Despite Aircraft Debacle, Croatia’s Security Is Not in Danger

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ZAGREB, January 12, 2019 – Defence Minister Damir Krstičević said on Friday evening that Croatia’s security was not in danger and that the tender for the procurement of fighter jets would be formally cancelled next week after the deal with Israel fell through.

“The security of Croatia is not in danger. Croatia is a safe country, it has a strong and respectable military, and we have demonstrated its value. Unlike the opposition, who had the responsibility to resolve this issue, they failed to do so and they put us in a position that now we have to deal with this issue,” Krstičević said in an interview with the public broadcaster HTV when asked if the country was in danger as claimed by opposition parties.

He said that earlier in the day he and Armed Forced Chief of Staff Mirko Šundov had met with President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović and informed her of talks with Israel and the state of the Croatian Air Force.

He added that Grabar-Kitarović had convened the Defence Council for Monday to discuss the situation concerning the tender for the procurement of multipurpose combat aircraft and the situation in the Air Force. After that, the government will cancel the tender and will continue searching for the best option for Croatia, the minister said.

Krstičević said that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković had been acquainted with all activities concerning the procurement of aircraft from the outset and that all state institutions and representatives of the opposition had also been involved in the decision-making process. “The representatives of the SDP (Social Democratic Party) unanimously supported this decision, so I’m surprised that they have changed their position and I don’t understand it,” Krstičević said.

He said he did not feel responsible for the failure of the purchase of Israeli F-16 fighter jets. “I don’t consider myself responsible, nor do I consider my associates responsible. In this entire process we did nothing against Croatia’s interests and the interests of its citizens.”

Krstičević said that the opposition demands for his resignation were legitimate. He recalled that the SDP was in power from 2011 to 2015 and during those four years they had enough time to resolve the issue of the Croatian Air Force.

“Not only did they not resolve it, but an overhaul of the MiG-21s was done in Ukraine and it was done poorly. Those aircraft were supposed to fly 850 hours. They should have been delivered to Croatia in flying condition, but they came on trucks. But unlike them, this government came to grips with this problem right from the start in order to systematically resolve the Croatian Air Force issue,” the defence minister said.

Krstičević noted that the Israeli Defence Ministry delegation, who visited Croatia on Thursday, had admitted that it was their responsibility that they had failed to obtain approval from the United States for the sale of the modified F-16 Barak aircraft to Croatia. He stressed that Croatia had done its job very professionally and responsibly, obtaining all the necessary guarantees.

More news on the Ministry of Defence can be found in our Politics section.


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