ZAGREB, January 16, 2019 – A heated debate during Question Time on Wednesday about the failed deal between Croatia and Israel on the procurement of fighter jets angered Defence Minister Damir Krstičević who snatched a model plane out of the hands of SDP MP Franko Vidović, shouting at him: “To hell with you and this!”
Before that, Social Democrat lawmaker Vidović said that two years had been lost in the procrastinated procedure for the purchase of multipurpose planes for the Croatian Air Force.
“You have undermined the combat capabilities of the Croatian army,” the opposition deputy said, claiming that Croatia was exposed to disgrace on an international scale.
He also wondered how Prime Minister Andrej Plenković was planning to embark on a new tender procedure without first dismissing Krstičević from the ministerial post.
Plenković responded that it was not true that national security was put at risk. This is a fabricated and untrue claim disseminated by those who in the past did not advocate the upgrade of the Croatian air force, some of whom opposed that process, the prime minister responded. Croatia’s government remains committed to the modernisation of the national air force, he said.
Croatia has fighter jets, it is a member of NATO and is covered by collective security and by cooperation within the European Union, Plenković explained.
He recalled the timeline of the first tender for the fighter jets procurement. “On 29 March 2018, Croatia’s government made a decision on the choice of F-16 Barak jets, irrespective of the email correspondence between representatives of the US embassy in Zagreb and people in the expert group or officials of the defence ministry,” Plenković said.
The signals from the correspondence were not clear to me, given that the tender procedure was under way, he added.
We sent delegations to Washington and Israel to find out if Israel could obtain approval from the USA and if the USA was OK with that. They said then that it was all right. We would not have made this decision on that choice, if we had not checked that out. However, the problem has occurred now, Plenković said.
Dissatisfied with the prime minister’s answer, Vidovic brought to the bench where government ministers were sitting a model plane saying that if things go on as the government plans, Croatia can have only such planes.
This upset Minister Krstičević very much. He took the model plane from Vidovic’s hand and threw it to the floor.
After the incident, Krstičević said that he was not nervous and insisted that the behaviour of the SDP lawmaker was unsporting and that the intention of Vidović’s performance was to humiliate him. Although he admitted that he overacted to some extent, Krstičević told the press: “I was very calm, but you must realise that I was a wartime general and I am now the defence minister.”
Krstičević said that in the past two years he was dedicated to finding the best solution for the Croatian Air Force and now “somebody is bringing that model plane in front of you, without any respect.” “I find this humiliating and unsportsmanlike ,” the minister said.
Vidović said later he respected Krstičević as a commander and a soldier, but that in parliament they were all equal. He added that he did not wish to provoke the minister and that he gave him the model plane in jest.
More news on the aircraft procurement can be found in the Politics section.