NATO’s relations with Croatia

  • Last updated: 05 Oct. 2012 14:36

NATO and Croatia actively cooperate in a range of areas, with a particular emphasis on defence and security sector reform, as well as support for wider democratic and institutional reform. In April 2008, Croatia was invited to start accession talks to become a member of the Alliance. The accession protocols were signed on 9 July 2008. Croatia officially became a NATO member on 1 April 2009.

b070606c 6th June 2007 Visit to NATO by the Prime Minister of Croatia, Ivo Sanader. Left to right: Prime Minister of Croatia, Ivo Sanader with NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer

During the period leading up to accession, NATO had been involving Croatia in Alliance activities to the greatest extent possible, and continued to provide support and assistance, including through the Membership Action Plan.

Beyond the key focus on reform, another important area of cooperation is the country’s support for NATO-led operations. Croatia has contributed to the NATO-led Kosovo Force (KFOR), both directly and indirectly. It has also been contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan since 2003.

Framework for cooperation

Until it became a member in the Alliance, Croatia’s cooperation with NATO took place in the framework of the Membership Action Plan. In the MAP framework, Croatia set out its reform plans and timelines in its Annual National Programme (ANP). Key areas included political, military and security-sector reforms. Important priorities were efforts to meet democratic standards, support for reducing corruption and fighting organized crime, judicial reform, improving public administration, promoting good-neighbourly relations and ensuring sufficient levels of public support for joining NATO. NATO Allies provided feedback on the envisaged reforms and evaluated their implementation.

Until the Bucharest Summit, where Croatia was invited to join NATO, NATO teams visited Croatia to draft a progress report on the implementation of the ANP, including possible recommendations for further action. These were  agreed by Allies and then discussed by the North Atlantic Council with representatives from Croatia at a high-level meeting at the end of the cycle. More specific and technical reforms in the defence area were discussed in parallel in the context of the Partnership for Peace Planning and Review Process (PARP), through which the country has accepted planning targets, or Partnership Goals, in a wide variety of defence capability areas. Following the  invitation issued at  the Bucharest Summit, work with Albania in the defence reform/defence planning areas has been gradually switched to the modalities which apply to Allies.

Croatia also cooperates with NATO and Partner countries in a wide range of other areas through the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC). It tailors its participation in the PfP programme through an annual Individual Partnership Programme, selecting those activities that will help achieve the goals it has set in the Annual National Programme.

Key areas of cooperation

Security cooperation

Croatian forces have joined those of the NATO Allies in operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. Approximately 300 Croatian soldiers, diplomats and military police officers currently work within the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) across three different regions of Afghanistan.  Croatia is in the process of significantly increasing its contribution to ISAF and will make up to 300 troops available for ISAF deployment. In addition, in 2006, a Croatian Mobile Liaison Observation Team deployed as part of the Lithuanian Provincial Reconstruction Team, in Ghor province. A combined medical team, with specialists from all three MAP countries, joined ISAF in August 2005.

Croatia continues to provide logistical support to NATO-led operations in Kosovo. Sea and airports have been made available as well as various military facilities, overflight rights and the use of the national air traffic control service.
Plans are underway for a Croatian donation of weapons and military equipment to the Iraqi Armed Forces through NATO’s Training Mission in Iraq. In the framework of the same mission, Croatia has also offered to provide training in Croatia for Iraqi security forces.

The country continues to host and participate in a range of PfP exercises and activities. It has identified a number of units for cooperation with NATO under the umbrella of PfP for operations, training and exercises. Croatia is working to establish its International Military Operations Centre as an official regional PfP training centre.

The fight against terrorism takes place in the framework of the Partnership Action Plan on Terrorism (PAP-T). This includes sharing intelligence and analysis with NATO, enhancing national counter-terrorist capabilities and improving border security.

Defence and security sector reform

NATO is supportive of the wide-ranging and ongoing institutional and judicial reform process underway in Croatia, which is outlined in its Annual National Programme..

Croatia’s participation in the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP) since 2000 has helped develop the ability of its forces to work with NATO. PARP is a core element of Croatia’s Membership Action Plan.

Based on the results of the Strategic Defence Review, and in consultation with the Allies, Croatia adopted a Long-Term Development Plan for the restructuring of its Armed Forces. The emphasis is on creating professional, mobile, deployable and financially viable forces that are interoperable with the forces of Allies. Croatia and NATO are also cooperating on improving the capabilities of the Croatian coastguard and other naval assets, border policing activities, military training, military education and English language training

The country joined the Operational Capabilities Concept (OCC) in 2005. The OCC is a mechanism through which units available for PfP operations can be evaluated, and better integrated with NATO forces to increase operational effectiveness.

Civil emergency planning

Croatia is enhancing its national civil emergency and disaster-management capabilities in cooperation with NATO and through participation in activities organized by the Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Centre (EADRCC). Croatia also participates in the work of the Senior Civil Emergency Planning Committee.

Croatia was one of the first countries to respond to a request from Slovakia, sent through the EADRCC in April 2006, to provide relief from the consequences of flooding by sending material and financial assistance.

In May 2007, Croatia hosted and co-organized the consequence-management exercise IDASSA 2007, together with the EADRCC. The exercise aimed at improving cooperation and coordination between NATO and Partner countries.

Science and environment

Under the Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Programme, Croatia has received grant awards for over 50 collaborative projects. Projects include advanced research workshops on information security, and studies into harbour pollution assessment and management, counter-terrorism and crisis management. 

Public diplomacy

During the MAP process, public diplomacy work focused on increasing  public awareness of how NATO works and promoting understanding of the rights and obligations which membership brings. Public diplomacy activities also aim to develop and maintain links with civil society actors and to facilitate security-related activities and programmes in the country. NATO’s Public Diplomacy Division plays a key role in this area as do individual Allies and Partner countries.

Groups of opinion leaders from Croatia are regularly invited to visit NATO Headquarters and the Supreme Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE). Ambassadors from NATO member countries and NATO officials have travelled to Croatia to speak at public events. Croatia has also hosted seminars and conferences. NATO has opened a depository library within the political science faculty at the University of Zagreb to improve access to relevant documentation and information.

Evolution of relations

NATO-Croatia relations date back to 1994, when senior Croatian diplomats publicly declared Croatia’s interest in joining the Partnership for Peace (PfP). Relations continued to expand, and Croatia joined the PfP and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in May 2000. Bilateral cooperation has developed progressively in light of the country’s membership aspirations and its participation in the Membership Action Plan since 2002. In April 2008, Croatia was invited to start accession talks with the Alliance. NATO Allies  signed protocols on Croatia’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty on 9 July 2008 and the ratification process is ongoing. It is expected that the process will be completed in time for the Strasburg-Kehl  Summit, so that  Croatia can join it as a full member of the Alliance.

Key milestones

1994 Senior Croatian diplomats publicly express an interest in joining the Partnership for Peace.
1999 Croatia allows the use of its airspace for operation Allied Force and provides logistical support to KFOR.
2000 Croatia joins the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) and the Partnership for Peace (PfP).
  Croatia joins the PfP Planning and Review Process (PARP).
2001 Croatia develops its first Individual Partnership Plan (IPP).
2002 Croatia accepts an invitation to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP).
  Croatia hands in its first Annual National Programme in the framework of the MAP.
  Croatia hosts a PfP civil emergency planning and relief exercise.
2003 Croatian forces contribute to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan.
  Croatia hosts the PfP exercise “Cooperative Engagement 2003”.
2004 Croatia hosts a number of PfP disaster-management seminars.
2005 Croatia participates in its first PfP crisis-management exercise.
  A combined medical team of the three MAP countries joins NATO-led forces in Afghanistan in August.
  Croatia hosts a PfP seminar on littoral warfare and a conference on movement and transportation.
2006 Croatia hosts a disaster-management training project for south-eastern Europe.
  Croatia hosts a meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Policy Advisory Group of the EAPC in May.
2007 The Croatian parliament endorses a proposal to increase the country’s contribution to ISAF.
  Croatia hosts the disaster-response exercise “IDASSA 2007” in May.
  Croatia hosts the PfP maritime exercise “Noble Midas 2007” from end September to mid October.
2008 In April 2008, Croatia is invited to start accession talks with the Alliance.
  NATO Allies  sign protocols on  Croatia’s accession to the North Atlantic Treaty on 9 July 2008.
2009 1 April 2009, Croatia adheres to the Alliance.