Saturday, 31 July 2021

US Sixth Fleet Command Ship Visits Split

ZAGREB, 31 July 2021, 2021 - The command ship of the United States Sixth Fleet, USS Mount Whitney, is visiting the southern Croatian Adriatic city of Split, and its commander said on Saturday that the US-Croatian partnership on land and at sea is crucial for the military cooperation and common security of the two countries. 

The US vessel arrived on Friday and visited the Split shipyard, while reporters were invited to visit the ship on Saturday.

US Chargé d'Affaires Mark Fleming said they were glad to be in Split and that the defence cooperation between the United States and Croatia was the corner stone of their bilateral relations.

Over the last 10 years, US military aid to Croatia has reached nearly HRK 4.5 billion, which is more than $700 million, for training, equipment, infrastructure building and specialised military training, Fleming said. Since Croatia joined NATO 12 years ago, US and Croatian personnel have served together from Afghanistan to Iraq to Kosovo. The US-Croatian partnership on land and at sea is crucial for the military cooperation and common security of our two countries, he added.

US naval ships often stop in Croatia for maintenance and mutual security operations. The northern port of Rijeka has been the centre of US-Croatian cooperation since 2011, benefiting from contracts with the US Navy worth nearly HRK 900 million. This year three US naval ships have been berthed in the Kraljevica shipyard for regular maintenance.

In April, US Navy EOD (explosive ordnance disposal) divers held a training course on humanitarian mine clearance for Croatian Navy personnel and launched a project to develop an EOD training facility for the Croatian Navy.

Vice Admiral Gene Black, Commander of the US Sixth Fleet, said that Croatia stands as an important NATO ally, facilitating the maintenance of US Navy forward deployed ships.  

Croatian shipyards are world class, and mine action capabilities ensure a continued maritime presence and security in the whole region, Black said.

Dave Pollard, Commander of USS Mount Whitney, said that the US-Croatian military cooperation and sharing the same values brings stability and prosperity to this region.

After the visit, USS Mount Whitney will begin a two-week scenario-driven integrated exercise that will provide high-end training at sea and ashore against a challenging adversary force.

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Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Croatian President Zoran Milanović Meets With EU Military Committee Chairman

ZAGREB, 27 July, 2021 - Croatian President and Armed Forces Commander in Chief Zoran Milanović met on Tuesday with General Claudio Graziano, the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, the President's Office said in a press release.

Graziano thanked Milanović for the participation of the Croatian Armed Forces in EU-led missions and operations.

They talked about the Strategic Compass document which is expected to give the EU clear security and defence guidelines in the coming period.

The talks also focused on battle groups, operations and missions led by the EU, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the development of the Union's defence and security capabilities, the press release said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Is Former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in Line for Top NATO Job?

July the 24th, 2021 - Former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic might well be being checked out for a top NATO position amid speculation that has become more serious of late.

As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, the Politico portal, which is read worldwide, announced that for the very first time in the 72-year history of this international military organisatio, NATO, Jens Stoltenberg is looking for a successor, preferably from Eastern Europe.

It has been noted that Croatia's former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic has an ''impressive biography'', leading this particular story to firmly outgrow the realms of mere speculation and begin to be seriously discussed among those close to the profession and the rest of the public.

Back during the 2015 Croatian presidential campaign, the then HDZ candidate didn't want to reveal what her salary was as an assistant working at NATO.

"I still follow the instructions given to me by NATO, which oblige me as a former NATO employee to make sure this data isn't to be disclosed to the public, and the salary is much less than twenty thousand euros," said former President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic at the confrontation at which the matter was discused with Ivo Josipovic (SDP), who claimed that salaries in NATO aren't actually kept as some sort of big secret.

Then, in late 2016, there was speculation that former British Prime Minister David Cameron potentially becoming NATO's new secretary general, and the British publication The Independent reported that the salary for the post was £220,000 a year (which is around 21,000 euros or 160,000 kuna a month). According to the document from the beginning of 2020, the highest monthly salary paid out to a NATO employee stood at 23,646 euros or 178,000 kuna, according to a report from tportal.

Fast forward to November 2020, NATO asked its members for more money in order to further increase the salaries of its employees, in accordance with the agreed methodology, which some allies refused, considering it inappropriate at the time of the very height of the coronavirus pandemic.

For more, follow our dedicated politics section.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

President Zoran Milanović: Reference to Dayton Was Opposed by Germany, Italy And Other States

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović said on Tuesday that the reference to the Dayton agreement in NATO's communique adopted on Monday had been opposed by Germany, Italy and some other Western countries, and added that possible changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina must not happen without Croatia and Serbia.

Milanović made the statement in Slovakia, where he participated in the GLOBSEC 2021 Forum and met with Slovakian President Zuzana Čaputová and Polish President Andrzej Duda.

He discussed with them the NATO summit held in Brussels on Monday, at which Croatia, Milanović said, managed to have a reference to the Dayton peace agreement (General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina) incorporated in the summit's closing declaration only after insisting on it for six days.

"That should not have happened, that should have been resolved a week ago. Somebody is against it, has a problem with the Dayton agreement and wants to dismantle it," Milanović said, adding that at the same time those countries were criticising the Serb BiH Presidency member Milorad Dodik for violating the Dayton agreement.

"Something is not right about that way of thinking," he said.

Milanović noted that a number of countries - Germany, Italy and some other Western countries - had been opposed to mentioning the Dayton peace agreement in the communique.

"Western Europe - and I'm not talking about the leaders, definitely not about Angela Merkel, is acting foolishly, undermining one of the foundations of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which, regardless of how imperfect it may be, protects it against destabilisation," he said.

Criticism of German diplomacy

Milanović went on to say that talks on the communique had not been conducted by the German chancellor but by the German foreign ministry which, he said, was headed by a political camp different from Merkel's and one he felt close to, "namely by people who in their fantasy are prone to making silly experiments."

The current German foreign minister is Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democrats who are part of the coalition government with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Some Western European countries advocate a so-called civic model for Bosnia and Herzegovina to replace the concept of three constituent peoples envisaged by the Dayton peace agreement. Commenting on that on Monday, Milanović said that "it sounds very noble but is actually a hoax."

"They should do it back at home. Bosnia and Herzegovina is as it is, we share a long border and we will soon have to guard it for the Schengen area," he said.

Milanović stressed that plans for Bosnia and Herzegovina could not be made "under the radar" and that any changes in the neighbouring country had to involve Croatia and Serbia, co-signatories to the Dayton agreement, adding that he had explained this to his Slovakian and Polish counterparts.

"That is how things are done in diplomacy, as far as I can remember. I used to be a diplomat and I never caused a scandal. Then I entered politics and in politics you have to cause scandals to be heard," he said.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

US Department of Homeland Security Officials in Croatia: Week-Long Visit Regarding Visa-Free Travel

June 15, 2021 -  The US Department of Homeland Security officials in Croatia will continue to work in strengthening diplomatic relations with Croatia and ensuring visa-free travel between the two countries situated on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

Officials from the US Department of Homeland Security are currently in Croatia on a weeklong visit. As reported by US Embassy on social media, the visit is in regard to Croatia's progress towards Visa Waiver Programme Membership.

If Croatia joins the programme, Croatian citizens will not need a visa to travel to the USA for tourism, transit, or even for work as long as they don't extend the 90 day limit placed on their stay in the country.

As TCN reported earlier this year, The American Embassy in Croatia formally confirmed back in February that Croatian citizens will be able to finally enjoy the right to travel to the USA without the need for a visa later this year, by the 30th of September 2021 at the very latest, as was reported by Večernji list.

The final prerequisite for the removal of visa requirements was the issuing of 2000 further visas before the end of November 2020. Back then, sources inside the Croatian Ministry of Foreign Affairs revealed this criterion had been met, and thus the annual level of rejected applications will be less than 3%. That final bar was set by the USA to Croatia.

''Our two governments are continuing their close cooperation on meeting the requirements for the Visa Waiver Programme participation. US Department of Homeland Security officials are currently here, working with their Croatian Government partners on further advancing our shared goals, as well as addressing any remaining technical and policy requirements. People-to-people ties between the United States of America and the Republic of Croatia are robust,'' says the press release by the US Embassy in Zagreb.

They added that the US Embassy is continuing to focus on strengthening ties between the two countries and that Croatia is a trusted partner, and these new travel arrangements will also contribute to deepening bilateral relations.

This bit of news comes as a refreshment when taking into account some other recent events. Croatia and the USA enjoy a close connection thanks to their NATO membership, and recently, Croatian president Zoran Milanovic stated that he would not accept a NATO closing declaration if it failed to mention the Dayton agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina's three constituent peoples.

That statement was criticised even by Željko Komšić, the Croatian member of the tripartite BiH Presidency, saying that ''the concept of constituent peoples in Bosnia and Herzegovina is obsolete.''

Additionally, a bit of challenge can be seen with the fact that while the US Embassy has a diplomatic mission in Croatia, there is no appointed Ambassador to Croatia at the moment. But nevertheless, cooperation and friendly relations between the two nations remain tight.

As TCN reported back in May, Croatia participated in a military exercise of transporting American military supplies, before that, in March, the US donated the GeneXpert Machine to Zagreb's Infectious Diseases Hospital and also invested $480,000 in the Upgrade of Rijeka's Offshore Emergency Response Centre.

In addition to their cooperation in terms of safety and health issues, the US additionally cooperated with the science-technology park - Step-Ri to bring entrepreneurship expertise to the Croats. With this diplomatic friendship evident and constantly being nourished, visa-free travel between the two countries is both fully deserved and now needed.

Learn more about visas in Croatia on our TC page.

For more about diplomacy in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Milanović: NATO Summit's Communique To Mention Dayton After Croatia's Insistence

June 14th, 2021 - After Croatia kept insisting for six days that a final statement of the NATO summit meeting should mention the Dayton peace accords, the final text of the document incorporated the reference to that agreement Zoran Milanović said in Brussels on Monday.

On Sunday, the Croatian head of state made his approval of the final document conditional on making mention of the Dayton accords that define Bosnia and Herzegovina as the three constituent peoples: the Bosniaks, the Serbs, and the Croats and other citizens.

Milanović today explained that after Croatia's request that the final communique should refer to the Dayton agreement as to the basis for the functioning of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been ignored for six days, the Croatian side was forced to say on Sunday that "we would oppose the consensus."

Milanović told the press today while coming to the summit meeting that on Sunday, NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg had called him, and the things were settled in half a minute.

However, it took six days until we made sure that the communique's Bosnia and Herzegovina segment would mention the Dayton peace accords. This is a small thing for this summit, just a footnote, and a great thing for us, Milanović said.

 All other things in the whole text of the 50-page final declaration have been acceptable for me as the head of the Croatian delegation, he added.

Milanović does not believe that he will manage to hold a meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.

"I think he has more important things to do," the Croatian president said.

Croatia had insisted on the three points in the declaration: the Dayton peace agreement, the constituent peoples, and the election reform of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Eventually, there will be no mention of the constituent peoples; however, it is covered by referring to the Dayton agreement that defines Bosnia and Herzegovina as the Bosniaks, the Serbs, and the Serbs Croats, and other citizens.

It remained unclear why the first draft failed to mention the Dayton peace accords.

NATO's declaration in 2004 ceased making mention of the Dayton agreement, and since then, the Dayton accords have not been mentioned by inertia. However, the Croatian side has raised the issue since the Bosniak representatives started trying to eliminate the concept of the constituent peoples. 

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 14 June 2021

Minister Says President's Statements About NATO Declaration Unsubstantiated

June 14th, 2021 - President Zoran Milanović's statement that the Croatian government did not react to an attempt by some countries to have the Dayton agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina's three constituent peoples left out of a NATO declaration closing is groundless, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman has said.

Earlier on Sunday, President Milanović said that some countries did not want the closing declaration of the coming NATO summit in Brussels to mention the Dayton peace agreement and Bosnia and Herzegovina's three constituent peoples but that Croatia would not consent to it.

"That statement is totally unsubstantiated," Grlić Radman said.

Grlić Radman claims that as far as Bosnia and Herzegovina is concerned, a formulation in one of the paragraphs, proposed by the Croatian government, was accepted and that the formulation refers to the Dayton agreement, the constituent peoples, equality and reform processes, notably amendment of the country's election law.

"We have agreed that the Dayton agreement and reform processes, that is, the election law, will be mentioned in that paragraph... President Milanović is not telling the truth, we have all the documents," said Grlić Radman, noting that the government had constantly been working on the protection of the status of the Croat people in BiH.

Asked by reporters if he would support President Milanović if he refused to sign the document in case it did not include the said formulation about BiH, the minister did not give a clear answer.

"The Brussels summit is not dedicated to BiH, the document in question has some 50 pages, and we want to agree that text with our allies, the summit is not decisive for the status of the Croat people in BiH anyway," the minister said about the contentious document, repeating several times that it had been agreed that the document would mention, in one paragraph, "the Dayton agreement and reform processes, that is, the election law."

Commenting on Milanović's statement about his father having been a Communist official who got reach through privatization, Grlić Radman said that the statement was scandalous and proud of his father, who had been a patriot and benefactor.

As for Milanović's statement that he was "lamenting the fate of Croats in Communism," Grlić Radman said that any mention of the word Croat meant danger in Yugoslavia.

"You could not sing ordinary patriotic songs such as 'Marjane, Marjane' and 'Vila Velebita'," he said, describing the former state as "a totalitarian, centralist and unitarist system, with one people dominating diplomacy, finances, police and defense structures."

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Croatia About to Come into Conflict with NATO, Says Komšić

ZAGREB, 13 June, 2021 - Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Presidency member Željko Komšić said on Sunday Croatia was about to come into conflict with NATO after President Zoran Milanović said that he would not accept a NATO closing declaration if it failed to mention the Dayton agreement and BiH's three constituent peoples.

"Croatia is coming into conflict with NATO because it insists on the obsolete concept of constituent peoples," Komšić, who is the Croat member of the tripartite BiH Presidency, was quoted by the BiH Presidency as saying.

Komšić believes that Croatia does not have the power to block the principles of the declaration to be adopted at the end of a NATO summit to be held in Brussels on Monday.

"A country like Croatia can hardly prevent what is in NATO's interest, and it can even less do so by advocating what is contrary to NATO and EU standards," he added.

The European Court of Human Rights rulings regarding election reforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the country's national programme of reforms, sent to NATO, prefer the quality of all citizens, Komšić said.

"NATO should now decide if it cares more about its standards and interests or the anti-NATO and anti-European standards of Croatian officials," Komšić said.

Croat parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina contest Komšić's legitimacy as the Croat member of the country's three-member presidency, claiming that he was elected predominantly by Bosniak voters.

The leaders of NATO's 30 member-states, including President Milanović, will gather in Brussels on Monday for a summit at which decisions on the alliance's reforms in the period until 2030 are expected to be made.

Milanović has said that he will not consent to the summit's closing declaration if it failed to mention the Dayton agreement, which put an end to the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1995, and its three constituent peoples.

"I do not intend to return to Zagreb with that. It shows what kind of plans for Bosnia and Herzegovina some international circles have and Croatia will not agree to that," Milanović said.

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

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Friday, 28 May 2021

PM Says Croatia to Have Most Advanced Fighter Jets in This Part of Europe

ZAGREB, 28 May 2021 - By purchasing 12 F3-R Rafale jets Croatia will obtain the most advanced combat aircraft in this part of Europe, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Friday.

"With today's decision we are not only making the biggest investment in Croatia's Armed Forces since the country gained independence, we are making the biggest investment in a lasting peace and security for Croatian citizens," Plenković said at a government session.

By procuring fighter jets, Croatia is gaining a powerful strategic deterrent for the next 30 to 40 years, which significantly strengthens its international position and its airspace protection and multiplies the overall combat capability of the Croatian Army, said Plenković.

Offer includes training, weapons and year-long warranty

He noted that in addition to the aircraft, the French offer also includes a flight simulator, basic weapons package, ground and test equipment, spare parts, staff training according to the principle of "training of trainers", comprehensive support from authorised representatives of manufacturers for a period of three years and a warranty of 12 months per each delivered aircraft, engine, other equipment and spare parts.

Plenković added that the purchase of Rafale planes would make the protection of Croatia's sovereignty on land, at sea and in the air much more effective, and that the country would acquire a powerful strategic instrument of deterrence, thus raising national security to an unprecedented level.

"The purchase of a multi-role fighter aircraft will strengthen Croatia’s position as an ally within NATO and a partner within the European Union. With this move, Croatia will for the first time reach the level of spending of 2% of GDP for strengthening its defense capabilities, which is the goal of all NATO members," said Plenković.

By significantly increasing its security, Croatia will become more attractive to foreign investors because it will enhance the security of their investments, which in the long run will contribute to a better credit rating and economic development of the country, said Plenković.

The purchase also creates new possibilities for the defence industry in terms of research and development.

Plenković thanked the bidding countries -- the United States, Sweden and Israel -- for their high quality offers and the effort invested in that demanding process, congratulating all involved in the process on protecting its integrity and confidentiality.

"I am particularly pleased to be making this decision today, on Croatian Army Day, as a token of lasting gratitude to defenders and soldiers, those who gave everything for Croatia and those who are always faithful to the homeland," said Plenković.

Defence minister: Partnership with state, not aircraft manufacturer 

Defence minister Mario Banožić said that considering the value of the project, the decision to buy French aircraft was the biggest investment in the army since the 1990s.

He noted that it would enhance the Air Force fighter component's capability and potential and significantly increase the overall combat capabilities of the Croatian Army as well as help maintain the tradition of combat aviation in Croatia.

"As a NATO member Croatia has the obligation to invest in its own defence capabilities by making contributions to the defence budget and also in the part referring to equipment and modernisation," said Banožić.

He added that the decision showed Croatia's determination to develop its own defence capabilities to contribute to its own security and defence as well as that of NATO and the EU.

Recalling the course of negotiations on the purchase of the aircraft, the minister said that the project would be implemented at the government level and that it envisaged partnership with the country from which the aircraft came, and not the manufacturer.

For more on politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated section.

Wednesday, 19 May 2021

PM Suggests that Defence Council Can Convene on Thursday or Friday

ZAGREB, 19 May, 2021 - Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday that he had responded to President Zoran Milanović's request for convening a session of the Defence Council and offered that the session could be held on Thursday or Friday morning.

We offered him two appointments: tomorrow or on Friday morning, so that this advisory body could be convened and that council has no role in decision making, Plenković said after the inner cabinet's meeting in Zagreb.

Commenting on the planned purchase of military jets on Tuesday President Milanović said that he had invited Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to call a session of the Defence Council on this topic together with him.

Plenković said today that his cabinet had been working on the analysis of all the bids for the combat aircraft procurement, and on Tuesday, a few ministers were informed of the process.

This process is  extremely complex and demanding, Plenković said adding that the decision would be made public as soon as the government made it.

Plenković said that Milanović "is trying now jump on the bandwagon" concerning the combat jets decision ahead of NATO's summit meeting, whereas he had refused to appoint his envoy to the interdepartmental commission authorised to decide on the matter.

Asked by the press whether the Defence Council's meeting could be an opportunity for the heads of state and government to meet and overcome their conflicts, Plenković answered that this would not be a topic on the meeting's agenda.

"You have a deceitful man who is insulting the whole political scene, while many pundits are trying to reduce it to political one-upmanship. This is not political one-upmanship between us. This is unprecedented behaviour (of the president) towards a series of stakeholders and interlocutors on the political scene," the premier said.

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