Updated: 02-Dec-2003 NATO Speeches


2 Dec. 2003

Partnership's Role in Defence Reform
Between Prague and Istanbul

Address by H.E. Željka Antunovic,
Minister of Defence of the Republic of Croatia at the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council meeting in Foreign Ministers' session with invitees

Mr. Secretary General,
Dear Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen:

At the beginning, I wish to express my pleasure with the role that this distinguished forum has in building security and encouraging dialogue among partners. Croatia appreciates the opportunity that this forum provides, which is that our voice, on subjects of our interest, can be heard within the community of the nations sharing the same values and goals.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank you, Mr. Secretary General, for your cooperation and support to Croatia in the past period. Your personal engagement has significantly contributed to the progress Croatia has made during the last three years on its way to NATO membership. I wish you great success on your future assignments.

Defence reforms are a necessity if we wish to face successfully the new threats and challenges to our security in this unpredictable world. Hence, defence reforms play an indispensable role in adaptation to new political and strategic circumstances of the Euro-Atlantic area.

The role of the Partnership for Peace is exceptionally significant in reform efforts of all partners. I can certainly say it was so for Croatia. Partnership's influence on reforms has two aspects. On one side, PfP, and the possibility of future NATO membership, serves as an incentive for change. On the other, PfP, through its cooperation mechanisms, plays an exceptional advisory role. Both of these aspects are valuable for all partners.

Croatian accession to Partnership in 2000 marked the turning point in the process of defence reform. Although the wish for change was existed before, it was not until this point that all the conditions were in place to start this extensive and difficult process. Partnership for Peace, and the perspective of future NATO membership, greatly contributed to the comprehension of the need for change, both at the top of our political hierarchy, as well as with every soldier within our Armed Forces. Not only that, defence reforms were expected and desirable! Such positive attitudes within the system helped win understanding within the Croatian public.

The significant advisory role of the Alliance, and of the individual allies at the bilateral level, assisted our efforts in the proper direction. At the beginning of our participation in the Partnership, the common effort on building the system of the democratic control of the armed forces, defence policy and strategy, and the system of linking political priorities with financial resources, created a sound foundation which bears fruit today.

Croatia is concluding the first phase of the extensive reform effort. The use of the significant expertise of the Alliance has greatly facilitated our efforts. In the near future we expect that resources freed up by personnel reduction will be transferred towards modernisation programmes. The second phase of our reform effort has already started. Today, Croatia is working on the Strategic Defence Review. This document will enable us to comprehend the current state of our system. Next it will define the future role of Croatian Armed Forces, the needed capabilities and resources. It will thereby propose to policy makers a set of far reaching decisions which will impact the development of our defence system in the next decade.

Today our priorities are different in relation to the first period of our participation in the Partnership. Croatia participates in the Membership Action Plan and is preparing for accession to NATO. Therefore, it is only logical that one of the basic assumptions underlying our Strategic Defence Review is Croatian membership in NATO. This assumption is the basis of our Threat Assessment, as well as for defining the role of our Armed Forces and the whole defence system.

Simultaneously, Partnership's mechanisms play an invaluable role in pointing out the deficiencies of the system. While participating in the Planning and Review Process, Croatia started with preparations of her first units for deployment in NATO-led operations in 2001. Partnership Goals provide a clear direction for such a preparation. Their implementation within our defence system has pointed to some basic deficiencies of the system, which was not designed for participation in military operations abroad. The Planning and Review Process has prepared our forces for successful participation in ISAF. It has also opened a lot of issues essential to the further development of our defence system. The lessons learned have already found a way towards being incorporated into our Strategic Defence Review.

When Croatia entered the Membership Action Plan in 2002, the Planning and Review Process gained even more influence on our defence reform. Today, through PARP and the Partnership Goals' implementation, the advisory role of the Partnership for our overall reform efforts is much clearer. The focus of the process has widened, from preparation of the specific units and capabilities for NATO-led operations to the preparation of the whole defence system for NATO membership. NATO's advice has contributed to the opening of a series of issues significant for our defence system, the answers to which we will seek in the next phase of our defence reform.

Croatia is carefully studying the transformation of the Alliance and all the steps taken in order to face the new threats to our mutual security. The Prague Summit opened another chapter, with its decisions which are the logical extension of the 1999 Strategic Concept. I refer primarily to decisions on the new command structure, Prague Capabilities Commitment, NATO Response Force and the defence against terrorism. All these decisions already have a great impact on our defence system adjustments through the consideration of the future Croatian role within NATO.

Allow me to point out Croatian expectations from the Istanbul Summit. The Croatian defence reforms are in full swing. By June 2004, when the Strategic Defence Review is completed, the Croatian defence system will have a much clearer picture of where we are today, and what needs to be done to get us where we want to be. NATO's support for this process remains crucial. And the perspective of future membership remains one of the main motives for these changes.

At the end, allow me a brief comment on peace and security in South Eastern Europe. Croatia welcomes the involvement of the Alliance in the region, and supports further integration of the South-East European nations into the Euro-Atlantic structures. We emphasise the need for further NATO's involvement in the region, where certain factors of instability still influence our mutual security. We wish to see Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Serbia and Montenegro, in the Partnership for Peace. Croatia feels that these nations' membership in PfP will contribute to further stabilisation of the region. We encourage both nations to fulfil the conditions necessary for this step including structural defence reforms. Defence reforms, aiming at creating transparent institutions, support the building of confidence, stability and security.

Thank you.

Go to Homepage Go to Index