Friday, 20 March 2020

Croatian Army Erecting Medical Camp Outside Zagreb Hospital

ZAGREB, March 20, 2020 - Croatian troops on Thursday began erecting a tent for a medical camp outside the Dubrava hospital in Zagreb with a capacity of 270 beds to accommodate infected patients and it is expected to be erected by Saturday.

The Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, Admiral Robert Hranj, inspected the works, the Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Major General Mladen Fuzul explained the purpose of the expedition camp.

The camp will serve for accommodation and currently it will be able to accommodate 200 people. The camp can be self-sufficient but, in agreement with the Health Ministry, we decided that for now it will serve as an accommodation facility, said Fuzul.

A self-sufficient expedition camp can accommodate 300 soldiers during war, but also peacetime operations in extreme conditions. They are also intended for civilian use during humanitarian disasters.

Pursuant to a request by the Health Ministry and a government decision, the Croatian army, as part of the homeland security system, will provide support to the Health Ministry by securing additional accommodation facilities for patients, the Defence Ministry said in the press release.

The government's decision was made in accordance with the need to implement measures to protect citizens during the COVID-19 epidemic and to ensure appropriate health protection to infected patients as part of the intensive care centre at the Dubrava hospital in Zagreb, the press release added.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Monday, 16 March 2020

Croatian Army Activities Reduced to Minimum

ZAGREB, March 16, 2020 - The Defence Ministry said on Monday that the Croatian Army's activities have been reduced to the minimum due to the coronavirus outbreak but that the army's readiness is not in question.

"The safety and health of Croatian Army members is the absolute priority and all army activities have been reduced. However, the army's readiness will be maintained and tasks that cannot be postponed will be carried out," the ministry said in a statement.

All army command units are in contact with local civil protection authorities and health officials and are following the situation closely.

The army members' participation in international activities and conferences, exercises and courses has been cancelled as have all military exercises.

Classes at the Franjo Tuđman Military Academy will be conducted online.

All programmes of army assistance to local communities and civil society institutions will be suspended, except for those that are related to mitigating the impact of the coronavirus epidemic.

The health status of Croatian soldiers in Croatia and in missions and operations abroad is good and it is being monitored 24 hours a day, the ministry said.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Admiral Hranj Assumes Duties of Chief of Armed Forces General Staff

ZAGREB, March 3, 2020 - Vice Admiral Robert Hranj on Tuesday assumed the duties of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces from General Mirko Šundov, saying he would do the utmost to discharge them as best he could.

Until now, Hranj was the General Staff director. Speaking at the ceremony at the Defence Ministry, he said the Croatian army was one of the pillars of the Croatian state and that he would insist on the safety of all military personnel as well as on work and discipline.

Hranj said he would work on the development of the army as well-trained, equipped, operational and ready to respond to all tasks and threats.

Addressing the ceremony, President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Zoran Milanović remembered everyone who took part in the defence and liberation of Croatia, notably those killed, gone missing or wounded.

Without them, there would be no present-day Croatia, which is a good country but can be better, he said.

After 18 years, "the US adventure in Afghanistan" is ending, with the US withdrawing from there, and Croatian troops together with it, Milanović said.

Croatia is not defended only on its borders, and the constitution clearly defines the tasks of the Armed Forces, he added.

He said Croatia would continue to be present in hotspots, but always taking into account its own interest. "This is not selfishness but common sense."

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said the common goal was to strengthen the Croatian army, underlining the importance of legal conduct and care for the safety of every individual.

He thanked Šundov for his performance as Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, for excellent cooperation since the Homeland War and for dedicating his life to the Croatian army and state.

Krstičević said he proposed that Hranj be in charge of the purchase of fighter jets.

We have big expectations of him also in other segments of the modernisation and equipping of the army, he added and announced that he would propose that Milanović promote Hranj to the rank of admiral.

More news about Croatian military can be found in the Politics section.

Tuesday, 3 March 2020

Croatian Military Ready to Help Police in Guarding the Borders

ZAGREB, March 3, 2020 - The Croatian Army (HV) is ready to help the police in guarding the Croatian borders against a new wave of migrants, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Tuesday.

"The HV is ready to help our police if necessary. Our task is to ensure that the border is secure and to protect our national interests. I have ordered the Chief of the General Staff to make all the necessary plans. We are ready," Krstičević told reporters at a ceremony at which Vice Admiral Robert Hranj assumed the duties of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces.

Commenting on the statement by President Zoran Milanovic that procedures for the treatment of migrants at the border were not precise, the defence minister said that that would be rectified.

"In our actions we will always take care of the security of Croatian soldiers and everyone else, including migrants. We know how to behave according to rules," Krstičević said.

Vice Admiral Hranj said that the military had had operational plans in place for quite some time now in the event that it should help the police in protecting the Croatian borders.

"Under the present law, the HV can help the police on request from the Ministry of the Interior and after we receive an order to provide support," Hranj said, adding that the support can include providing logistics, food, transport and medical assistance. He said that about 2,500 soldiers could be engaged for that purpose.

Hranj noted, however, that it should be specified whether the military would be given police powers. "The military has no authority to deal with civilians in peacetime. That is the exclusive responsibility and authority of the police," he said.

Krstičević said that cooperation with President Milanovic was good. He said that he agreed with Milanovic's view, expressed during his election campaign, that Croatia should withdraw its troops from the peacekeeping missing in Afghanistan.

"I'm also in favour of pulling out of Afghanistan, of course, in dialogue with our partners and allies," Krstičević said. He and Hranj had visited the country in December.

"We are following the situation, which is changing all the time. We also concluded then that we should withdraw the Croatian troops," Krstičević said, without specifying when that might happen.

"We should put all options on the table, analyse them and take a decision at the level of the state. I wouldn't want to speculate now," the defence minister said.

A new Croatian contingent leaves for Afghanistan on Friday, following a decision by Parliament and an order by the President of the Republic in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.

More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Government Plans to Employ 915 Staff for Armed Forces

ZAGREB, February 27, 2020 - This year the Croatian Army will employ 915 new staff members of the armed forces from the labour market through a public vacancy advertisement while 711 current employees will have their statuses changed, according to a plan adopted at a government meeting on Thursday.

The government adopted a plan for hiring staff for the armed forces and a plan to change the categories of the military personnel already employed, which is the continuation of recruiting soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers with the aim of rejuvenating personnel and maintaining the number of soldiers in the army.

The Defence Ministry's financial plan for the year envisages funds for the implementation of the employment plan and the gross expenditure for the new personnel is estimated at HRK 51.36 million.

The government also adopted a decision to launch negotiations on amendments to Annex I of the collective agreement in science and higher education, which expires on March 27, and appointed its negotiation team.

The annex regulates wage supplements (amounting to 10, 12 and 15% of the base wage to calculate wages in public services), supplements for work in special conditions (exposure to high risk of danger, hazards and stress related to work injuries, professional illnesses as well as disruptions in working processes that can cause detrimental consequences for safety and health).

Minister of Science and Education Blaženka Divjak underscored that so far everything has been functioning in accordance with the annex and she expects the negotiations to be quickly resolved and an agreement to be reached on the continuation of its implementation.

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

Tuesday, 25 February 2020

President Milanović Greets Honorary Protection Battalion on 26th Anniversary

ZAGREB, February 25, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović on Tuesday attended a ceremony marking the 26th anniversary of the formation of the Honorary Protection Battalion and Military Chaplaincy Day, where he promoted members of the battalion and awarded them with red berets.

The Honorary Protection Battalion is part of the General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces and is responsible for honorary-ceremonial tasks for the purposes of the state and military leadership as well as for the protection and security of the President of the Republic as Commander in Chief.

President Milanović greeted the 300-strong battalion at a special ceremony in the Tuškanac barracks in Zagreb and said that the troops were selected according to very clear and measurable criteria, which makes them a cut above the rest.

"The others are good, but based on all the criteria, which are clear, transparent and known to everyone, you are better and remain elite," he said.

"In your case, elitism is not gained by birth or origin but through work and learning and that is what I was referring to in my inauguration speech, that I will advocate, stimulate and promote professionalism and patriotism," he added.

Milanović said he was pleased that the battalion is equipped with helmets and rifles made in Croatia. "I would like us to produce airplanes...we will be producing ships, I will advocate that, so that we are as visible as possible. Here, we will conduct our own policies and those of NATO and our allies, but our policies too," he said.

He thanked all Homeland War veterans who had defended Croatia in 1991. "I don't know any case in recent history in which so many people owed so much to such a small number of people, Croatia's defenders in 1991...who came from a relatively poor, disarmed and plundered country. We are referring to a few thousand people who held Croatia during those times. Everlasting glory and gratitude to them, particularly those who were killed, who were wounded, their families, everlasting thanks," Milanović said.

More news about Zoran Milanović can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Milanović and Plenković Agree Appointment of Hranj for New Military Chief of Staff

ZAGREB, February 19, 2020 - President Zoran Milanović said on Wednesday that he would agree with the government's proposal that Rear Admiral Robert Hranj be appointed new military chief of staff.

In his address to reporters Milanovic, who was inaugurated on Tuesday, said that he had already discussed this topic with Prime Minister Andrej Plenković.

In comments by reporters that it seemed to them that Plenković had appeared displeased at his inauguration, the new president said that their conversation yesterday was normal.

Milanovic admitted there were normal sparks, and there may be some in the future or maybe there won't be."

"I can already hear interpretations of who stood up, who shook hands (at the inauguration). There is no clear protocol," Milanovic said alluding to some media reports on the inauguration ceremony.

As for some criticism against his future adviser for education, Jadranka Pečenković Žarković, a psychologist and a former head of the Education and Teacher Training Agency, Milanović dismissed claims that she used to send teachers and children to lectures organised by "In the Name of Family" association and the association of retired generals.

"That is not true. Somebody obviously has a grudge (against her). She was at the helm of the agency for four years. She will be my adviser," Milanovic said, explaining that Pečenković Žarković is an experienced expert who does not belong to any "clan."

The Education and Teacher Training Agency is a public institution responsible for the provision of professional and advisory support in the area of general education in Croatia.

On his first day in office, Milanović visited Zagreb's Mirogoj cemetery to lay wreaths at the Wall of Pain, the National Heroes vault and the grave of unidentified Homeland War victims. Milanovic also laid flowers and lit candles at the graves of the first Croatian President Franjo Tuđman and the Social Democratic leader and a former prime minister, Ivica Račan.

More news about Zoran Milanović can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 17 February 2020

Defence Ministry Signs Procurement Agreements with 38 Croatian Companies

ZAGREB, February 17, 2020 - The Ministry of Defence on Monday signed procurement agreements with 38 Croatian companies for military equipment and services valued at about €61 million or about €19 million more than in 2019.

The agreements were signed by Minister Damir Krstičević who underscored that Croatian soldiers are entirely equipped with Croatian products and weapons and their participation in international missions and operations serve as an excellent reference in tenders that Croatia applies for on the global markets.

"These agreements represent a significant contribution to Croatia's economy and show that MORH is not just a consumer but also a generator of development and a promoter of Croatian products," Krstičević said underscoring that this provides local producers security and can assist them in planning annual production capacities.

Krstičević claimed that the ministry does not buy products produced by Croatia's military industry simply "because they are ours" but because of their quality and competitiveness.

"We pride ourselves and commend our coast guard boats produced in Brodosplit. After initial difficulties in building the first prototype, which have now been overcome, this year we are launching the construction of the first in a series of patrol ships," said Krstičević.

The Đuro Đaković company is completing a general overhaul of M-84 tanks. We see potential in that company in the further upgrade of tanks and also in a project to equip the Croatian Army with impressive Bradley armoured vehicles, he said and added that the company has the ministry's support particularly when it comes to innovations and investing in new technology.

He announced that a second coast guard patrol ship will be handed over on the Croatian Navy Day - 18 September next year and another two ships in 2022 while the fifth and last will be in the navy by 2023.

"The Croatian Army and defence industry are closely connected and mutually dependent. There cannot be a strong Croatian Army without a strong local industry and that always has to be our common goal," Minister Krstičević said at the signing ceremony.

More news about Croatian military can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Plenković Comments on Possible Withdrawal from Afghanistan

ZAGREB, February 15, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday that a decision to withdraw Croatian troops from Afghanistan can only be a result of agreement, within Croatia and on the international level.

"That operation is continuing. We've exchanged quite a large number of contingents there and shown responsibility. We are a member of NATO and the (European) Union. We participate in key security activities on a global level and there must be agreement on any such decision, not just within Croatia," said Plenković, adding that other partners' positions would be taken into account.

The Jutarnji List daily said on Friday that Croatia could begin withdrawing its troops from the mission in Afghanistan. Quoting a source at the Defence Ministry, the paper said that there was talk of the future of that operation at a meeting of NATO defence ministers held on Wednesday and Thursday, which was also attended by Croatia's Defence Minister Damir Krstičević.

Discussed was the future of the operation in the context of US-sponsored peace negotiations which Afghan authorities are conducting with the Taliban in an effort to end the conflict.

According to Jutarnji List, the meeting "concluded that members of the mission, including Croatia, are inevitably heading toward reducing the number of their troops."

"I spoke today with Deputy Prime Minister Krstičević who attended the NATO ministerial meeting and I asked him if that topic was discussed. There was no talk of that at all, so all in due time," said Plenković when asked if Croatia was withdrawing from the mission.

More news about Croatia and NATO can be found in the Politics section.

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