Thursday, 5 May 2022

Military Initiative Co-Founded By Croatia Integrated With NATO

ZAGREB, 5 May 2022  - Headquarters Multinational Division Centre (HQ MND-C), an international military initiative launched by Croatia and Hungary, has been integrated into the NATO Force Structure, the Croatian Defence Ministry said on Thursday.

Located at Székesfehérvár, Hungary, HQ MND-C was integrated into the NATO Force Structure in line with a decision on activation and integration, made by the North Atlantic Council on 3 May, the ministry said.

The commander of HQ MND-C is Major General Denis Tretinjak.

"The integration of MND-C into the NATO Force Structure completes the procedure for the integration of this initiative into NATO's security architecture, which will significantly contribute to strengthening the alliance's deterrence and defence capacity in Europe and thus to collective defence and crisis management," the ministry said.

HQ MND-C will become fully operational in 2023 when it will become part of NATO's plans and objectives regarding the strengthening of regional as well as overall NATO security. A medium-term development plan for the period until 2032 envisages the development of its forces to the level of a division.

The establishment of HQ MND-C was initiated by Croatia and Hungary in July 2018 when the lack of allied capacity in command and control in Central Europe was recognised, followed by intensive work with regional partners to establish command.

Apart from Croatia and Hungary as the initiators, Slovakia has also joined HQ MND-C as the third founding country.

Poland is involved in the work of HQ MND-C as well, and interest in joining has also been shown by Germany, Italy, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey.

For more, check out our politics section.

Wednesday, 27 April 2022

Grlić Radman: NATO Countries Think Croatia Has Changed Policy Because of Milanović

ZAGREB, 27 April 2022 - The statements by President Zoran Milanović about the blockade of Sweden's and Finland's bids to join NATO have led NATO members to believe that Croatia has changed its foreign policy, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said on Wednesday.

Milanović said on Tuesday that the Croatian Parliament "must not ratify any country's accession to NATO" until neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina changed its electoral law, adding that he considered Finland's and Sweden's bids to join the alliance "a very dangerous adventure".

Grlić Radman said the president's statement had prompted a number of calls, and that he had discussed the matter with his Finnish counterpart on Tuesday and with his Swedish counterpart on Wednesday.

"With these calls we tried to contain the damage done to Croatia's international political image," the foreign minister said, noting that Milanović's statement has been quoted by all leading foreign media and "all NATO countries have expressed great concern."

"They always think that Croatia has changed its foreign policy if its president said that," he added.

Unlike Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who said on Tuesday that Milanović should block the two countries' accession at the forthcoming NATO meeting if he thought he was "a tough guy", Grlić Radman said no such veto was provided for and "even if it were, it would be political embarrassment." 

After a country applies for NATO membership, the national parliaments of the member states must adopt an act of ratification proposed by the government, the foreign minister noted.

Grlić Radman said that the membership of Sweden and Finland, which are already compatible with alliance standards, should be separated from the electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina which the Croatian government "strongly supports.".

Finland and Sweden have Croatia's "undoubted and unreserved" support, and their accession to NATO is a major challenge to them, given their tradition of political neutrality for centuries and the Russian military invasion of Ukraine which has nearly changed the world order, Grlić Radman said.

In his telephone calls with the foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland, Grlić Radman also touched on the issue of Bosnia and Herzegovina, saying that Croatia has their support and understanding. 

He told Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who recently visited Sarajevo, that Bosnia and Herzegovina was "a security, political and emotional" issue to Croatia because the ethnic Croats there were "squeezed between Serb separatism and Bosniak unitarism."

For more, make sure to check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Committee Chair: Nothing Unexpectedly New About Drone Crash

ZAGREB, 13 April 2022 - The Zagreb County Prosecutor's Office said nothing unexpectedly new about last month's military drone crash, the only surprise being that the drone did not contain explosive but an unidentified substance, the chairman of the Croatian Parliament Defence Committee, Franko Vidović, said on Wednesday.

"There was nothing unexpectedly new compared to what could already be heard in the public. I was acquainted with this information at the Committee meeting when we requested information on the drone crash," Vidović told Hina in a comment on the incident that occurred in southwest Zagreb on 10 March.

He said it was somewhat surprising that the investigation found neither 120 kg nor 40 kg of explosive, as speculated in the public, but an unidentified substance of organic origin that was "packed in this ostensible bomb."

Vidović said the most important thing was that such incidents should never happen again, adding that both NATO and Croatia had learned a lesson from this incident.

He said it was not so important whether the drone contained a bomb or not, because the drone of that size was in itself a threat. "Luckily, no one was killed and no considerable damage was done."

The Prosecutor's Office said that the crash was caused by an interruption in the sequence of automatic landing during the activation of the main parachute.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Drone Crashed Due to Disrupted Automatic Landing Sequence, Prosecutor's Office Says

ZAGREB, 13 April 2022 - The drone which crashed in Zagreb on 10 March carried an aviation bomb and the cause of the crash was a disrupted automatic landing sequence due to an incomplete connection between the aircraft and the main parachute, the Zagreb County Prosecutor's Office said on Wednesday.

A commission which investigated the crash said the drone ejected the parachute and continued to free fall. During the fall, a mechanism was activated due to which one probe flew out and the other one did not.

Speaking at a press conference, chief air force investigator Mario Počinok said the drone had been in good condition and the engine not in operation when it crashed. The black box was considerably damaged, so it was not possible to recover data.

Asked if this meant that the drone did not crash but landed, Brigadier Počinok said the activation of the auto-landing system depended on the quantity of fuel, the set parametres and the kilometres crossed.

The drone, he added, "was disabled in a way to land. I can't say there was an error because several elements are missing."

Asked if Zagreb had been the final target of the drone, Počinok said it was not up to him to answer that and denied that the NATO secretary general, who claimed earlier that the drone was unarmed, had been informed of the results of the inquiries into the crash.

Major Mile Tomić of the Armed Forces Support Command said 47 pieces of shrapnel, caused by an explosion, and a universal fuse for an aviation bomb with Cyrillic insignia were found at the crash site.

"As soon as the aviation bomb was put into the aerial vehicle, it was not intended for its basic purpose, which was reconnaissance," he added.

Drone subsequently painted yellow and blue

Ivana Bačić, chief forensic examiner at the Ivan Vučetić Forensic Science Centre, said the crash caused a crater 5.5 metres wide and 1.5 metres deep, and that there was a strong smell of ammonia.

No traces of either military or commercial explosive were found. The original aviation bomb is supposed to contain 40-46 kilograms of TNT.

It has been established beyond doubt that the explosion occurred, and that the aviation bomb contained "a high-energy but unconventional substance that completely decomposed in the explosion, which prevented its identification," Bačić said.

"On the right wing of the aerial vehicle the dominant colour was red, which reflected a red and white five-pointed star. That was the original colour and traces were found of subsequent painting into yellow and blue," she added.

According to her, there was no political pressure on the Ivan Vučetić Forensic Science Centre regarding the findings of the expert analysis.

Asked if Zagreb had been the drone's final target, county prosecutor Jurica Ilić said he could not answer the question.

For more, check out our dedicated politics section.

Thursday, 31 March 2022

Croatia Met NATO Defence Budget Target In 2021

ZAGREB, 31 March 2022 - According to NATO estimates, Croatia last year met the target the allies set for investing at least 2% of GDP in defence and significantly surpassed the target of earmarking at least 20% of the defence budget for equipment.

Last year's purchase of fighter jets significantly increased Croatia's defence budget.

According to a report presented by Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday, NATO estimates that last year Croatia increased its defence budget to 2.16% of GDP from 1.71% in 2020 and that 30.6% of its defence outlays were earmarked for equipment.

NATO member states committed in 2014 to increase their defence budgets to at least 2% of GDP by 2024 and to set aside at least 20% of the defence outlays for military equipment.

Greece earmarked the most for the defence last year, 3.59% of GDP, followed by the United States (3.57%) Poland (2.34%), the UK (2.25%) and Croatia, Estonia and Latvia (2.16% each).

The allies which earmarked the least for defence were Slovenia (1.22%), Belgium (1.07%), Spain (1.03%) and Luxembourg (0.54%).

Greece also set aside the most for military equipment, investing 38.8% of its military budget, followed by Luxembourg (38.2%), Hungary (37.2%), Poland (33%), Turkey (30.7%), Croatia (30.6%), and the US (29.4%).

The allies which set aside the least for military equipment in their defence budgets were Albania, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Canada, Portugal and Germany, ranging from 14.9 to 18.6%.

2/3 of Croats for NATO

Last year NATO commissioned a public opinion poll on its perception which shows that 67% of Croats were for membership in NATO, 13% were against, while the rest did not know.

NATO has the highest support in Poland (84%), Albania and Lithuania (82% each), and Romania and Portugal (79% each), while support is lowest in Slovakia (46%), Montenegro and France (50% each).

7 in 10 Croats believe NATO membership reduces the likelihood of a third country's attack

Sixty-nine per cent of Croats believe that membership reduces the likelihood of a third country's attack.

This percentage is highest in Lithuania (76%) and lowest in the US (42%).

Politics: For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Parliament Supports Deployment of Croatian Troops in Hungary

ZAGREB, 10 March 2022 - Members of parliament on Thursday supported a proposed decision to send up to 70 Croatian troops to Hungary as part of NATO forces, agreeing that this was required by the current situation and was also Croatia's obligation.

Presenting the proposed decision, the State Secretary at the Defence Ministry, Zdravko Jakop, said the current security situation in the east of Europe was one of the most serious threats to Europe's security in the past decades.

"The attack on an independent, peaceable, democratic state is a bitter reminder that freedom, peace, security and stability cannot exist if we are not prepared to defend them," Jakop said.

Jakop said that in recent months NATO had generated additional rapid reaction forces, deploying additional forces in the eastern members of the alliance, consolidating existing forces in Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, and forming new battlegroups in Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Romania.

A total of HRK 38 million has been secured in the state budget for the implementation of the government's decision to send troops to Hungary, he said.

Currently, Croatia has 181 troops in UN and NATO peace missions, and most of them, 141, are serving in the mission in Kosovo.

We must be solidary, we must respect our obligations, this is the defence of peace and international order, MPs of both the ruling majority and the opposition said during the debate.

"That is the only guarantee that we will preserve what we have acquired because we live in a crazy world, with crazy leaders that will stop at nothing to launch armed conflicts," said HDZ MP Rade Šimičević.

"It is important to send a message that participation in NATO does matter, a message that in the event of a threat we are prepared to act together," said Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Peđa Grbin.

Nino Raspudić of the Bridge party, too, supported the decision but noted that a risk assessment should have been made and the context of the decision should have been explained in geopolitical terms.

Care was taken of security assessment, and the estimate was that this is the best, least risky proposal, Jakop replied.

MPs also wanted to know if the Defence Ministry was considering increasing the number of Armed Forces members, considering the instability in Croatia's neighbourhood.

"There is a possibility of enhancing the forces with reservists, the law also provides for civil-military cooperation, there is no grading of readiness for the time being but activities are defined on a daily basis," he said.

Asked by independent MP Marijana Petir if additional NATO forces would be needed in Croatia, Jakop answered in the negative.

"That option is not being considered," he said, adding that the security situation in the neighbourhood and in Southeast Europe was being monitored and that for the time being there was no reason for concern.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 26 February 2022

Croatian Soldiers Being Sent to NATO's  Very High Readiness Joint Task Force

February the 26th, 2022 - Ten Croatian soldiers are being sent out as part of NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), which the Republic of Croatia has said it has done as a responsible NATO country.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, at a recently held session, the Croatian Government adopted the Draft Proposal of the Decision on the Declaration of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Croatia within the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force from the NATO Response Force (NRF).

At the session, Minister of Defense Mario Banozic noted that the Decision on the Establishment of a NATO Response Force was adopted back in 2002 at the NATO Summit in the Czech capital city of Prague, and at the NATO Summit in Wales back in 2014, a decision was adopted to establish NATO's Very High Readiness Joint Task Force.

''In order to contribute to Euro-Atlantic security, the Republic of Croatia has recognised the importance of active participation in the High Readiness Joint Task Force and, in accordance with the possibilities, has declared the forces and their composition. Therefore, at the proposal of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, back in 2015 the Croatian Parliament made a decision on the possibility of engaging forces within the High Readiness Joint Task Force from the NATO Response Force,'' said Minister Banozic.

''An analysis of the possibility of declaring these forces has been carried out at the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff of the Armed Forces. In accordance with that, this Decision proposes the declaration of up to ten members of the Croatian Armed Forces for engagement within the High Readiness Joint Task Force from the NATO Response Force in 2022 and 2023,'' the Minister pointed out.

The declaration of the engagement of 10 Croatian soldiers is in line with the national interests of the Republic of Croatia, as a responsible member of NATO, which continues to build international credibility and actively contributes to the collective defense of the Alliance and security of the Euro-Atlantic area, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

For more, check out our politics section.

Thursday, 24 February 2022

Croatia Plans To Send Up To 10 Soldiers To NATO's Rapid Response Force

ZAGREB, 24 Feb 2022 - The Croatian government has adopted a draft decision on deploying up to 10 Croatian soldiers in the NATO Response Force (NRF), the defense ministry stated on Thursday when Russia started invading Ukraine.

The draft decision has been forwarded to President Zoran Milanović, the supreme commander of the armed forces, for adoption, the press release reads.

According to Defence Minister Mario Banožić, Croatian troops will be part of the "Very High Readiness Joint Task Force" (VJTF) within the alliance's Response Force.

That means that they will be ready within a few days.

During the Prague summit in 2002, NATO decided on the establishment of its Response Force, and the Wales summit in 2014 decided on the set-up of VJTF.

In 2015, Croatia's parliament adopted decisions that paved the way for the deployment of Croatian soldiers in those units.

Earlier today, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the alliance had activated its defense plans on the deployment of additional forces in NATO's eastern members.

"Today, the North Atlantic Council decided to activate our defense plans, at the request of our top military commander, General Tod Wolters," Stoltenberg said and added that he has "called a virtual Summit of NATO leaders tomorrow, to address the way forward."

 For more, check out our politics section.

Monday, 14 February 2022

Croatian Prime Minister Says NATO Poses No Threat to Anyone

14 February, 2022 - NATO isn't a threat to anyone, it's a defence alliance of states that live and promote freedom, Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Monday during a visit to the American aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, which has been docked in the port of Split since last Friday.

US aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman is a symbol of the US commitment to NATO and the defence of our common values -- freedom and democracy, said the Croatian prime minister.

The Croatian premier said that the presence of the aircraft carrier Truman was also a symbol or our time, in which we must speak with a unanimous, strong, transatlantic voice -- and say clearly that we are united in the defence of freedoms and democracies of our countries, as well as in securing peace and stability in Europe and the transatlantic area.

Plenković underscored that NATO wasn't a threat to anyone.

NATO is a defence alliance of states that live and promote freedom. By strengthening unity in NATO, we promote peace just like we did together in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and the Mediterranean, and just like we still do in Kosovo and on the Baltic coasts, the prime minister said.

Three days ago the USS Truman docked in Split, which has been a friendship city of Los Angeles for 28 years.

In recent weeks, the crew of the aircraft carrier have participated together with the Croatian colleagues in the NATO-led maritime exercise Neptune Strike in the Adriatic Sea.

Plenković wished the crew calm seas, and Captain Gavin Duff thanked Croatia for its warm welcome and said that the crew had enjoyed the cuisine and culture of Split.

We look forward to continuing our warm relations with Croatian and in the maritime domain we will expand our capabilities, capacities and interoperability with a key ally in NATO, said Rear Admiral Curt Renshaw, the commander of a carrier strike group.

Friday, 11 February 2022

Defence Minister Proud of Croatian Soldiers Who Returned from NATO Mission in Poland

ZAGREB, 11 Feb 2022 - Defence Minister Mario Banožić on Friday met with members of the 8th Croatian Army contingent who had recently returned from NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Poland, saying that they had done a fantastic job and that he was proud of them. 

The defence minister said that Croatian soldiers were always highly appreciated in international missions and operations. Our allies and partners have expressed great respect for the involvement of the 8th Croatian Contingent and their knowledge and skills, he added.

"We are showing a high level of knowledge and resourcefulness. I am proud of you all. In this demanding activity, you showed the ability, motivation and readiness of the Croatian soldier. You really did a fantastic job," Banožić said. 

The 80-strong 8th Contingent participated in the Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Poland from 5 January 2021 to 24 January 2022. They took part in military exercises and joint activities with other nations within their Battle Group, as well as in sporting events.

For more, check out our politics section.

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