Q: We have the Croatian ambassador to NATO Mr Davor Božinović. How would you evaluate cooperation between NATO and Croatia?
DAVOR BOŽINOVIĆ (Ambassador and Head of the Croatian Mission to NATO): Thank you for that question. I think Croatia is already acting as an ally. There is, really, extensive cooperation between NATO and Croatia. And we are participating in more or less all major activities of the Alliance, in Afghanistan for example, with NATO; we have since 2003. We are participating in all NATO exercises opened to the partners and we're hosting some of them as them as well.
Also, we're engaging in regional cooperation, defence cooperation in all the countries from our region. We're helping them, advising, supporting their defence reforms. And one of the concrete activities is that Croatia is called Lead Nation in NATO Trust Fund for Bosnia and Herzegovina. So I could say that our cooperation with NATO goes beyond the partnership. You know that Croatia is one of the prospective new members of NATO. And we are acting in that regard.
Q: What is the main focus of your membership action plan?
BOŽINOVIĆ: Actually, we are working hard and filled out defense reforms, rule of law, economic and political reforms. And NATO Heads of States and Governments acknowledged Croatian progress in Riga last year, during the Riga Summit. It was a notice in the Riga Declaration. And our focus now is to sustain all of our efforts. Of course, regarding the Riga declaration there is a need of working with the Croatian public. And I could say gladly that public support for NATO in Croatia is rising. And now it's a majority of our citizens who are supporting NATO.
Q: What is the current and planned contribution of Croatia to NATO led operations?
BOŽINOVIĆ: We are very active in NATO operations. We're active especially in ISAF in Afghanistan since 2003. We started with one military police platoon. Now, in 2007, we are participating in military security, military training, police training, medical help.
And in the beginning, we were deployed only on the Kabul airport region; now, we're deployed in three different regional commands in Afghanistan. I could say that we increased the number of our troops in Afghanistan this year. Almost unanimously the decision passed in our Parliament. And we have started to deploy additional troops. It will be 200 Croatian soldiers this year in Afghanistan. And also our Parliament decided additional contribution to three hundred by the end of next year. It will make Croatia as one of the main contributors, especially when we’re speaking about partnership. But as I said, we're already acting as an Ally.
Q: There's a NATO exercise on civil emergency taking place in Croatia at the end of May. Can you tell us more about this?
BOŽINOVIĆ: Yes, it is probably the biggest NATO exercise that can be organized this year and Croatia we will be hosting. Hum, it's a scenario of a... that exercise is a response to a earthquake.
From one side, it would include different activities like search activities, rescue activities. Also it will be a scenario with the hijack of one airplane. What we'll organize... training of our... chemical and biological protection because in a scenario there is a leak from on chemical factory.
But as I said it will be the biggest exercise. Until now, there is 23 nations already on board for this exercise. Sixteen of them will participate with the 34 field teams. And which is also very important that two new partner nations,: Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro will take place and it will be first time for them that we'll participate in a NATO exercise as members of Partnership for Peace.
Q: Defence reform is a key criterium for NATO membership. How reforms is proceeding? Are there any challenges that remain?
BOŽINOVIĆ: Defence reform is a key. Last week, Assistant Secretary General John Colston was in Croatia and he said publicly -and I could recall - he was very satisfied with defence reforms in Croatia. Also a few months ago, Chairman of Military Committee General Henault was in Croatia and he said that he was impressed with our defense reforms. I think... I hope they mean what they said. You know, defense reforms are processes. But we established, we adopted a long-term development plan with let's say advices of defence planners for NATO, NATO International Staff. And I think Allies marks this plan with high mark. In this plan, we projected not only our future armed forces but also we allocated two billion Euros for modernization of procurement.
The first test of that plan we already passed because Parliament adopted budget according the figures we put in LTDP which is very important. And I could say that all implementing compliance according the LTDP are already on track. And from one side we kept a very good plan but we're seriously implementing it, everything according our needs, according our projection of Croatia armed forces and Croatia society as a future NATO member. And we expect next year to be invited as a full NATO member and to step up our preparations for officially entering the Alliance at its 60th anniversary in 2009.