- Published: 03.12.2019.
PM: Army guarantees Croatia's security, NATO offers umbrella of collective security
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 Plenkovic 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," Plenkovic 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 HRK 7.19 billion in 2020 and HRK 9.4 billion in 2024. The allocation for equipment and modernisation would rise from HRK 700 million in 2020 to HRK 1.88 billion 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.
Plenkovic 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 Plenkovic.
Tonight, the heads of the delegations will be received by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace and later by the summit host, Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The Croatian delegation comprises Plenkovic, Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman and the military chief of staff, General Mirko Sundov.