Thursday, 14 February 2019

Croatian Parliament Debates Failed F-16 Procurement

ZAGREB, February 14, 2019 - Speaking ahead of a parliamentary debate on the failed acquisition of F-16 fighter jets from Israel, Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Davor Bernardić on Thursday called on the government to deliver all the documents from the failed process of F-16 procurement to parliament within 15 days, including a non-paper which the US ambassador had personally handed over to the prime minister.

"We want to determine the truth about the procurement of the aircraft squadron and the responsibility of the defence minister and government, as well as ensure that future procurement procedures, particularly those exceeding 1 billion kuna, are conducted transparently and legally and not through a direct deal and without a public tender," Bernardić told a press conference.

He reiterated that the SDP wanted parliament to determine the facts, to show that that procurement procedure was not conducted transparently and that the country's defence capabilities and international reputation were jeopardised.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Thursday he expected the opposition Social Democratic Party's (SDP) motion for a parliamentary debate on the failed purchase of F-16 fighter jets from Israel to be rejected.

Speaking to reporters on arriving for the debate in parliament, Plenković said that the government had analysed the procurement process and would present its findings in the debate. He added that he expected the debate to be held in an atmosphere of tolerance.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said: "We want a well-reasoned debate based on facts and truth. The Croatian government has come here to tell the truth about this project. As you have seen, Croatia did everything correctly. We received all the necessary guarantees. Croatia did nothing wrong, and both Israel and the US have confirmed this."

Asked if he was still in favour of reaching a direct deal with the US, Krstičević replied: "First and foremost, I am in favour of making the Croatian army stronger."

More news on the F-16 acquisition can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Defence Ministry Signs Equipment Acquisition Contracts with Local Companies

ZAGREB, February 12, 2019 - Contracts worth 313 million kuna for the procurement of equipment for the army were signed with 34 Croatian companies at the Defence Ministry on Monday.

Worth 32 million kuna more than those signed last year, the contracts were signed for the procurement of footwear, clothing, equipment, services and works.

The contracts represent a significant contribution to the national economy and show that the Defence ministry is participating in the development and promotion of the national military industry, including through the European Union's Permanent Structured Cooperation and NATO, Minister Damir Krstičević said.

"The Croatian army has been recognised in the world by its equipment. Domestic companies have asserted themselves with top quality product and impressive results," he added.

He recalled that in April the ministry would organise the ASDA international military industry fair in Split.

Tajana Kešić Šapić of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce said the contract signing "is an investment in the Croatian military industry (which) can carry the growth of the entire economy."

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

Monday, 11 February 2019

Minister Denies Hidden Costs in Failed F-16 Jets Purchase

ZAGREB, February 11, 2019 - Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Monday, when asked about hidden costs for the procurement of F-16 jets from Israel, that he "said everything there was to say on that" and that he expected a well-argued debate in parliament on the government's work due to the failed procurement.

He was responding to questions from the press, who asked if there were additional hidden costs for the procurement of the F-16s after the Defence Ministry published that 400,000 kuna was spent on a Croatian delegation's trips to Israel and that 190,000 kuna was paid to the Deloitte consulting company.

Krstičević also commented on a patrol boat project. "All strategically important projects of the Croatian army are being implemented. The patrol boat project was four years late. In the end, we received the boat and the navy is currently examining the boat."

Asked about business people's suggestion about the establishment of a centre for the research of new material and development of new equipment, Krstičević said, "We recently established a combat leader centre and a centre for unmanned aerial systems, and a cyber space command is also being planned because the Croatian army, aside from land, sea and air, wants to systematically enter cyber space."

"It's therefore important that we establish a department which will systematically do research and development. This year we will establish an organisation or a body which the Croatian army needs and which will be in touch with domestic military equipment manufacturers," he said.

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

Friday, 8 February 2019

Decision on New Fighter Jets Coming After Analysis of Failed Tender

ZAGREB, February 8, 2019 - Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Thursday he would not back down from his opinion that Croatia needed multi-purpose fighter jets, adding that a decision in that regard would be made after a detailed analysis of the failed acquisition of Israeli F-16 Barak aircraft.

After a presentation of the Defence Ministry's procurement plan for 2019, Krstičević denied speculation that Croatia would not be buying fighter jets because his presentation did not specify what jets Croatia wanted to buy or from whom.

"First we are waiting for a parliamentary debate. We are conducting a detailed analysis of the process. After we make a complete analysis, we will start the process of selecting fighter jets. Since that is a very complex process, we need to see all aspects and decide how to resolve this matter which is vital for our future. Naturally, we would like this issue to be above party politics," Krstičević said.

He reiterated that the entire process that failed had been conducted cleanly, in detail and transparently and that Croatia was not responsible for anything but that it had to learn the moral of this story and see how to resolve it in the future.

Asked about the prime minister's announcement that he would include additional stakeholders to be responsible for the procurement process, Krstičević rejected speculation that the prime minister didn't trust him and that he was seeking additional controls.

"As far as trust is concerned. I am here. I am the minister and I don't think that is true," he said. He added that in his opinion people from other government departments and state institutions should be included in this complex process.

Asked if he was still in favour of acquiring new American F-16 aircraft, he said that once an analysis was completed, it would be clear how this would unfold.

More news on the failed acquisition of fighter jets can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 7 February 2019

Government Dismisses SDP’s Interpellation on Fighter Jets Acquisition

ZAGREB, February 7, 2019 - The government on Thursday unanimously adopted a report on an interpellation submitted by 16 Social Democratic Party (SDP) MPs about its performance in the procurement of fighter jets, assessing the claims in the interpellation as unfounded.

"The government conducted this very complex process systematically and responsibly, guided solely by Croatia's national interests, in line with the Defence Act and the Public Procurement Act. The selection of the multipurpose fighter jets was conducted transparently, with clear criteria and equal terms for all interested parties," Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said presenting the report.

He said no bidding country complained about the procurement procedure. He said the parliamentary defence committee and the Defence Council were included in the process from the start and were informed about the procurement in time and in detail.

Israel's bid cost 475 million dollars. Greece's cost 171 million euro, although additional costs were not defined, the aircraft were not modernised and total costs could not be estimated. Sweden's bid cost 933 million euro and total costs were estimated at 1.11 billion euro. The basic US offer cost 1.553 billion euro, excluding weaponry and training costs and total costs could not be estimated.

Krstičević said "it was concluded that Israel's bid would be complete and the most acceptable, including financially." He said Israel provided preliminary approval for the transfer of technical data in the configuration requested so that its bid could be valid.

It was Israel's obligation to obtain the US government's final permission for the delivery of the aircraft in the appropriate configuration and Israel officially notified Croatia that, contrary to the obligation undertaken, it could not obtain permission from the US for the delivery of F-16 Barak aircraft.

Croatia could not influence that and is not responsible, the minister said. "We asked all the necessary questions and received the appropriate guarantees."

He underlined that Croatia had not undertaken any financial obligations and that it suffered no consequences in the procurement procedure. "The government acted with due attention and we didn't ignore the views presented during the procurement procedure," he said, adding that, "with the intention to obtain all the necessary information and examine the procedure and terms of acquiring the transfer, additional consultations were made with the most relevant interlocutors in Israel and the US."

During the whole process, the government showed determination to ensure the best aircraft for the most affordable price.

"Croatia remains a key strategic partner to the US and this won't change. We underline that no action in this process has threatened the long-term stability and viability of the Croatian Air Force," said Krstičević.

The government will continue to seek a solution for maintaining the capability of the fighter jets we developed during the Homeland War, he added.

"It's important that we continue to have good relations with Israel and the US. And when it comes to defence cooperation, we will adopt some decisions at this meeting, which further confirms the continuity and intensity of our cooperation," said Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Late last month, the opposition SDP submitted an interpellation to parliament on the government's failure to procure F-16 Baraks from Israel, demanding that the government tell parliament why the procurement had failed.

The SDP wants parliament to establish if Krstičević and Plenković were responsible for the failure and to ensure that future procurement procedures, especially such expensive ones, be carried out transparently and in line with the Defence Act.

The interpellation signatories maintain that the government, notably the Defence Ministry, did not act transparently and with due attention, claiming that they did not take into account Croatia's overall interests and the positions of the US as the third party. Citing Croatia-US correspondence published in the media, they say the US clearly indicated that it was against the procurement as Krstičević wanted to implement it.

More news on the fighter jet debacle can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Croatian Defence Minister Visits Macedonia

ZAGREB, February 6, 2019 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević began a two-day official visit to Macedonia on Tuesday, expressing full support for Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic integration and readiness for further bilateral cooperation, the Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Krstičević also congratulated Macedonia's Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Defence Minister Radmila Sekerinska on reaching an agreement with Greece that resolved the dispute over Macedonia's name.

"This is a historic success that will enable Macedonia to continue its Euro-Atlantic integration towards membership of NATO and the European Union. Croatia will continue to offer its support to Macedonia on its Euro-Atlantic path and is ready to share its know-how and experience with you. We are pleased that the Croatian Embassy in Skopje was NATO's contact point and that Croatia was able to provide expert assistance to Macedonia in establishing contacts, convening meetings and in negotiations with NATO representatives," Krstičević said.

Prime Minister Zaev said that these were historic times for Macedonia. "We have achieved an important agreement with Greece which is significant for Macedonia's future. I am pleased that you are visiting Macedonia in this significant week and we are grateful for the help that Croatia offered to Macedonia in its integration with NATO. We thank the Croatian government for its great support. Croatia and Macedonia are truly great friends," Zaev underscored.

During the meeting with Minister Sekerinska, it was pointed out that Croatia and Macedonia are friendly countries that have excellent defence cooperation.

Minister Sekerinska thanked Croatia for the support it continually provided to Macedonia. "Thank you, Croatia, for everything you have done for Macedonia in bilateral relations and regarding NATO. The Croatian Embassy was NATO's contact point and it truly provided quality preparations and assistance. Indeed, Croatia and Macedonia have a long partnership and friendly relations. I am pleased that we have excellent cooperation in the area of defence, particularly in training and education," she said.

The ministers agreed that it was important to continue bilateral cooperation, emphasising that "we are participating together in the A-5 initiative which is an example of excellent cooperation and joint preparation of our soldiers for operations and missions in an international environment. We have established excellent cooperation over the years in training and educating Macedonian officers at Croatia's Military Academy."

The ministers also discussed expanding cooperation and exchanging experiences in the field of assisting civilian institutions and in the defence industry.

Minister Krstičević is also due to meet with Parliament Speaker Talat Xhaferi and President Gjorge Ivanov.

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

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Guarantees Not Sought in Procurement of F-16 Jets

ZAGREB, February 2, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday that no guarantees had been sought during the planned purchase of Israeli F-16 jets that eventually fell through as that type of procurement did not require guarantees, announcing that in the next attempt to buy military aircraft emphasis would be put on the inter-departmental nature of the process.

"This was a government-to-government process in which guarantees are not sought," Plenković said in an interview with Nova TV. He confirmed that the government would launch a new process to buy new military aircraft and that in that process, its interdepartmental nature would be stressed.

The prime minister said that a detailed analysis into why the purchase of Israeli fighter jets had failed was still under way but that he believed "we have arrived at the right conclusion as to why it happened" and that the conclusion would be presented during a parliamentary debate on the matter to be held soon.

Plenković stressed that Israel had undertaken in writing to secure permission for the Third Party Transfer (TPT) whereby the USA allows the sale of weapons originally made in the USA.

"Also, talks at the State Department and the Department of Defence gave us reason to conclude that the transfer would be approved," he stressed.

Plenković concluded by saying that Croatia had excellent relations with both Israel and the USA and would continue having such relations in the future as well.

More news on the procurement of F-16 jets can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Failed F-16 Purchase to Be Discussed in Parliament

ZAGREB, January 31, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in the coastal town of Ploče on Thursday that the government was close to completing an analysis into why the planned purchase of F-16 fighter jets from Israel had failed, adding that he believed the parliament, too, would discuss the matter.

The important thing is that this did not do any harm to our relations with the USA or Israel, cooperation in the field of defence with those two countries will continue, and cooperation with Israel will continue in the business sector as well, Plenković said during a visit to the local army barracks.

"The important thing is that our intentions were good, and we will present our impression as to why the deal did not happen during a parliamentary debate," the prime minister told reporters. "A lot of information is being published. The only relevant thing is that Israel formally undertook to obtain permission for the transfer of the jets to the third party, in this case Croatia. The deal did not happen under the terms that were specified in the tender. We will learn lessons from this case and move on," Plenković said.

Plenković expressed satisfaction that army troops had been stationed also in Ploče at Defence Minister Damir Krstičević's proposal. That is good in terms of security and in terms of the army's contribution to civil institutions in preventing natural disasters, the PM said.

Minister Krstičević, who accompanied Plenković, called for a thorough and responsible analysis of the chronology of the process of preparation and implementation of the purchase of military aircraft from Israel, as well as for clearing up the situation in a calm discussion, using arguments.

"The government tried to resolve the issue. We will analyse the process, an agreement was signed, there is no financial damage. Croatia asked all the necessary questions. You can see various documents being published, proving that we received all the necessary guarantees," said Krstičević.

"In a process that is very complex, there is no harder thing than buying a multipurpose fighter jet. We will analyse everything regarding the process and have the matter discussed by the parliament. There are a lot of documents, challenges and work to be done," said the minister.

Krstičević and Plenković visited the barracks of the 116th Croatian Army Brigade in Ploce, which was opened in 2018 and is used by a newly-established Croatian Navy unit, a seaborne company.

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

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

New Fighter Jets Purchase Only After Failed Deal with Israel Is Analysed

ZAGREB, January 29, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday that the government "has an idea" why the purchase of the Israeli F-16 Barak fighter jets fell through, adding that no new steps would be taken regarding the acquisition of new planes until the entire case is thoroughly analysed.

Plenković said that at a meeting with US Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst, held earlier in the day, he did not ask why the sale of the jets fell through because there was no need for that.

"I did not need to ask him. As you know, we are thoroughly analysing the entire process and after our talks with the Israeli side and consultations with the Americans we have a pretty good idea why this has happened," the prime minister said, adding that the analysis, that was still being conducted, would clarify what happened. He said the analysis would be completed in the coming weeks and until then no new steps aimed at acquiring fighter jets would be launched.

Earlier on Monday, Plenković held talks with Ambassador Kohorst who then told the press that he gave a document to the Croatian prime minister which outlined the process for obtaining approval for the F-16.

Shortly after Kohorst said that the statement he had given to the N1 commercial broadcaster about the failed deal between Israel and Croatia about fighter jets' purchase had been misinterpreted, and insisted that the Croatian government should not be blamed for the failure.

Kohorst thus reacted to some media interpretations of his statement that the Croatian government was aware of the procedure for obtaining approval for the purchase of US-made F-16 aircraft from Israel. "Counter to what some press have reported, the United States did not at any time advise the Croatian government not to purchase the Israeli F-16s," Kohorst said in his statement.

Plenković later said he had not seen the document and that this "was the exchange of technical papers at the level of the US Embassy and a representative of the Croatian authorities."

He underscored that the jets were only one of the topics discussed at the meeting, underscoring that Israel's offer with regard the quality and the price of the planes was very good. He reiterated that Israel had assumed responsibility for obtaining approval from the Americans.

More news on the defence issues can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 28 January 2019

US Ambassador: Croatia Was Aware of Approval Procedure for F-16

ZAGREB, January 28, 2019 - The US Ambassador in Croatia, Robert Kohorst, told the N1 commercial television channel on Monday that the Croatian government was aware of the procedure for obtaining approval for the purchase of US-made F-16 aircraft from Israel because he had given that document to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

Speaking to the press after meeting with Plenković at government headquarters, Kohorst commented on the statement made by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović that there existed a "white paper" which the US had sent to Croatia regarding the Israeli sale of F-16 fighter jets.

"I believe what the President was referring to was a paper that I gave to the Prime Minister, which outlined the process for getting approval for the F-16. It wasn't really a white paper, it wasn't critical about the process, it was more an information piece about how the process worked," Kohorst said.

In an interview with N1 on Sunday, Grabar-Kitarović confirmed that the Americans had been clear from the start about the technical requirements for the transfer of the aircraft, but that no one could have predicted the problems that had arisen between the US and Israel regarding the matter.

The Croatian president denied the existence of an American non-paper warning about possible problems regarding the transfer of the Israeli F-16 Barak aircraft to Croatia and said that there only existed an American white paper containing technical instructions for all bids submitted to the Croatian Ministry of Defence that referred to the originally US-made aircraft.

"I believe we communicated to everyone there was a regular process called third-party transfer, that required US government approval for the transfer, and they were aware of how that process worked," Kohorst said, adding that he didn’t know if everyone knew all the details, but "they certainly knew the general process."

Asked why the process had failed eventually, the ambassador said he did not know. "The US government gave approval for the transfer, it’s just the conditions of that approval weren’t acceptable to all the parties… It was required that the planes be brought back to the original NATO configuration, which is the type of aircraft that Croatia needs in order to be a NATO partner," Kohorst said.

More news on the unsuccessful acquisition of the military jets can be found in the Politics section.

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