recommend Best Bid by Dec. 12

ZAGREB, Sept 14, 2020  - The interdepartmental aircraft purchase commission will recommend the best bid by December 12, Defense Minister Mario Banozic said on Sunday evening.

"Given that the bids were submitted to the Defence Ministry on September 9 and we have three months, it is easy to calculate that (the deadline) is December 12. In these three months the interdepartmental commission will evaluate all the bids," Banozic said in an interview with the public television service HTV when asked when a decision would be made on which fighter jets Croatia would buy.

"December 12 is the deadline that we have set," the minister said.

He noted that the best bid may not be final, adding that the commission would talk to each bidder. There are various elements that will be decisive, such as the number of flight simulators, the weapons package, pilot training, the payment plan, and cooperation between the states, and the bidders are also expected to reduce the amount of the initial offer, he said.

Banozic said that Croatia should avoid a situation in which other countries would guard its skies. "Croatia should definitely avoid that because it will not be for free. If we leave it to Hungary or Italy, which are mentioned as one of the solutions, we will pay for it, but that money will go to another country."

Milanovic's statement was unfair

Banozic said that it was unfair of President Zoran Milanovic to say that American aircraft should be the first choice because no one from the President's Office is a member of the interdepartmental commission.

"The decision not to be on the commission reduces their responsibility and allows them to speak in public as they now do. And even this, in my opinion, is a form of lobbying and cheering for one of the bids, which in my opinion is unfair," the defense minister said.

"The commission is the place to present one's views. One should be very responsible and not present incorrect solutions to the media. One should not try to curry favor with countries involved in the tender, but should clearly stand behind the offer and support a comprehensive, unanimous solution that will be a credit to the Croatian army and the citizens of Croatia," he added.

Banozic confirmed that there had already been pressure from certain lobbies, saying that a few days before the submission of bids there was news of "a fake offer that will be the best of all," adding that this strategy of misinformation through the media and social networks was well known.

"I think it will intensify as the decision date draws near. But I am sure that if we as members of the commission take a clear and honest approach as we did in putting together the tender, the result will be good for all - for the Croatian army and the citizens of Croatia," the minister said.

Speaking of the impact of the corona crisis on the defense budget, Banozic said that the budget had been cut by HRK 500 million from last year's HRK 5.1 billion to make savings, adding that the number of staff would be reduced by about 20 percent or 200-250 people. He said that the downsizing would be carried out through job reclassification and retirement of staff in consultation with the trade union. 

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