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Introduction

From the entry to NATO as full member nation in 2009 Croatia has continuously affirmed itself as a committed and credible Ally. Taking an active part alongside the allies in NATO Headquarters in Brussels and in consensus decision-making by the member nations, Croatia has provided a direct contribution to NATO-led activities and to the implementation of joint tasks and goals of the Alliance.

Since joining the Alliance, Croatia has taken part in its most important activities, primarily the operations and missions in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, the Mediterranean and in Libya. Since 2003 to date more than 6,700 members of the Croatian Armed Forces took part in NATO-led operations, missions and activities. By contributing to NATO's operations and missions, Croatia has fulfilled its international commitments in stabilisation of crisis spots and developed the Croatian Armed Forces' capabilities. In 2010 Croatia took part in the drafting of the new Strategic Concept – the key document outlining NATO's main tasks for the upcoming decade. Croatia has been an active participant of the years-long deliberation on NATO's transformation – the process aimed at consolidating NATO's policy, resources and finances to enable it to respond adequately to future threats.
 
Furthermore, in full awareness of its increased responsibility for its neighbourhood after the accession to NATO, Croatia has proved itself as one of the strongest advocates of further enlargement of the Alliance to southeast Europe. The emphasis was placed on the issue of women, peace and security in the context of the implementation of the Resolution 1325 of the UN Security Council at the Alliance level.

Bearing in mind the growing complexity of the security environment in Europe over the past years, Croatia continues proving its credibility as an Alliance member. In that regard, and referring to the decisions from the Wales Summit and the Warsaw Summit, Croatia has increased its defence budget, and has been engaged in NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania and Poland since late 2017.

The membership of the Republic of Croatia in NATO can be valued in two aspects: Croatia was given the opportunity to shape the Alliance's policy and to actively contribute to the processes of building the security of Europe and the world. Likewise, the membership provided an additional incentive to the development of various capabilities important for the national security, which Croatia has contributed to the overall NATO capabilities.  


Croatia's path to NATO
The relations of the Republic of Croatia with NATO took institutional form at its entry to  the Partnership for Peace programme in 2000, followed by the invitation in May 2002 to join the Membership Action Plan, and with the submittal of the first Annual National Programme in October 2002 – the document in which the candidate country presents the political, security defence and economy reforms conducted in the previous year. At the Riga Summit in 2006 NATO stated the readiness to extend invitation to the candidates who met the criteria at its following summit (the Bucharest Summit), setting the clear timeline for Croatia for the first time.

At the Bucharest Summit in April 2008 the Republic of Croatia.received the invitation for membership in NATO. The Accession Protocol was then ratified by the parliaments of all member nations and the accession instruments were deposited with the U.S. State Department, whereby Croatia became a member of NATO and took part for the first time as full member at the Strasbourg-Kehl Summit held on 3 and 4 April 2009.

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