Friday, 8 May 2020

Plenković Accepts Krstičević's Resignation

ZAGREB, May 8, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković accepted Defence Minister Damir Krstičević's resignation on Friday, after a military plane crashed on Thursday killing two Croatian army pilots, saying that he did not make that decision because he believed Krstičević was responsible but rather because he respected him.

"Personally, I don't see any reason how I could in any way connect his political responsibility with the fact that that plane crashed, however, I understood from our talks that this situation has affected him personally," Plenković said after a four-hour meeting with Krstičević in Government House.

Plenković explained that he accepted minister's resignation because he respects him as a man and friend and not because he believes that Krstičević is responsible for anything.

"Accidents like this unfortunately occur. I am sorry that it affected him so much that he asked to be allowed to take a break from his duty in the government. I will not propose a new defence minister and one of the ministry's state secretaries will be acting as defence minister for the time being," said Plenković.

He added that Krstičević had informed him of the circumstances of the crash of a military trainer aircraft near Zadar in which two Air Force members were killed.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Plenković, Krstičević to Meet Today

ZAGREB, May 8, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević talked by phone on Thursday night and will meet on Friday, the government told Hina after Krstičević resigned over the death of two Air Force pilots.

Government spokesman Marko Milić told Hina the government "extends the deepest condolences to the families" of the two pilots killed in the crash of a military trainer aircraft near Zadar on Thursday afternoon.

The office of President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander Zoran Milanovic would not comment on Krstičević’s resignation on Thursday evening but it is expected that he will do so on Friday.

Croatian Peasant Party (HSS) president Krešo Beljak said on Thursday that by resigning, Krstičević did "the right thing for the first time in his term." He and the HSS extended their condolences to the pilots' families.

The chair of the parliamentary defence committee, Igor Dragovan of the Social Democratic Party, said on Thursday the resignation was a highly moral and responsible act by the man responsible for the functioning of the defence system.

Speaking to Hina, he said Krstičević was not responsible for the crash but that his resignation was honourable.

Živi Zid leader Ivan Sinčić said on Thursday Krstičević had shown a number of times during his term that it was more important to him to favour NATO, his former company KING ICT and the clients of his ruling HDZ party than soldiers' safety.

In a Facebook post, he extended his condolences to the pilots' families.

More politics news can be found in the dedicated section.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Croatian Army Provides 2 Helicopters for Transport of Coronavirus Patients

ZAGREB, April 9, 2020 - The Croatian Army will give support to the Health Ministry's crisis management team by providing Croatian Air Force's helicopters, which will be adapted to transport patients infected with the coronavirus, the Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

The crisis management team has had an adapted Mi-171 helicopter at its disposal since Wednesday, and it has been planned that another Mi-171Sh helicopter will be adapted for the purpose of transport of COVID-19 patients.

Since the Croatian Armed Forces do not possess specialised equipment or helicopters suited for transporting patients infected with or suspected to have COVID-19, the Aeronautical Technical Centre in Velika Gorica has devised a solution for adapting the helicopter's transport cabin.

New operational procedures have been developed for crews and medical teams engaged in transporting patients infected with COVID-19, including complete decontamination of helicopters, crews and medical teams, the Defence Ministry said in its press release.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

Vouchers for Unused Trips Approved, Croatian Travel Agencies Pleased

April 8, 2020 - The Croatian Travel Agencies Association is grateful that their proposal to offer travel vouchers has been approved. 

HRTurizam reports that on Tuesday in Parliament, along with a package of other measures aimed at mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, changes were also made to the Law on Emergency Tourism Services, which allowed travel agencies to issue vouchers instead of refunding passengers for package arrangements.

"We are grateful to the Ministry of Tourism, the Croatian Government, and the Parliament for accepting our proposals to allow issuing vouchers for unfulfilled travel agreements that should have occurred in these extraordinary circumstances, i.e., after March 1, 2020. The passenger is fully protected as they receive a voucher they can use for another trip or a deferred travel period once the situation calms," said UHPA President Tomislav Fain.

Fain also added that the voucher would be covered by the already arranged bail to protect travel agencies from going bankrupt. 

"The traveler is also entitled to a refund if he or she does not wish to use the previously paid and booked travel, upon expiry of 180 days from the termination date of the special circumstances, and for a full refund within 14 days."

"As members of the European Association of National Travel Agencies and Travel Organizers (ECTAA), we have engaged in negotiations with the European Commission, which has instructed consumers to accept travel delays and vouchers. In communication with ECTAA colleagues from many countries such as France, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Italy, Poland who, in cooperation with their Governments, have also introduced a voucher in some form, we have come to a satisfactory solution and we are very pleased. We are glad that both our Ministry of Tourism and the Government has accepted the proposal and have a strong understanding of the sector, which is in an unprecedentedly difficult situation," said the President of the Association of Travel Agencies, HGK Boris Žgomba, also a member of the Board of Directors of ECTAA.

The agencies, apart from the new bookings and inflow of any funds stalled since February, could not even reach the funds for the already booked trips as the money had already been passed on to others in the package like airlines and hotels.

Most of the same refunds were provided to agencies in the form of deposits, vouchers, time delays and often nothing. In previously applicable provisions of the Act that transposed the EU Directive, travel agencies were in a difficult situation and forced to bear the brunt of the crisis on their own, even before the further escalation in the rest of the economy.

Already in the HGK and UHPA polls in February, 92 percent felt strong and medium adverse effects on long-term business, as school trips, congresses, and business trips stopped, along with restrictions on international travel and guest arrivals from Asia and other focal countries. This impact has only increased over the past month, with the closure of all borders and activities.

Of the 2061 registered travel agency companies and tour operators, 99.3% of them are small or micro-companies, and these losses represent an enormous blow to business, and as often are family businesses, this is directly the income of their entire families.

The Association of Croatian Travel Agencies (UHPA) and the Association of Travel Agencies (UPA HGK) represent the leading professional associations in tourism that represent the interests of over 2000 registered companies for the activity of travel agencies and tour operators and employ nearly 6,500 people.

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Army Significant Factor in Fight Against Coronavirus

ZAGREB, April 7, 2020 - Croatia reacted on time to the coronavirus pandemic and the Croatian army has been contributing significantly to the fight against that disease, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said at a video conference of EU defence ministers, calling for the continuation of cooperation during the current crisis.

The video conference of EU defence ministers was chaired by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josip Borrell and it was dedicated to the defence sector's contribution in dealing with the pandemic, Croatia's defence ministry said in a press release.

The ministers exchanged their experience at the national level regarding the army's support to civil institutions, underscoring that further cooperation and solidarity between EU member states was necessary.

All our resources are directed at the fight against the pandemic, Krstičević underscored.

"We began implementing measures for the health, security, education and economic sectors at a very early stage of the emergence of COVID-19," Krstičević said, adding that Croatian troops had erected a completely autonomous camp which can cater for 220 patients in record time.

Referring to the recent disastrous earthquake that struck Zagreb, Krstičević said that the army helped there too.

He underscored the need for further cooperation and solidarity between EU member states as well as for timely and coordinated measures to prevent the further escalation of the pandemic.

As a good example of cooperation Krstičević pointed at strategic transport, organised by the government to fly Croatian and German medical teams to NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Lithuania and the joint repatriation of Croatian, Albanian, Montenegrin and North Macedonian troops from Afghanistan.

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

Monday, 6 April 2020

Defence Minister Stresses Importance of Information Sharing Amid Coronavirus Crisis

ZAGREB, April 6, 2020 - Defence Minister Damir Krstičević on Monday stressed the importance of information sharing in safeguarding public health in Croatia and the European Union. "We will share national experiences in providing support to civilian institutions, with emphasis on further strengthening cooperation and solidarity among the EU member states," Krstičević told the press in Zagreb ahead of a video conference of EU defence ministers, the first such conference on efforts aimed at containing the coronavirus pandemic.

The emergency meeting will be chaired by EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell.

Krstičević said that the meeting was important because of sharing experience and information. "As we can see, we need to adapt and do our best to safeguard the health of our citizens in Croatia and in the EU," he added.

He underscored Croatia's prompt response to the coronavirus outbreak, including measures aimed at "healthcare, safety, education and the economy."

Krstičević said that the Croatian military had played an important role in assisting the healthcare system, citing the erection of tents for patients outside the Dubrava hospital in Zagreb.

He said that he would inform his EU counterparts of the strong earthquake that had struck Zagreb on March 22, which made the fight against the coronavirus more difficult.

"We had two crisis situations at the same time, and the Croatian army, as part of the homeland security system, responded to the earthquake in a timely fashion as well," Krstičević said.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Plenković Confirms Postponement of Procurement of Fighter Jets

ZAGREB, April 2, 2020 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said at the government's meeting on Thursday that in the circumstances of the struggle to curb the coronavirus epidemic, his cabinet decided to put off the procurement of fighter jets for the time being.

"At this moment this is the only logical and correct decision," Plenković said.

Croatia will notify in writing all the countries that are participating in the tender process, of its decision to postpone the process of purchase of fighter jets.

The government today also decided on the postponement of the CROIMAS international military air show that was due to have been held at the Zemunik air base near Zadar on 30 May.

Earlier on Thursday, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević informed reporters that the Ministry of Defence would put off the procurement of multi-role combat aircraft to demonstrate solidarity and to save money in a time of crisis due to the coronavirus.

Krstičević told reporters ahead of a government session that talks about the procurement of combat jets would continue once the pandemic is over and the economic situation improves.

Krstičević added that there was a lot of room for making savings in the defence department, that analyses were underway, and that the Croatian Army would take into account solidarity, the situation and the military readiness levels.

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

Sunday, 29 March 2020

Medical Team Flown from Zagreb to Lithuania to Help Croat Troops

ZAGREB, March 29, 2020 - A medical team was transported on Sunday morning on a government plane from Zagreb to Lithuania to help the Croatian contingent, deployed as a part of NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group, after four Croatian servicemen in that Baltic country tested positive for COVID-19.

The Croatian government has also sent necessary medical equipment, drugs and protective gear, according to a press release issued by the defence ministry.

Seeing off the team, the Croatian Armed Forces chief-of-staff, Admiral Robert Hranj, said that the infected Croatian soldiers were well and were provided with good care. The four infected soldiers are exhibiting mild symptoms, while 39 more soldiers are in self-isolation. The second Croatian contingent in Lithuania consists of 187 members, including a physician.

Admiral Hranj said that the situation in Lithuania considering the outbreak of COVID-19 was similar to the developments in neighbouring countries.

The plane is expected to stop in Berlin to take on seven German military doctors whose task is also to provide medical assistance to NATO troops in Lithuania.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Friday, 27 March 2020

16 Helicopters Available for Fight Against Coronavirus, Says Minister?

ZAGREB, March 27, 2020 - Croatia has 16 helicopters that can help in the fight against the coronavirus if necessary, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said after visiting a medical camp set up outside Zagreb's KB Dubrava hospital on Friday.

A few days ago, helicopters were tested for landing, the minister said, noting that everything was ready to employ the helicopters if necessary.

As regards members of the 11th Croatian contingent whose repatriation from Afghanistan was delayed due to the situation with the coronavirus, Krstičević said that they would arrive in Croatia late in the evening aboard a Croatia Airlines plane which left Zagreb early Friday morning.

Members of the 12th contingent, who left for Afghanistan in early March, will perform their duties regularly until the end of the mission, after which they will return to Croatia, the minister said.

More news about the coronavirus can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

11th Croatian Contingent to Return from Afghanistan

ZAGREB, March 26, 2020 - Croatia will repatriate its troops who have completed their tour of duty in Afghanistan as part of NATO's Resolute Support peace mission and whose return was temporarily delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The government decided on Thursday that the Croatian personnel would be flown back by a Croatia Airlines plane.

The repatriation of the 11th Croatian contingent from Afghanistan was scheduled for 27 March. A total of 140 troops are returning from Afghanistan, including 105 Croatians and 35 soldiers from allied partner countries (Montenegro - 26, North Macedonia - 7, and Albania - 2).

This contingent has already transferred its duty to the 12th contingent which comprises 108 soldiers.

Explaining the decision, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said that the repatriation of the 11th contingent was temporarily delayed because of the global coronavirus pandemic.

"However, we have ascertained that their further stay in Afghanistan after their tour of duty has ended, represents a health and safety risk and that the return of all members of the 11th contingent is necessary. The safety of every Croatian soldier is an absolute priority," said Krstičević.

"It is our responsibility to return every Croatian soldier to their family. They have completed their duty and now this final step is up to us," he added.

More news about the mission in Afghanistan can be found in the Politics section.

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