ZAGREB, March 3, 2020 – The Croatian Army (HV) is ready to help the police in guarding the Croatian borders against a new wave of migrants, Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Tuesday.
“The HV is ready to help our police if necessary. Our task is to ensure that the border is secure and to protect our national interests. I have ordered the Chief of the General Staff to make all the necessary plans. We are ready,” Krstičević told reporters at a ceremony at which Vice Admiral Robert Hranj assumed the duties of the Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces.
Commenting on the statement by President Zoran Milanovic that procedures for the treatment of migrants at the border were not precise, the defence minister said that that would be rectified.
“In our actions we will always take care of the security of Croatian soldiers and everyone else, including migrants. We know how to behave according to rules,” Krstičević said.
Vice Admiral Hranj said that the military had had operational plans in place for quite some time now in the event that it should help the police in protecting the Croatian borders.
“Under the present law, the HV can help the police on request from the Ministry of the Interior and after we receive an order to provide support,” Hranj said, adding that the support can include providing logistics, food, transport and medical assistance. He said that about 2,500 soldiers could be engaged for that purpose.
Hranj noted, however, that it should be specified whether the military would be given police powers. “The military has no authority to deal with civilians in peacetime. That is the exclusive responsibility and authority of the police,” he said.
Krstičević said that cooperation with President Milanovic was good. He said that he agreed with Milanovic’s view, expressed during his election campaign, that Croatia should withdraw its troops from the peacekeeping missing in Afghanistan.
“I’m also in favour of pulling out of Afghanistan, of course, in dialogue with our partners and allies,” Krstičević said. He and Hranj had visited the country in December.
“We are following the situation, which is changing all the time. We also concluded then that we should withdraw the Croatian troops,” Krstičević said, without specifying when that might happen.
“We should put all options on the table, analyse them and take a decision at the level of the state. I wouldn’t want to speculate now,” the defence minister said.
A new Croatian contingent leaves for Afghanistan on Friday, following a decision by Parliament and an order by the President of the Republic in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
More news about the migrant crisis can be found in the Politics section.