Friday, 20 December 2019

Croatian Defence Minister Meets with Afghan Counterpart in Kabul

ZAGREB, December 20, 2019 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević met with his Afghan counterpart Haji Asadullah Khalid in Kabul on Thursday, discussing the security and political situation in Afghanistan, Croatia's contribution to peace efforts and opportunities for the Croatian defence industry, the Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Khalid thanked Croatia for its assistance, notably "brave Croatian soldiers for everything they are doing for us, for advising and mentoring our forces. The Afghan people will never forget the courage of Croatian soldiers."

He extended his condolences to the family of Croatian soldier Josip Briški, who had been killed in a Taliban attack in July, and wished a speedy recovery to two other Croatian soldiers who had been wounded in the same incident.

Krstičević said that Croatia had been present in Afghanistan for 16 years, with more than 6,000 Croatian personnel having served in that country. "Together with the other allies and partners, we are contributing to peace and security in Afghanistan. We are mentoring Afghan security forces and are full of understanding for the people of Afghanistan, respecting their culture and customs. We have helped Afghan security forces to be better."

Khalid said that the security situation in the country was slowly improving and that he expected further negotiations.

"I hope time will soon come for (Afghan forces) to take responsibility for security and peace in Afghanistan," Krstičević added.

Khalid showed an interest in the Croatian defence industry and the possibility of Afghan forces being equipped with Croatian products. Further talks on future cooperation were agreed.

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

Thursday, 19 December 2019

Defence Minister Visits Croatian Contingent in Afghanistan

ZAGREB, December 19, 2019 - Defence Minister Damir Krstičević visited the Croatian contingent in Afghanistan on Wednesday, in the run-up to the Christmas holidays, and on that occasion he met German Brigadier General Juergen Broetz who praised the Croatian contribution to NATO's mission in that Asian country, the defence ministry stated.

"The Croatian troops are doing a great job here and giving contribution in several segments: healthcare, military police and the command," Brig. Gen. Juergen Broetz, the TAAC North Commander of NATO's Resolute Support in Afghanistan, was quoted as saying.

He expressed gratitude to Croatia for its great contribution to this mission.

Krstičević, who visited members of the 11th contingent of the Croatian Army in the Marmal camp, said that Croatian troops were recognised as professional highly-trained soldiers.

The Croatian delegation also laid a wreath for soldiers killed in Afghanistan, including Josip Briški, who died in an attack of Talibans in Kabul, and who was the first Croatian serviceman to die in this mission.

Currently, 110 Croatian soldiers are deployed in Afghanistan, and some of them are in the TAAC North, which stands for Train Advise Assist Command.

It focuses on training, advising and assisting (TAA) Afghan National Defense and Security Forces development in several key areas. The efforts taken by TAAC-North within the Resolute Support mission are part of the broader engagement of the international community in Afghanistan to ensure Afghanistan is never again a safe haven for terrorism. TAAC-North conducts the TAA mission with the 209th Afghan National Army Corps and the 217th (Pamir) Afghan National Army Corps (former 20th Division). Including TAA for the nine provincial police departments and other security forces.

Currently, approximately 2,000 Coalition Forces and 45,000 ANDSF Forces are operating in the area of responsibility (AOR) of TAAC-North.

NATO's Resolute Support includes 17,000 soldiers from 39 members of the Alliance in Afghanistan.

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

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Croatia to Get Two Black Hawk Choppers from the US, Buy Another Two

ZAGREB, December 12, 2019 - At its session on Wednesday the government gave a green light to the Defence Ministry to procure four UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters for the Croatian Armed Forces - two helicopters will be donated and two will be purchased, of a total value of 1.167 billion kuna.

The aircraft will be procured in the period from 2021 to 2026 in partnership with the US government.

The United States will donate two Black Hawk helicopters with spare parts and equipment and Croatia will purchase another two identical helicopters from the United States. The partnership includes pilot and ground crew training as well as logistic support.

The US donation amounts to 360.64 million kuna and the value of the entire project is 1.167 billion kuna.

The remaining 804.23 million kuna will be secured from the state budget in the period between 2021 and 2026.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said the procurement of the helicopters was unanimously supported by the relevant parliamentary committee.

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

Wednesday, 11 December 2019

Training Centre of NATO's Multinational Special Aviation Program Established at Zemunik

ZAGREB, December 11, 2019 - An international training centre of the Multinational Special Aviation Program (MSAP) was inaugurated on Wednesday at the Zemunik barracks near Zadar, and Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said that MSAP centre could become a new NATO centre of excellence.

This confirms that Croatia is a trustworthy member of the alliance, the minister said at the ceremony.

"We are building new capabilities for the Croatian army, for Croatia and for NATO and what is more important, we are building the future together with our partners and allies," Krstičević said.

He said he was proud of the fact that at Zemunik the best pilots would be trained to carry out special aviation forces' operations, which, he added, was proof of the power and respectability of the Croatian Armed Forces.

The 11-million-euro centre will provide training for helicopter crews from Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovenia. The MSAP program is intended for multi-purpose helicopter crews for special air operations and consists of theoretical and multi-week flight training programmes for the implementation of unconventional special air force tasks.

The Croatian Armed Forces chief-of-staff, General Mirko Šundov, said that the establishment of the MSAP created prerequisites for conducting training in complex and diversified conditions, which would enable the achievement of the goals defined for each of the countries-contributors to MSAP.

NATO's Assistant Secretary General for Defence Investment, Camille Grand, said that the development of capabilities of special air forces showed NATO's ability to develop new capabilities.

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

Wednesday, 4 December 2019

Plenković Participates in NATO Summit in London

ZAGREB, December 4, 2019 - The Croatian army guarantees the country's security and the NATO membership and its Article 5 give Croatia the key umbrella of collective security, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in London ahead of a NATO summit.

"For us it's important that the Croatian army is the guarantor of our security, thanks first and foremost to the freedom achieved with the dedication of Croatian defenders, and membership of NATO and its Article 5 give us that key umbrella of collective security which in future, and today as well, will prevent any aggression against Croatia such as the one we had in the early 90s," Plenković told the press.

He downplayed French President Emmanuel Macron's statement that NATO was "brain dead."

"France is known for starting some processes and raising topics, so in the years ahead a group of experts will consider the future of the alliance. NATO is firm, strong, sometimes there are arguments, there are outstanding issues, but the alliance is here."

Croatia arrived at the London summit with a plan to increase its defence budget to 2% of GDP by 2024 and to allocate 20% of the defence budget for equipment and modernisation.

According to the plan, Croatia should set aside 1.74% of GDP for defence in 2020, 1.79% in 2021, about 1.86% in 2022 and 2023, and about 2% in 2024. Also, it should earmark 9.74% of the defence budget for modernisation and equipment in 2020, 12.92% in 2021, 17.98% in 2022, 19.66% in 2023 and 20% in 2024.

Croatia's current defence budget is 1.68% of GDP and only 6.73% goes on equipment and modernisation, the least in NATO, but the purchase of Black Hawk helicopters raises that to almost 10%.

In nominal amounts, the defence budget should be 7.19 billion kuna in 2020 and 9.4 billion kuna in 2024. The allocation for equipment and modernisation would rise from 700 million kuna in 2020 to 1.88 billion kuna in 2024.

The funds would be used to procure a squadron of fighter jets and Black Hawk helicopters, for the development of special operation capabilities, to procure Bradley vehicles, and to upgrade Patria vehicles with additional weapons.

Another goal is to develop a mechanised brigade according to NATO standards.

Plenković said Croatia had those funds and that the government was pursuing a responsible fiscal policy, not borrowing and spending what it could.

The NATO summit will be an opportunity for informal talks with the leaders of the member states, including U.S. President Donald Trump.

"America is an extremely important country for everyone, including Croatia. Important to us are talks on the alliance and the advancement of bilateral relations. If we resolve the issue of double taxation and the waiving of U.S. visas for Croatian citizens, that will automatically create the prerequisites to intensify our relations," said Plenković.

The Croatian delegation comprises Plenković, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman and the military chief of staff, General Mirko Šundov.

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

Monday, 2 December 2019

Croatia Will Set Aside 9.4 Billion Kuna for Defence by 2024

ZAGREB, December 2, 2019 - After Croatia was almost given an ultimatum by the U.S. and NATO in Brussels at the end of October, like some other NATO member states, to come up with a plan in six weeks on how to set aside 2% of GDP for defence, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević has told Večernji List daily of Monday that an action plan has been drawn up.

"Croatia will be in the green," he was quoted as saying.

Krstičević and Prime Minister Andrej Plenković are going to London for a NATO summit on December 3-4 and on that occasion they will undertake the commitment that Croatia will be able to set aside said 2% by 2024, when it is estimated that its annual defence budget will be 9.4 billion kuna.

Now Croatia spends about 6.7 billion kuna on defence, so a 40% increase will be achieved by 2024. NATO believes Croatia must invest more in defence and a lot more in the equipment and modernisation of its army.

Although on paper, thanks to a new NATO methodology, Croatia now sets aside 1.68% of GDP on defence, this amount (6.7 billion kuna) includes veterans' pensions, which means that 5 billion kuna is spent annually on the active army.

When salaries are added to the pensions, it turns out that Croatia spends 73% of its defence budget on personnel. Consequently, much less is spent on equipment and modernisation which, Večernji List says, is disastrous, notably after the failed procurement of fighter jets.

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

Sunday, 1 December 2019

Split Hosting EU-NATO Cooperation Conference Next June

ZAGREB, December 1, 2019 - Croatia and Germany will co-organise a NATO-EU cooperation conference in Split next June, Defence Ministers Damir Krstičević of Croatia and Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer of Germany agreed in Trogir on Sunday.

The conference of European defence ministers and NATO officials will be held on June 8-9, Krstičević told reporters.

"Germany is the most important partner in security and defence in Europe and strengthening our cooperation is my priority," he said.

The conference will be a sort of transition between Croatia's and Germany's EU presidencies, said Kramp-Karrenbauer.

Croatia offers a unique opportunity for us all to meet as well as prove our common views, she added.

Krstičević said today's meeting was yet another proof of the real friendship between Croatia and Germany. "The most concrete example of our defence cooperation is the joint participation in operations and missions, from Afghanistan to Kosovo. I'm glad that as of January next year we will again be together in Lithuania under Germany's leadership."

Kramp-Karrenbauer underlined Croatia's role in the region. We know that Croatia paid a high price for its freedom, which is why it has a special perspective and plays a special role in the stability in this region, she said.

She supported EU enlargement and said it was wrong to veto the beginning of accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania.

She said the joint role of Germany and Croatia in NATO was important. We consider NATO an important pillar of the security structure within which transatlantic partnership and friendship is extremely important, she added.

It is necessary to enhance and develop security and defence cooperation in Europe, which will be an important topic next year when Croatia and Germany chair the EU, Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

I am firmly convinced that it will be an excellent presidency of the Council of the EU, she said of Croatia's presidency in the first half of 2020.

After Croatia, she is visiting Kosovo and Afghanistan. Croatian troops are important mission partners to German troops, with valuable experience, and we can learn a lot from them, she said.

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

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Air Force Commanders Dismissed in Arms Smuggler Scandal

ZAGREB, November 26, 2019 - Several Croatian Air Force commanders have been dismissed over the transport of an arms smuggler by helicopter, and their dismissal was proposed by the Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mirko Šundov and approved by President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović in her capacity as Armed Forces Commander in Chief.

Following the scandal that happened at the Zemunik air base, a military police platoon commander, a flying platoon commander, and a squadron commander and the Zemunik air base commander have been replaced, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said in Osijek on Tuesday.

The President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces, President Grabar-Kitarović, sent into retirement Air Force Commander Brigadier General Mato Mikić and appointed Brigadier General Michael Križanec in his place.

Also, Zadar air base commander Mario Pleša was replaced by Željko Ninić.

The decisions were made after it came to light that Air Force pilots had flown in a helicopter a suspected arms smuggler.

Minister Krstičević said today that the newly appointed commanders were top-notch officers and pilots. He stressed that no arms or ammunition had been transported.

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

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Army Helicopter Pilots Illegally Transport Arms Smuggler

ZAGREB, November 21, 2019 - Defence Minister Damir Krstičević on Thursday said that he was sorry because of a scandal involving an arms smuggler flown aboard a helicopter by the Zadar's Zemunik air force base three instructor pilots who have been in the meantime suspended and announced sanctions for all responsible persons.

"I'm sorry. Something that isn't normal has been done. A probe will disclose who is responsible and the Croatian Army will punish all those in the line of command, including those who failed to act responsibly in this case," Krstičević said.

Krstičević apologised on behalf of the Croatian Army over the scandal which was broken by the Nova TV commercial broadcaster on Wednesday evening.

The TV reported that three airforce instructor pilots had been suspended and were under investigation because they transported a civilian disguised in a pilot's uniform and who is suspected of smuggling arms in an airforce helicopter.

Krstičević said that "every violation has a name and surname," and the Croatian Army has zero tolerance to conduct in contravention to military standards.

He added that he was informed of the incident two weeks ago however, he did not wish to divulge this information to the public to avoid influencing the investigation with his actions.

"The investigation is still ongoing. After becoming aware (of the incident) I ordered the commander to submit a report about the entire case. I have convened a task force to analyse the entire situation by 2 December and to recommend measures that need to be taken to deal with incidents of this nature," he said.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces has been informed of the situation. Her office has said that the president expects that all the relevant facts are promptly determined in that case and that all illegal actions be appropriately penalised.

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

Friday, 15 November 2019

New Military Barracks Inaugurated in Pula

ZAGREB, November 15, 2019 - The "Croatian War Veterans of Istria" military barracks was inaugurated in Pula on Friday, with President and Armed Forces Supreme Commander Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović saying it marked the end of the army's return to the cities with special significance in Croatia's military tradition, notably the Homeland War.

It was a strategic mistake in terms of security, development and politics to remove the army from Vukovar, Sinj, Varaždin, Ploče and Pula, Grabar-Kitarović said, adding that she had pushed for a balanced deployment of the army around the country from the beginning of her term.

The army's return to Pula will not mean only greater security for the city, Istria County and Croatia but also stimulate the economy and other aspects of life, she said, adding that the people trusted the army because it came from the people, living with and serving it.

During the Homeland War, the people of Istria joined the Croatian army in the highest number, which is the best evidence of their patriotism, cultivated for centuries by the Croatian people of Istria, Grabar-Kitarović said.

Returning to Istria, the Croatian army is bringing its most advanced technology, she said.

By establishing the Unmanned Aircraft System Headquarters and basing it in Pula, we continue to modernise our defence capabilities and give highly educated persons the possibility of a military career, she added.

That confirms that the outlays for the modernisation of the army are not just a state budget expenditure but a very profitable investment in Croatia's security, which is why Croatia will continue to work on modernisation projects and gradually increase the defence budget, Grabar-Kitarović said.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said the army's return to Pula and the establishment of the Unmanned Aircraft System Headquarters was of strategic importance for Istria's security and defence, and that it enabled servicemen in the county to find employment.

He said the return of the army to cities was part of a new deployment concept aimed at increasing the security of every part of Croatia.

The Unmanned Aircraft System Headquarters will employ about 100 servicemen and operate the Orbiter 3B unmanned aerial vehicle for the ministries of defence and agriculture as fishing surveillance and as support in sea protection and rescue operations as well as wildfire protection.

More Pula news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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