It is in the remit of the defence minister and not the armed forces’ chief-of-staff to define the needs of the service for active military service personnel, in compliance with the law.
Responding to President Zoran Milanović’s letter which he sent to Prime Minister Andrej Milanović accusing Minister Mario Banožić of wrongdoing, the ministry’s statement says that the President cannot appoint a military commander without the consent of the defence minister.
The ministry also points out that sending Colonel Burčul into retirement is not within the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces’ Chief-of-Staff, and proposals to that effect need not be made by the army chief-of-staff, and retirement is within the powers of the defence minister.
The explanation for the cessation of the service of Colonel Burčul as the commander of the Honorary and Protection Battalion cited the plan for the cessation of the active service of personnel in 2021 and not a list, as claimed by the president.
The plan is a document based on the law regulating service in the armed forces, the ministry says.
The plan was adopted unanimously at a college meeting chaired by the defence minister, and in attendance were the Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff and his deputies, says the ministry, adding that this plan also specifies a law-based criterion under which Colonel Burčul’s active service ceased.
Concerning the President’s objections to the poor equipment of the armed forces, the ministry recalls that the revised budget for 2021 increased defence outlays by HRK 2.387 billion.
The current financial plan has increased from HRK 4.8 billion to nearly HRK 7.2 billion, according to the statement.
The president accused Banožić of attending ministerial meetings in NATO and the EU without informing him “as the President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Croatian Armed Forces, and without obtaining consent for the positions he is presenting there on behalf of the Republic of Croatia.”
The minister responded by saying that he had attended the EU and NATO ministerial meetings in accordance with the Constitution and laws.
The statement also dismissed the allegations about irregularities in the employment of staff at the Defence Ministry and countered that there were irregularities at the Office of the President.
Minister accused President of nepotism
Earlier on Thursday, Banožić reiterated his claims that Milanović had insisted on a specific officer to succeed Burčul, although the man concerned had no qualifications, that is necessary ranks, for that position.
Banožić elaborated that he had been asked to promote the officer concerned in an extraordinary procedure so that the candidate could meet the requirements for the new commander of the Honorary and Protection Battalion, which he refused to do. The minister described this as a pure example of nepotism on the part of the president.
He went on to say that he could forget all that had happened in recent days provided that all the activities are back within the framework of the Defence Act.
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