Friday, 12 April 2019

Defence Minister Meets with Philippine and Georgian Counterparts

ZAGREB, April 12, 2019 - Defence Minister Damir Krstičević on Thursday met with his counterparts, Delfin Lorenzana of the Philippines and Levan Izoria of Georgia, during the Adriatic Sea Defense & Aerospace Exhibition and Conference (ASDA) in Split.

Krstičević and the Philippine minister confirmed good and friendly relations between the two countries and they discussed the prospects of further intensifying bilateral defence cooperation and current global and regional security challenges, the ministry said in a press release.

Krstičević informed Lorenzana of the Croatian ministry's current activities through which Croatia contributes to NATO, the UN and the EU in maintaining global security.

They signed a memorandum of understanding on defence between the Philippines and Croatia, the press release said.

The talks with Georgian Minister Izoria pointed out good bilateral and friendly relations between these two countries and the two ministers expressed their wish for cooperation to continue. The ministers discussed the security situation and challenges in Southeast Europe and the South Caucasus as well as the continuation of cooperation in building Georgia's defence capability and preparations for full NATO membership.

Minister Krstičević welcomed Georgia's reforms that have been implemented in accordance with Euro-Atlantic aspirations and underscored that Croatia is open to cooperation with regard to transferring Croatia's experiences to Georgia on its pathway to NATO and the EU.

Minister Izoria thanked Croatia for its contribution in developing Georgia's defence capabilities with Georgian soldiers participating in NATO courses in English as well as officers' training in the field of intelligence. The ministers had the opportunity to meet to Georgian officers attending training courses in Croatia.

The two ministers signed a joint statement symbolising their dedication to strengthening the good bilateral relations.

The Philippine and Georgian delegations attending ASDA conducted meetings with several Croatian defence industry companies, the ministry said in its press release.

More defence sector news can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Mine Clearance Equipment Donated by US Shown at Lora

ZAGREB, April 11, 2019 - Croatian Navy mine clearance divers demonstrated at the Lora naval base in Split on Thursday the use of their equipment, donated by the US Navy. Croatian Navy commander Commodore Ivo Raffanelli told the press the equipment was worth more than 200,000 dollars and that the US Navy would make six more equipment donations by year's end.

He said the equipment was extremely important for the evaluation of Croatian mine clearance divers and expressed hope that after the evaluation, "we will be ready to offer them to NATO troops next year." He recalled that the Croatian and US navies have been cooperating more than 20 years.

US Ambassador Robert Kohorst said he was pleased to be at Lora and that one could see there that the cooperation between the two navies, with emphasis on humanitarian matters, was good. It's good that we can continue to support our good partner Croatia in this way too, he added.

Asked if Croatia might purchase US F-16 combat aircraft, Kohorst said he believed Croatia would decide which aircraft it wanted soon.

We hope it will be the F-16. It's an incredible plane and we hope Croatia will choose the F-16. Both new and used aircraft have very good possibilities, capabilities, so that, whatever Croatia decides, we will be pleased, he said.

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

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Adriatic Sea Defence & Aerospace Conference Starts in Split

ZAGREB, April 10, 2019 - The Adriatic Sea Defence & Aerospace Conference, or ASDA 2019, opened in the Spaladium Arena in the southern coastal city of Split on Wednesday, featuring 185 exhibitors from 26 countries which will present their defence industry products over the next three days.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said that the fifth edition of the exhibition was the largest yet in terms of the number of exhibitors, participating countries and delegations.

"ASDA has established itself as a first-rate business event - a meeting place with new products and technologies," Krstičević said in his opening remarks, adding that the exhibition was an opportunity to develop and promote cooperation with partner countries and companies.

He said that Croatia has been a NATO member for ten years and that the membership has considerably increased the security of citizens.

"However, the world is changing fast, new centres of military and political power are developing which, while aggressively promoting their own interests, could affect us and our way of life. That's why we must not let down our guard but must engage our full potential, unleash innovations and develop new solutions to stay ahead of those who are developing potential to threaten us," Krstičević said.

He said that ASDA was an excellent opportunity for the further international promotion of Croatian arms and military equipment manufacturers.

The exhibition is taking place under the patronage of the government, and has been organised by the US company TNT Productions Inc., which specialises in organising such shows. Its CEO Justin Webb said in his address that this year's ASDA was the biggest yet, attracting delegations from 34 countries of Southeastern Europe, Western Europe, Eurasia, North Africa, the Middle East and the United States. He thanked the Croatian government and local authorities for helping organise the event.

After the opening ceremony, Krstičević, Webb and US Ambassador Robert Kohorst signed a protocol under which ASDA would continue to be held in Split in the future.

More defence news can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Croatian Pilots Fly with US F-16 Fighter Jets

ZAGREB, April 7, 2019 - As part of the visit by members of 148th Fighter Wing - Minnesota National Guard to the 91st Air Base of the Croatian Air Force, squadron pilots had joint flying with pilots of multi-purpose F-16 fighter jets of the Minnesota National Guard on Saturday, the Croatian Defence Ministry said in a press release.

Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević, Croatian Armed Forces Chief of Staff Mirko Šundov, US Ambassador to Croatia Robert Kohorst and US military envoy to Croatia Robert Mathers visited the pilots before the flight, the press release said.

Minister Krstičević said this was a historic event and another confirmation of friendship and strategic partnership between Croatia and the United States.

Ambassador Kohorst expressed satisfaction with the visit of the Minnesota National Guard, the press release said.

More news about the military relations between Croatia and the United States can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

NATO Providing Croatia with Long-Term Security, Officials Claim

ZAGREB, March 30, 2019 - Croatia on Friday marked the 10th anniversary since joining NATO, with senior officials saying that the alliance's defence umbrella ensured long-term stability for the country.

Croatia became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation on 1 April 2009 together with Albania, becoming one of the greatest advocates of NATO's eastward expansion.

Since NATO's establishment in 1949, the number of its members has increased from 12 to 29, with Montenegro joining in the seventh enlargement round in 2017 as the newest member.

Since 2003, over 6,700 Croatian soldiers have participated in NATO-led operations, missions and activities.

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović says that NATO is the most successful security alliance, one that shares the same values. "However, our primary task is to develop our own defence forces which must be the backbone and guarantor of our security," she told the press before a special reception in the Westin Hotel in Zagreb.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said that Croatia had proved to be a reliable ally and would continue its present policy. "It's good for our security and our contribution to security both regionally and globally," he said.

Parliament Speaker Gordan Jandroković said that joining NATO was an important episode in the development of the Croatian state. "It put us in the company of the world's most developed nations and helped us secure long-term stability," he said.

Defence Minister Damir Krstičević highlighted the role of Croatian soldiers in international missions. "The Croatian soldier is well respected. We are ambassadors and guarantors of peace and security of Croatia," he said.

The 10th anniversary of NATO membership is being marked at a time when relations between the alliance and Russia have reached their lowest point since the end of the Cold War and the US is exerting pressure on its European allies to increase their defence budgets.

The minimum level of defence spending of two percent of GDP, which the allies set themselves in 2014, has not been observed by most member states, including Croatia. After allocating 1.3 percent of GDP for defence for years, last year Croatia increased its defence budget to 1.7 percent of GDP, according to NATO's data from March this year.

Croatia established institutional relations with NATO in 2000 through the Partnership for Peace programme and began membership preparations in 2002 through a Membership Action Plan.

The political decision to invite Croatia, together with Albania, to join the alliance was made at the NATO summit in Bucharest in April 2008, when the then US President George Bush personally came to Zagreb to announce the invitation. A formal invitation was sent on 30 March 2009 by the then NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer after the accession protocol was ratified by the parliaments of member states and by the Croatian parliament on 25 March 2009.

The protocol was deposited with the US State Department on 1 April 2009 by the then Croatian Ambassador to the United States, the current President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, whereby Croatia became a full member of the alliance.

The first NATO summit that Croatia attended as a member took place in Strasbourg and Kiel on 3 and 4 April 2009.

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

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Croatia and Albania to Cooperate in Defence Issues

ZAGREB, March 12 (Hina) – Defence ministers of Croatia and Albania, Damir Krstičević and Olta Xhacka, in Zagreb on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding which is expected to provide fresh impetus to defence cooperation between the two countries.

The two ministers discussed current security challenges in Southeastern Europe and reaffirmed the traditionally good bilateral relations based on their long-standing friendship and partnership.

With reference to cooperation between the two navies, Krstičević spoke of the Naval Studies programme in Split, developed in cooperation between the Tuđman Military Academy and the University of Split. He said that it would be possible for an Albanian cadet to enrol in the programme in the school year 2021/22.

Krstičević recalled that this year Croatia and Albania were marking ten years of their membership in NATO, adding that their membership had contributed to stability and security in the two countries and the entire region.

Krstičević thanked Albania for confirming its participation in the international military exercise "Immediate Response 19", which Croatia is organising to mark the 10th anniversary of NATO membership.

The talks also focused on security in Southeastern Europe and current challenges faced by Croatia and Albania. Krstičević said that cooperation and the exchange of information in that regard were crucial.

Xhacka said that relations between the two countries were excellent and that their membership of NATO was a guarantee of security for both countries. She thanked Croatia for the support it was extending to Albania on its path to European Union membership and called for intensifying cooperation between the two countries' defence industries. She also thanked Croatia for its support to Kosovo.

Xhacka said that political stability, security and economic prosperity in Southeastern Europe were very important and that Croatia and Albania would continue making their contributions in that regard.

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

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Croatia and the United States Key Partners in Defence

ZAGREB, March 7, 2019 - Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said in Zadar on Thursday that the government was determined to maintain the combat readiness of the air force and that Croatia was in contact with all interested parties concerning its plan to purchase fighter jets. In this context, Krstičević said that Croatia and the United States are key partners in defence and security. We have good relations. We talk with all interested parties and after we analyse the whole situation, we will make the next step.

Krstičević said this when asked by the press to comment on U.S. Ambassador Robert Kohorst's statement about the United States being supportive of whatever Croatia decides regarding F-16 combat aircraft.

Asked if the United States was willing to negotiate directly with Croatia about the purchase of F-16 fighter jets, Kohorst said that the US would fully support Croatia's decision on the matter.

"We are fully supportive of whatever Croatia decides with F-16s, we don't have a position as to what that decision should be, we are waiting for the government to make their position clear, and we are happy to be supportive. We are a good military ally of Croatia, Croatia is with us and we want to be fully supportive of what they do," said Kohorst in Zagreb earlier in the day.

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

Monday, 18 February 2019

Croatian Companies Exhibiting at Largest Defence Industry Show in Abu Dhabi

ZAGREB, February 18, 2019 - Several Croatian companies are presenting their products at the IDEX defence industry exhibition in Abu Dhabi from February 17 to 21, the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK) said on Monday. The Croatian companies exhibiting at the world's largest defence industry show are Šestan Busch, Galeb, Agencija Alan, DOK-ING, Odjeća and Čateks.

One of the novelties of the exhibition is that it includes more and more dual-purpose products, or those that can be used for both civilian and military purposes, the HGK said.

The HGK vice-president for industry and energy, Tomislav Radoš, said that Croatian defence companies are known as reliable suppliers of high quality products and that their exports exceed 100 million euro.

"Imports of goods designed for military use and non-military ordnance were reduced from 70 million euro in 2016 to 27 million euro in 2017. Recently, 34 domestic producers signed 314 million kuna (42.4 million euro) worth of military equipment procurement agreements for the Croatian armed forces. This speaks enough of the quality and standards that our producers have reached," Radoš said.

The IDEX show is expected to attract 1,200 exhibitors, 170 official delegations and over 100,000 visitors from some 60 countries.

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

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Croatian Military Budget Increasing Both for Country’s and NATO's Sake

ZAGREB, February 16, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday the government was increasing Croatian military budget for its security and to meet its NATO obligations at a time when the US is pushing allies to set aside more for defence.

Since being elected, President Donald Trump has been criticising NATO's European member states, saying they are not complying with the obligation to set aside 2% of GDP for defence, the target allies set in 2014. Only six out of the 29 member states are meeting the target. Croatia, which joined NATO in 2009, is spending about 1.3% of GDP on defence.

Speaking to reporters at the Munich Security Conference, Plenković said the US pressure did not divide the US and Europe. "It's an ambition that's many years old. It's true that the US administration has put this issue on the table in a little stronger and more articulated way than before."

He said the Croatian government had been increasing the military budget since 2016 "first and foremost for us and for our security, to strengthen our army, but also for a wider contribution to the efforts of all allies."

Plenković said the US and its European partners had come closer recently, after Trump at one time threatened to leave NATO unless the allies increased their financing.

"If we go back to 2016 and certain comments on American unilateralism, on a diplomacy which is more oriented to the economy and trade... Today, after a series of meetings, this has been brought back to relatively similar frameworks as it used to be, and one feels that NATO is important both to the US and to European allies," he said.

On the fringes of the conference, he met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, saying ahead of the meeting they would talk about Croatia's contribution to NATO's global strategy.

Plenković said Croatia would soon ratify North Macedonia's NATO accession treaty.

On the first day of the conference, he attended a closed round table on the Three Seas Initiative, which is focused on strengthening cooperation between Baltic, Black Sea and Adriatic countries.

Prior to it, Plenković said the construction of an LNG terminal in Croatia fit into the Initiative, as did the current European troika – incumbent EU president Romania, its successor Finland in the second half of this year and Croatia in the first half of 2020.

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

Friday, 15 February 2019

Government Defends Failed F-16 Fighter Jets Purchase

ZAGREB, February 15, 2019 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said in the parliament on Thursday that he supported Defence Minister Damir Krstičević because all activities regarding the failed purchase of F-16 fighter jets from Israel had been conducted transparently and in line with the law, recalling that one of the reasons why the purchase of the military aircraft had been launched was the failed overhaul of MiG21 jets in 2013, when the government was led by the Social Democrats (SDP).

"The government rejects all allegations from the motion (for a debate on the failed jet purchase) as unfounded and incorrect and proposes that the parliament reject the conclusions in the motion," Plenković said during a debate on the SDP-sponsored motion. He said that no such motion had been filed over the failed overhaul of MiG jets even though the case was subject to legal proceedings in Croatia and Ukraine.

Plenković dismissed allegations that the failed jet purchase had jeopardised Croatia's security and position in the international community, adding that the allegations were based on superficial assessments, lack of understanding of the subject matter and political opportunism.

"As regards the US approval for the Third-Party Transfer (TPT), I want to stress that the country owning and selling military equipment, in this case Israel, is responsible for obtaining approval for TPT. Croatia was aware of the need to obtain approval for TPT from the start of the procurement procedure, but it is impossible to entirely eliminate all risks in any process," he said, explaining the chronology of the failed jet purchase.

The public was informed of every step of the procurement procedure, including difficulties in obtaining approval for TPT, he added.

"It is not true that Croatia's international reputation has been compromised. Both the US and Israel have stressed that they want to continue developing ally and partner relations with Croatia and deepen their defence cooperation with Croatia. Israel has stated publicly that Croatia demonstrated professionalism and sound judgement at every stage of the process and could not impact the outcome of the process and therefore could not be considered responsible, which is what the US has confirmed as well," said the prime minister.

He reiterated that there was also no harm for the state budget. "We will learn lessons from this, but we are determined to modernise the Air Force, and based on analyses and preparations, we will embark on new activities towards that goal. The government backs Defence Minister Krstičević," Plenković said.

Krstičević did not address MPs, but Plenkovic's address drew numerous reactions.

"You have reduced one of the most important strategic decisions to a cheap PR exercise and crisis communication. With your non-transparency, you have given new arguments to opponents of the plan to purchase combat aircraft and thus jeopardised the future of the Croatian Air Force and national security. How can one trust your vision if one day you want more used aircraft and the next day you want fewer new aircraft. You are no better than those who think that the Croatian skies should be given over to Italians and Hungarians," said Nikola Grmoja of the opposition MOST party.

HRAST MP Hrvoje Zekanović said that Defence Minister Damir Krstičević had done a good job, while the prime minister and the president had failed. Citing military analysts, he said that NATO's strategy did not foresee Croatia having its own combat aircraft. "You did not do your lobbying of President Trump," he said.

"Neither you nor these people from MOST will ever be in a position to decide anything that concerns the government, either the development of the Air Force or the conduct of the foreign policy. These are nothing but the dreams of the people who use these issues to attract public attention, without providing any arguments," Plenković replied.

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

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