Defence Minister Mario Banožić: “Croatian Army is Not Training Ground For Political Rivalry”

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“The key is a Croatian Army that needs to develop. It isn’t a training ground for political rivalry. I will never do anything, regardless of whoever wants to put me in that position, to make the Croatian Army a topic for political recriminations. The Army does credit to us all, particularly now when we are marking the 30th anniversary of the Armed Forces and each week we have at least one event,” Banožić told reporters after meeting with Kosovo’s defence minister.

He recalled that according to his decision based on the Defence Act, the Croatian Army will attend the commemoration of the 26th anniversary of Operation Flash in Okučani. He added that no one had ever made a decision on where the Chief of Staff and other commanders would be, and that will not be the case now.

There’s no such thing as the President’s Army, there’s only the Croatian Army

“This refers to people who participated in the Homeland War, people who are deeply aware of the emergence of the Croatian Army and the way it was formed. They are also aware of the fact that any commemoration, including the commemoration of Operation Flash, makes new generations proud as they need to learn how to behave and love their country,” the minister said, underscoring that he expects everyone to behave in that spirit.

“That means that we do not have the President’s Army, we only have the Croatian Army which is defined by the Defence Act,” said Banožić. He recalled that the Defence Act was adopted in 2013 under the then prime minister Zoran Milanović and said that now as president Milanović certainly knows what changes were made to the act in comparison to the period before that.

“Vital changes occurred then. The Minister of Defence participates in creating the budget and in decisions on how the budget will be spent and reports to the government and parliament,” said Banožić. He said he respects the authority of the President of the Republic as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and that they are clearly defined by the Constitution.

Banožić was referring to President Zoran Milanović’s statement on Thursday that his delegation at the commemoration in Okučani would include military commanders, while “I don’t know who will be with Plenković, but they won’t be.” 

“I think that is something that is quite damaging for the Croatian Army, to politicise it in that way. The Defence Act serves as the basis for further equipping, modernisation and development of the army. Topics like we have had until now concerning peace missions and operations, cooperation with other countries and support to civil institutions. While I am minister we will adhere to that and we will certainly not put any commander in any uncomfortable situation regarding where and with whom he will be,” said Banožić.

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