Thursday, 23 June 2022

Defence Minister Promises Further Strengthening Of Army Capabilities

ZAGREB, 23 June 2022 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić on Thursday during a working visit to the Croatian Navy at the "Admiral Sveto Letica-Barba" barracks in Split commented on the upcoming Defence Strategy of the Republic of Croatia and Long-Term Development Plan of the Croatian Armed Forces.

Thanking the members of the Croatian Navy (HRM) for impeccably carrying out their duties, the defence minister said that the Croatian government would continue to pursue a policy of strengthening the capabilities of the Croatian Armed Forces, the Ministry of Defence (MORH) said.

He recalled that many measures had been adopted with regard to the improvement of the material rights and living and working conditions of soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers, and that since 2016 the salaries of active military personnel had been rising continuously every year, MORH said.

Banožić said that amendments to the law regulating the service in the Croatian Army introduced the first, two-year fixed-term, contract for sailors and soldiers and after that the next contract as permanent one.

"The new solution provides job safety and the possibility of life planning with all the rights related to permanent employment. In 2020 and 2021, 70 sailors were employed in this way," the defence minister said.

He also underscored significant investments in the Croatian Armed Forces, such as the procurement of multi-purpose fighter jets and the Black Hawk helicopters for the Croatia Air Force, Bradley fighting vehicles for the Croatian Ground Army, and the construction of patrol vessels for the Croatian Navy.

Patrol vessels will improve the ability to monitor and protect the rights and interests of Croatia at sea, the minister said.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 13 June 2022

Banožić Attends Defence and Security Fair in Paris

ZAGREB, 13 June 2022 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić said at the 27th edition of the Eurosatory fair in Paris on Monday that the Croatian military industry had become a respectable player on the world market, the Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Banožić and a Defence Ministry delegation visited the Eurosatory defence and security fair in Paris.

In addition to global manufacturers of military equipment and weapons, Banožić toured the exhibition spaces of Croatian defence companies taking part in this year's fair, together with the Croatian Chamber of Commerce, the press release reads.

They have confirmed once again that the Croatian defence industry has become a respectable player on the world market, the defence minister said, adding that the cooperation between domestic companies and the defence ministry has been going on since the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

Banožić noted that this branch of the Croatian economy had become a serious, competitive player on the world market and that Croatia and Croatian soldiers were known in the world for its products.

The Eurosatory fair, launched in 1967, is the leading international air and land defence and security exhibition. It is held every even-numbered year in June at the Paris Nord Villepinte exhibition centre, the Ministry said.

Meeting with Lecornu

The fair was opened by French minister of defence Sébastien Lecornu, with whom Banožić had a bilateral meeting.

The ministers spoke about the current situation caused by the Russian aggression against Ukraine and exchanged views on the current initiatives with the European Union and NATO.

They signed a letter of intent between the two ministries on cooperation within the European Defence Fund (EUF) and expressed satisfaction with strengthening bilateral defence cooperation, which has been significantly increasing since last year's signing of the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Croatia and France, according to the press release.

Banožić and Lecornu exchanged views on the situation in Southeast Europe, notably in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the Croatian minister underscoring the importance of Bosnia and Herzegovina passing an election law that would enable legitimate representation of its constituent peoples in government and institutions.

For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 13 June 2022

Croatian Interior Minister Meets with UEFA President

ZAGREB, 13 June 20222 - Croatia's Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović spoke with European Football Federation (UEFA) President Aleksander Čeferin in Geneva on Monday about ways to improve safety at football matches.

Čeferin underscored the importance of cooperation between federations, clubs, and fans in order to exchange all information that contributes to the smooth organization of football matches during the preparation, planning, and implementation of security measures.

The aim is to encourage clubs to develop and maintain proactive and regular communication with fans and their representatives with the aim of forming partnerships and solving problems, the Ministry of the Interior said.

Prevention was identified as a key activity in combating hooliganism at sports competitions, and the European Court of Human Rights also supports member states in the fight against hooliganism and their efforts to combat violence at sports competitions.

The UEFA president welcomed the efforts of European national federations to combat the problems of modern football and offered full support in addressing problems.

Božinović presented the highlights of the security protocol for high-risk football matches, which is being prepared in cooperation between the Ministry, the Croatian Football Federation, clubs and fans. Its intention is to ensure the safety of spectators, competitors and other participants, as well as to protect citizens and property.

Božinović expressed satisfaction that the UEFA had chosen the southern Croatian Adriatic island of Hvar as the venue for the UEFA Executive Committee meeting in July this year.

The meeting with Čeferin was also attended by UEFA chief of football Zvonimir Boban and Croatian deputy police chief Damir Barić.

To read more about sport in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Banožić: I'll Pay Fine But Won't Return Apartment

ZAGREB, 25 May 2022 2022 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić told a press conference on Wednesday he respected the decision of the Conflict of Interest Commission, which fined him HRK 7,000 for granting himself an official apartment, but he does not want to return the apartment to the state property management company.

During a ceremony for the handover of the Black Hawk helicopters, donated by the United States, the Croatian defence minister recalled the period when he was the state assets minister. In September 2019, Banožić signed a decision granting himself an official 92-square-metre apartment in Gundulićeva Street in Zagreb. However, the minister reiterated that he did so in accordance with legal provisions.

"I will not move out of the apartment because the Commission proved what I had said during the proceedings. However, I respect the decision and I will pay the fine," he said.

He added that as a state official he was entitled to a three-room apartment of at least 60 square metres, but he did not choose it himself, the administration of the state property management company did.

I signed the decision just because Article 49 of the State Assets Management Act explicitly states that the state assets minister makes the decisions on apartments, Banožić said.

The defence minister criticised President Zoran Milanović for the overhaul of Croatian MiG fighter jets in Ukraine during his term as prime minister. He thinks there were many irregularities in that business deal and that the aircraft had false technical documentation.

We have solid evidence that the numbers on them were overwritten, that the documents were falsified and that is why a claim for damages should be filed, in accordance with the signed contracts, he said.

However, Banožić stressed "it's insane to talk about asking Ukraine to pay damages now given the situation the country is in", adding that the blame was not on the Ukrainian state but the company that did the overhaul of the aircraft.

For more, check out our politics section.

Friday, 20 May 2022

Conflict of Interest Commission Finds Banožić Abused Entitlements

ZAGREB, 20 May 2022 - The Conflict of Interest Commission on Friday unanimously determined that Defence Minister Mario Banožić, who had served as the state assets minister, abused the entitlements when he adopted three decisions including one in which he granted himself an official apartment.

Banožić was fined HRK 7,000 for the breach.

Breaches were identified in three decisions he approved; the decision to grant himself a state-owned apartment of 30 square meters, then a decision on the right to accommodation in an apartment for state officials, and thirdly, granting himself an apartment in Gundulićeva Street in the center of Zagreb.

"When office-holders find themselves in situations when they should decide on matters concerning themselves, they cannot be included in the decision-making. Those situations need to be identified and office-holders need to be excluded from the decision-making and delegate that to another person," the said the commission. 

The commission examined the case after media reports in March this year which was followed by a complaint.

Banožić told the commission that he initially agreed to the smaller apartment because it was the only one available. Later he was informed by the State Real Estate Agency that the apartment in Gundulićeva Street would soon be available and based on the criteria of the 2013 regulation, he could occupy it.

The 2013 regulation notes that first category officials are eligible for a three-room apartment (60m2) and an additional 10m2 for every other family member. In his application for an apartment Banožić noted that his spouse and two children visited occasionally however, the commission said that his family was never registered in Zagreb.

The fact that they occasionally visited did not mean that he was eligible for a larger apartment, the commission's president Nataša Novaković explained.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Parl. Speaker Says it's not MPs' Job to Call for Somebody's Arrest

ZAGREB, 18 May 2022 - Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said on Wednesday that it is not up to MPs to call for somebody's arrest, dismissing criticism from the opposition that the prime minister was pressurising chief state attorney to discourage her from prosecuting ministers suspected of criminal offences.

"Should someone commit a criminal act and that is proven, they will be arrested," Jandroković told Urša Raukar Gamulin of the Green-Left Bloc after she said she hoped State Attorney General Zlata Hrvoj Šipek would withstand pressure and make arrests.

She was commenting on Defence Minister Mario Banožić, who she said had defrauded the state of millions of kuna and committed several offences, from abuse of office to influence-peddling.

"Government ministers are falling one after another under the charges of influence- peddling and abuse of office, while the prime minister is making threats and giving instructions to the state attorney general to not prosecute them," she said, stressing that in a civilised EU country this would make the prime minister and the entire government fall.

"The legislature is not the one to decide who will be arrested, you mentioned here people by name and spoke about arrests, that is not the way to do things. You do not have the right to call on state institutions to arrest people, that is not your job," Jandroković said.

Dalija Orešković (Centre/GLAS), too, commented on the Office of the State Attorney General, stressing that in a healthy state, the chief state prosecutor does not listen to political instructions over the phone.

"We do not have a state because we do not have independent institutions," she said.

Milorad Pupovac of the Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) warned of a speech by an MP who after habitually spreading intolerance towards the Serb Orthodox Church and its members said, "We have reduced the Serbs to a tolerable number."

"The session chairman issued no warning and did not distance himself from that statement," Pupovac said, adding that "the 20th-century reductions of the historical minorities - Hungarians, Austrians, Germans, Italians, Jews, Roma and Serbs - to tolerable numbers has made Croatia neither freer nor safer," the Serb MP said.

Marijan Pavliček (Croatian Sovereignists) criticised Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević for refusing to sponsor the Walk for Life event and refusing to have the organisers' flag displayed on city flagpoles, saying the mayor had privatised the city and marginalised those whose worldviews he did not share.

For more, check out our politics section.

Sunday, 27 March 2022

Croatian Government Reshuffle by May 30? As Many as 7 Names Are Mentioned

March 27, 2022 - Several sources from the ruling coalition claim that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković has broken through and that a wider Croatian Government reshuffle will take place around May 30.

This began to be seriously considered after the arrest of Minister of Construction Darko Horvat, and especially after Uskok opened investigations against two other members of the Government: Minister of Labor and Pensions Josip Aladrović, who is suspected of favoring the employment of two people in 2018 and 2019 while being director of the Croatian Pension Insurance Institute, and Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milošević, who is suspected of mediating in "arranging" incentives for selected companies, reports Slobodna Dalmacija.

The idea of ​​a broader government reshuffle, according to sources, was terribly pushed by the latest affair that erupted after the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds Nataša Tramišak publicly announced that she had received terrible threats but did not report them to the police until her public appearance, nor to her boss - the Prime Minister. They are convinced that Tramišak has already been de facto written off, especially after Prime Minister Andrej Plenković publicly said that "the whole situation with Minister Tramišak is extremely bizarre" and that "it is not yet completely clear to him".

''I will not make statements. The whole case was taken over by the police.'', was all that Minister Tramišak told Slobodna Dalmacija yesterday.

The idea has been ''cooked'' before

A source from the HDZ says that the story about the government's reshuffle was "cooking" even before the Tramišak case, that it will cover much wider than her, Aladrović and Milošević, and that it will take place between Easter (April 17) and Statehood Day (May 30).

''As for Minister Tramišak, it is clear that she no longer has any confidence. A more serious reconstruction is being considered, which would not only affect her and the members of the Government burdened with investigations (Aladrović and Milošević). There are executed people in the Government, such as the Minister of Agriculture Marija Vučković, and the stay of the Minister of Health Vili Beroš is still uncertain.'', says the source. He claims that the case of the Minister of Defense, Mario Banožić, is particularly interesting. He says that he is terribly untalented and that almost no one in the party supports him (anymore).

''But it would be too bold to claim that he lost Plenković's trust because Banožić is completely loyal to him.'', he says.

In addition to the mentioned names, in the context of the Government reshuffle, sources from HDZ and the ruling coalition parties note that the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Tomislav Ćorić could also leave the Government".

One of the sources claims that he received information that Tomo Medved (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Veterans' Affairs) could replace Mario Banožić as Minister of Defense.

''I think that would be a phenomenal move because the President of the Republic of Croatia, Zoran Milanović, respects him terribly, especially because of Medved's role in the country's defense. Therefore, Milanović could no longer score easy goals, as he does now with Banožić. However, I think that Plenković will not give up Banožić, not (only) because of their good relationship, but because of Milanović who would declare such a move his victory (in a clash with the Government and Prime Minister Plenković).

Ministers are silent

Deputy Prime Minister Tomo Medved was not in the mood yesterday to discuss the government reshuffle.

We did not receive any comment on the information on the government reshuffle from the others mentioned in that context: Deputy Prime Minister Boris Milosevic, Ministers Banožić, Aladrović, and Beroš, as well as from the Minister of Agriculture Marija Vučković.

Some of Plenković's coalition partners are also strongly advocating a broader government reshuffle.

- I am sure that there will be a reconstruction. Without going into, of course, whether they (Aladrović and Milošević, n. A.) Are guilty or not, it is objective that the burden of these investigations puts the Prime Minister in a position to go into government reshuffle. This is not in dispute or questionable at all. In addition, there are still some open topics in the public and it can be assumed that some other ministerial positions may be the subject of government reshuffle - says the head of the Reformists  Radimir Cacic. 

HSLS President Dario Hrebak is also a supporter of the (wider) government reshuffle.

''HSLS will continue to support the ruling majority, but we should not run away from the problems we have. As a serious party, we believe that Croatia does not need new elections because of everything that is happening in the world, as well as in the domestic economy. But that does not mean that we will not advocate certain refreshments in the Government within the ruling majority. I think it would be good to do that. But the final decision on the reconstruction is made by the prime minister. He is the prime minister, he is forming the Government, and he will best assess whether he needs reconstruction. HSLS sees its role as a party that will not blackmail or condition anything, but propose. We will certainly suggest that we need to refresh the Government because we have two more years of mandate and we are simply coming to a political position that requires us to make certain changes. I would like to mention once again that Prime Minister Plenković has a much broader picture. He should suggest when, in what way, and whether a government reshuffle is needed. HSLS will continue to support the ruling majority.'', says Hrebak.

Consultations have not yet begun

A source from the HDZ, who is also convinced of the government's spring reshuffle, says "serious consultations on the subject in the party have not yet begun".

"We haven't come that far yet," he says.

Clearly, there are those in the HDZ who believe that the government reshuffle should not go much further than those burdened with investigations such as Aladrovic and Milosevic.

''Why would Minister Tramišak, for example, leave the Government as part of a package that includes persons who are the subject of Uskok investigations? Unlike them, she is "pure", she received threats because she did not want to please anyone. After all, we will discuss her position in the Government on Tuesday at a meeting of the HDZ leadership. While the Prime Minister finds it bizarre that Tramišak did not report the threats to the police before she spoke about them publicly, it is bizarre to me that he has a Minister of Defense who has not been able to evict the Nazi for more than two weeks, and it is bizarre to me that in Zagreb, more than two years after the earthquake, reconstruction has not yet begun'', says the interlocutor from the ruling party.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Defence Minister: Croatia, UK Committed to Preparation for Future Security Challenges

ZAGREB, 17 March 2022 - The Croatian government on Thursday adopted a conclusion that took note of an international act on the strategic partnership between the Croatian and UK ministries of defence, with Minister Mario Banožić saying it was part of joint preparations for future defence and security challenges.

Under the Conclusion and Implementation of International Treaties, the Act was signed in Zagreb on 1 February during a visit by the UK defence secretary and submitted to the Croatian government, the Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Minister Banožić said that the obligation of strategic partnership reflects Croatia's commitment to the defence and security partnership in support of a stronger Alliance and common interests and values.

"The document confirms the joint commitment to ensuring further equipment to respond to future defence and security challenges. Through the programme of bilateral action, we will continue to promote the interoperability of the Armed Forces and achieve defence and security objectives and a common vision of stronger strategic cooperation," said Banožić.

"As allies, we will additionally strengthen interoperability by implementing joint training and exercises, both bilaterally and within NATO," the minister said.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Sunday, 13 March 2022

Croatia Asking for US Patriot Air Defence System, Jutarnji List Says

ZAGREB, 13 March 2022 - A Croatian Defence Ministry delegation is travelling to Washington next week to ask for the temporary deployment of the Patriot air defence system in Croatia, Jutarnji List newspaper said on Sunday, citing an unofficial source.

Jutarnji List asked Defence Minister Mario Banožić on Thursday whether Croatia was discussing air defence assistance with its allies, and he said that the matter would be discussed in Washington next week. The source quoted by the newspaper on Sunday said that the Patriot surface-to-air missile system would also be on the agenda.

The US army recently installed this system in Poland as part of NATO's defence. These systems are stationed in Germany, from where the US army deploys them elsewhere in Europe.

The US army used the Patriot system last year for the Astral Knight exercise at Zemunik air base, inland from the central Croatian Adriatic city of Zadar.

As an affordable solution for the Croatian medium-range air defence system, many professionals recommend the purchase of the Norwegian NASAMS system, the newspaper said.

For more on this and Croatia's response to the Russia-Ukraine war, visit TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 13 March 2022

Remnants of Aerial Bomb Found in Drone That Crashed in Zagreb

ZAGREB, 13 March 2022 - Remnants of an aerial bomb have been found in the Soviet-era drone that crashed down in southwest Zagreb late on Thursday, Defence Minister Mario Banožić said on Sunday.

"Traces of an explosive device have been found, indicating that this was not a reconnaissance drone. We have found parts of an aerial bomb," Banožić told reporters at the crash site after the bulk of the drone had been dug out of the ground.

He said that it was a Soviet-made unmanned aerial vehicle, but that it was still unclear whether it had come from the Russian or Ukrainian side.

"We will be able to say what its purpose was only after an analysis. This type of bomb was used by aircraft," he added.

Banožić said that the area around the crater was now safe and there were no explosive substances there.

The Seismology Service said on Saturday that its seismographs had registered the impact of the flying object in the Jarun area of southwest Zagreb at 23:01:49 on Thursday.

The drone fell about 50 metres from a student dorm but no one was hurt. About 40 cars parked in a nearby car park were damaged.

For more on this breaking story and politics in Croatia, visit TCN's dedicated page.

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