Thursday, 5 September 2019

11th Croatian Contingent Departs for Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan

ZAGREB, September 5, 2019 - The 11th Croatian contingent numbering 110 members, including seven women, was seen off in Zagreb on Wednesday to the Resolute Support peace mission in Afghanistan in which 39 states are participating, including 27 NATO members, with 17,000 troops.

The ceremony was attended, among others, by Defence Minister Damir Krstičević as Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's envoy, President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's defence and national security advisor Zrinko Peternel, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Mirko Šundov, and partner countries' military envoys.

A minute's silence was observed in memory of lance corporal Josip Briški, a member of the 10th Croatian contingent killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan in July.

Minister Krstičević thanked all Croatian Army members and their families for their support during preparations for the mission and for their understanding for the calling of their dearest ones.

Speaking of the new circumstances and remembering Briški, he said the circumstances of participating in the mission were constantly changing and that the situation in Afghanistan was complex. "We must be aware of the circumstances and the environment we are in and be focused on the job. What is certain is that this government is following the current situation and we are ready to adopt adequate and timely decisions."

The 11th Croatian contingent will be deployed in the Train Advise and Assist Command – North in Mazar-i-Sharif and in the Resolute Support HQ in Kabul. The Croatian troops will also advise the Afghan army, police and special forces.

The contingent includes 38 troops of partner countries - 27 from Montenegro, seven from North Macedonia, two from Albania and two from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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

Monday, 2 September 2019

Croatian Defence Minister and EDA Chief Discuss EU Presidency Priorities

ZAGREB, September 2, 2019 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević met with the Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency (EDA), Jorge Domecq, in Zagreb on Monday, their talks focusing on the priorities of the Croatian presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2020, the Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Domecq arrived for an official visit, following an informal meeting of EU defence ministers and ahead of Croatia's six-month rotating EU presidency, at Krstičević’s invitation.

During the meeting, Krstičević said that the EU presidency was both a great responsibility and a great opportunity for Croatia.

"In the area of defence, the focus of the Croatian presidency will be on the implementation of defence initiatives such as PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) and CARD (the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence) and on military mobility, with emphasis on their coherence and complementarity, as well as on the industrial dimension of defence (the European Defence Fund), on strengthening EU-NATO cooperation and further EU efforts in south-eastern Europe," the defence minister said.

A defence industry conference to be held in Croatia in 2020

Krstičević went on to say that a defence industry conference would be held in Croatia as part of its EU presidency.

He expressed his satisfaction with the EDA chief executive's visit, citing excellent cooperation and support from EDA as part of the implementation of PESCO projects, CARD and the national plan for the implementation of PESCO. He recalled that Croatia was actively participating in six PESCO projects.

"The existing cooperation framework provides a good foundation for us to implement our ambitions, but additional efforts should be made to ensure the coherence and complementarity of initiatives and the cooperation of all relevant stakeholders," the defence minister said.

Krstičević noted that the next multi-annual financial framework would see a major step forward in financial allocations for the development of defence capabilities and research within the European Defence Fund.

Speaking of the Croatian defence industry, he said that it was internationally recognised for its specialised and state-of-the-art products, noting that Croatian troops were fully equipped with Croatian-made equipment and weapons.

He said that it was very important to make sure that small and medium-sized businesses had access to funding, adding that this was the only way to ensure even distribution of funds and development of the defence industry and research community.

Krstičević thanked EDA for supporting Croatian companies in applying for EU tenders, which resulted in the allocation of funding to the Utilis company for the Cyber Conflict Simulator project in 2017.

"This is the first primarily defence project co-financed from the European structural and investment funds (ESIF), which is a milestone in EDA's long-term efforts to open the possibility of EU funding for defence research projects," the minister said.

Speaking of Croatia's participation in EDA programmes, Krstičević said that the procedure had been initiated for Croatia to join the MARSUR programme, which allows interested countries to further develop the network of information exchanges in the fight against drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal migration and international terrorism.

Krstičević thanked Domecq for helping establish cooperation regarding the Croatian presidency of the EU and for support in organising planned activities relating to the defence industry.

Croatia's EU presidency an opportunity to incorporate EU defence initiatives into national defence plans

Domecq said that EDA was deeply committed to providing support to its member states regardless of their size.

The present and forthcoming presidency is an opportunity for further progress in incorporating EU defence initiatives into national defence plans and programmes and for improving cooperation to ensure an effective and interoperable European defence, the EDA chief executive said.

He confirmed EDA's interest in organising a high-level defence industry conference in the first half of 2020.

During his visit, Domecq is due to hold a lecture at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for representatives of the defence industry and research community about the work of EDA and the European Commission and about opportunities which new EU defence initiatives provide to small and medium-sized enterprises and the research community, the Defence Ministry said.

EDA was established in 2004 with a view to supporting the Council of the EU and member states in their efforts to improve the EU's defence capabilities. Croatia became a member of EDA on 1 July 2013 when it joined the EU.

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

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Brazilian Navy Training Ship Docks in Split

ZAGREB, September 1, 2019 - The Brazilian Navy's training ship BRASIL (U27) sailed into Split's Lora naval port on Friday night, where it will stay until September 3 on a visit to the Croatian Navy and the City of Split, the Croatian Defence Ministry said on Saturday.

The visit is part of the military cooperation between the two countries' navies. On Monday, the ship's commander, Captain Alexandre Bessa de Oliveira, and a delegation will visit the Fleet Admiral Sveto Letica-Barba barracks for talks with Croatian Navy officers.

The BRASIL is 130 metres long, 13.52 m wide and 30.72 m in mast height, and sails at 15 knots. The crew comprises 31 officers, 228 non-commissioned officers, sailors and civilians, and 227 cadets.

The ship was built in Rio de Janeiro in 1983 and visited Dubrovnik in 1987 and Split in 1988.

More news about relations between Croatia and Brazil can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

Body of Soldier Killed in Afghanistan to Arrive in Zagreb on Friday

ZAGREB, July 25, 2019 - At the start of Thursday's cabinet meeting in Čakovec, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević once again expressed his condolences to the family of corporal Josip Briški, who was killed in Afghanistan, and informed that his body was expected in Zagreb on Friday morning.

He added that he was in constant contact with commanders at all levels in Afghanistan and that they were monitoring the situation of the two other Croatian soldiers who were injured in a suicide bombing in Kabul on Wednesday.

"They are no longer in a critical condition and are recovering in the US hospitals in Kabul and Bagram. We have ensured that they receive the best possible medical attention. They underwent surgery yesterday and are recovering well, and I think that in 7 to 10 days they will be able to come to Croatia," he said.

Krstičević also said that a delegation headed by General Perica Turalija had gone to Afghanistan on Thursday morning to visit the two injured soldiers and to provide support to the other members of Croatia's contingent.

Asked how the safety of soldiers in missions could be improved, Krstičević said that these were difficult missions, that there cannot be any absolute security and the situation in Afghanistan is very complicated.

"We are doing all we can for our soldiers to be, above all, excellently equipped and trained, to be prepared, and that is my responsibility as minister and the responsibility of the Defence Ministry and the Croatian Army," said Krstičević.

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

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Taliban Militants Claim Responsibility for Attack on Croatian Soldiers

ZAGREB, July 24, 2019 - Taliban militants have claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a Croatian Army vehicle in Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday, injuring two soldiers and killing a third, news agencies said.

Josip Briški (27) succumbed to injuries after a suicide bomber attack on a vehicle that was part of a convoy on its way to the airport.

Taliban militants said that their fighter died as a "martyr" after he killed and injured a "large number of CIA agents," blowing himself up in a vehicle full of explosives, AFP reported.

Reuters underscored that Briški was "the first Croatian fatality in Afghanistan since the former Yugoslav republic and NATO member deployed troops there in 2003."

The latest attack occurred as the United States and Taliban officials prepare to hold an eighth round of peace talks in Qatar this week, in a bid to end the 18-year-old Afghan war, Reuters said.

In Kabul, officials said Taliban fighters blew up a military vehicle carrying foreign forces, killing one and injuring at least three of them.

"(An) explosion hit a foreign forces convoy in Tarakhel area on Kabul-Jalalabad road," Kabul police spokesman Ferdous Faramarz said, as the interior ministry confirmed at least three foreign soldiers were injured," according to Reuters.

Benjamin Burbank, a spokesman for the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in Kabul, said a member of the coalition forces succumbed to wounds after one of its vehicles was hit by an explosive device.

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

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

One Croatian Soldier Killed, Two Wounded in Afghanistan

ZAGREB, July 24, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković on Wednesday condemned an attack by a suicide bomber in Kabul in Afghanistan in which three Croatian troops were injured (one died later), saying the government would work on having them return to Croatia as soon as possible.

"On the government's behalf, I regret the attack on the vehicle with HV (Croatian Army) members who are part of the Resolute Support mission, the NATO operation aimed at training, advising and supporting Afghan security forces," Plenković said at a cabinet meeting.

One solider died from serious head injuries, one suffered a broken leg and the third a broken arm.

"We condemn the attack... Our HV officers are in contact with the families of the Croatian soldiers, who are receiving medical assistance," Plenković said, adding that "such an attack with such consequences" had never occurred during the HV's 16 years in Afghanistan, first as part of the ISAF mission and now as part of Resolute Support.

He recalled that 99 Croatian troops are currently in Afghanistan.

Speaking at a press conference earlier, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said this was an isolated attack and that the rest of the Croatian contingent were safe, adding that he had talked about the incident with the president and the prime minister, and that the most important thing was to care for the injured soldiers.

"I'm sorry this happened... As defence minister, I'm ready to take political responsibility for this event. The Defence Ministry and the government will extend all the assistance possible. We are horrified by this event, we condemn this attack... The Croatian Army will continue to strongly fight for peace and stability in the world. All our soldiers in this operation participate as mentors and advisors," Krstičević said.

Brigadier General Krešimir Tuškan said the injured soldiers were members of the UK-led Special Operation Advisory Group and that their job was to advise the management of the Afghan special police centre.

The three soldiers were driving in three vehicles from camp Hkaia to camp Lion. At 8.45 a.m. local time, 200 metres from camp Lion, a motorcycle driven by a suicide bomber, crashed into one of the Croatian vehicles which exploded and overturned, the Defence Ministry said.

Afghan forces were the first on the scene, followed by protection forces from camp Hkaia.

Afghan media said the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

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

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Government Establishes Commission for Procurement of Combat Aircraft

ZAGREB, July 4, 2019 - The Croatian government on Thursday established an interdepartmental commission for the procurement of multi-purpose combat aircraft in line with the conclusion of the Council for Defence and the Parliament's Committee on Defence that Croatia needs to maintain the ability to protect its airspace with its own combat aircraft.

"This is a strategic project of great value and it must be transparent and legal. I'm therefore glad that both the Council and the Committee have unanimously supported the government's decision to launch the procurement process," Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said.

He noted that the procurement process would take into account the necessary capabilities and financial means available.

The commission will be in charge of preparing and conducting the process of procurement of multi-purpose fighter jets and propose decisions to be made by the government and other institutions.

It will also be in charge of defining possible options for the training of pilots to fly the multi-purpose fighter jets as well as propose the relevant decisions.

The commission is co-chaired by the head of the office of the prime minister, Zvonimir Frka-Petešić, and the director of the Armed Forces Main Staff, Vice Admiral Robert Hranj.

More news about the procurement of the combat aircraft can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Parliamentary Defence Committee (Again) Endorses Procurement of Combat Aircraft

ZAGREB, July 3, 2019 - The parliamentary Defence Committee on Wednesday endorsed the opinion of Defence Minister Damir Krstičević on initiating the process of purchasing multi-purpose fighter jets for the Croatian Air Force.

Addressing the Committee, Krstičević said that Croatia was embarking on the acquisition of 12 multi-purpose combat aircraft. "If we can't get all 12 aircraft at once, we can initially acquire a smaller number of aircraft and then gradually come to the desired number," he said, adding that the procurement process should be launched taking into account the necessary capabilities and financial means available.

Admitting that Croatia has a small number of operational combat aircraft and increasingly limited resources for pilot training, the defence minister said that "the situation in the Croatian Air Force requires smart and careful, yet urgent action" regarding the acquisition of combat aircraft.

"Serbia has found a way to modernise its combat aircraft fleet and I believe Croatia will be able to do the same. ... We must no allow Croatia to be unarmed and without multi-purpose combat aircraft as guarantors of peace," Krstičević said.

He emphasised the importance of forming an interdepartmental commission on the procurement of aircraft which would be responsible for the preparation and conduct of the entire process. He said that the commission should include the chair and deputy chair of the parliamentary Defence Committee" given that this is a very important and financially highly valuable project that must be transparent and in accordance with the law."

"The issue of defence and procurement of multi-purpose combat aircraft is above political parties and requires the support of both the ruling coalition and the opposition. That's why I think it is important that the Croatian Parliament joins this process," Krstičević said.

"The process of acquiring multi-purpose combat aircraft is a very complex project which can be carried out only with the unity and support of all state institutions. Only serious offers will be taken into account, and the purchase must be a long-term strategic decision," he concluded.

More news on the procurement of combat aircraft can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Council for Defence Reaffirms Need to Protect Airspace with Own Aircraft

ZAGREB, June 29, 2019 - The Croatian Council for Defence on Friday reaffirmed the need to preserve the capability for airspace protection with own multi-purpose combat aircraft, the President's Office said in a statement on Friday evening following two and a half hours of talks at government headquarters.

The Council discussed activities in the process of procuring multi-purpose combat aircraft for the Croatian Armed Forces. It proposed that the government set up an interdepartmental commission to implement all activities relating to the procurement of multi-purpose combat aircraft, the statement said.

Speaking to reporters before the Council meeting, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said that it would discuss the restarting of the process of purchasing fighter jets for the Croatian Air Force.

Media have speculated that Krstičević will give the green light to solicit bids from the United States and Sweden. Meanwhile, an offer has emerged from arms dealer Zvonko Zubak who reportedly offered to sell 12 used Mirage 2000 aircraft for 79.5 million dollars.

Krstičević declined to comment on these reports, saying that he would not speculate.

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

Friday, 28 June 2019

Krstičević Meets with US Acting Secretary of Defence

ZAGREB, June 28, 2019 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević met with US Acting Secretary of Defence Mark Esper on the margins of a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels on Thursday, the Defence Ministry said.

The two officials reaffirmed the excellent cooperation between Croatia and the United States and discussed further cooperation in developing the defence capabilities and interoperability of the two countries' armed forces.

"The United States is Croatia's key strategic partner and ally in defence and security," Krstičević said.

Krstičević also met with Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak and Lithuanian Defence Minister Raimundas Karoblis, reaffirming the excellent defence cooperation with the two countries, notably with regard to the participation of Croatian troops in NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence mission.

He also met with his Montenegrin counterpart Predrag Bošković, with whom he discussed bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

On Wednesday and Thursday, NATO's defence ministers discussed defence allocations, collective defence, the use of new technologies and the alliance's mission in Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a report that defence spending for 2019 by the European allies and Canada would be 3.9 percent higher than five years ago. He said that good progress had been made and that this should continue.

NATO insists that the member states allocate 2 percent of their GDP for defence. "Croatia is currently at 1.75 percent and we want to reach 2 percent," Krstičević said.

The ministers also discussed NATO's modernisation, including in deterrence and defence, and the alliance for the first time adopted a space policy.

Krstičević said that the meeting was taking place after NATO celebrated 70 years of its existence and Croatia marked 10 years since joining the world's most powerful military alliance.

He said that Croatia and other allies were investing in the development of new technologies and new capabilities. "This year Croatia is forming new commands - Cyber Command and Unmanned Aircraft Systems Command," he added.

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

Page 7 of 23