In order for allies and partners to maintain a democratic order based on common values, it is necessary to have an equal understanding of the challenges and proper situational awareness, said Minister Banožić
On Friday October 20, 2023, Defense Minister Mario Banožić participated in the 8th Zagreb Security Forum via video call from the United States where he is currently on an official visit.
The 8th Zagreb Security Forum took place in the Congress Centre at the Dr. Franjo Tuđman Croatian Defense Academy, and was organized by the Hybrid Warfare Research Institute and St. George Association, its topic being Transatlantic Cooperation and New Security Architecture.
The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Croatia supports the organization of the Forum as it represents one of the most significant opportunities for the exchange of knowledge and experience regarding the current geopolitical challenges with an emphasis on hybrid threats.
On this occasion, Minister Banožić said that after the Russian aggression against Ukraine, which shook the foundations of the security architecture of the Euro-Atlantic area, everyone from the security and defense sector understands the broad negative potential of the war in Ukraine on the overall global security.
“More than a year later, we face crisis hotspots in the Caucasus, the Middle East, the Sahel, the Western Balkans, as well as challenges in energy and food markets. Unfortunately, last week’s brutal terrorist attack on Israel, which we strongly condemn, further complicates the situation in the Middle East and poses a new major security challenge on a global scale,” Minister Banožić said.
Mr. Banožić pointed out that such a course of events, in addition to numerous challenges, has also brought about the necessary changes that have stopped the trends of stagnation and reduction of military spending, and consequently the loss of defense capabilities. The trend of investment in defense is no longer only an obligation, but also a necessity, which was confirmed by NATO allies at this year’s NATO Summit in Vilnius.
In this context, the Defense Minister said: “From the point of view of the Republic of Croatia, the defense budget has significantly increased since 2021, when thanks to 30% allocation for equipment and modernization, for the first time we not only reached, but also considerably exceeded the NATO guideline of 20% allocation. The trend continues to the next year, for which the budget has been increased by more than €60 million compared to 2023, which will allow us to further develop the capabilities needed to deal with conventional and unconventional threats.”
In his address, Minister Banožić also referred to the overall European and global situation, and pointed out that the defense sector is facing a demand to be ready to make a stronger contribution to regional and global security “as soon as yesterday”.
“For this reason, here in the United States of America as our most important strategic partner, we are holding a series of meetings and discussions focused on continuing the long-standing bilateral and defense cooperation through joint projects to equip and modernize the Croatian Armed Forces,” said Minister Banožić.
“It follows therefore that in order for allies and partners to maintain a democratic international order based on common values, it is first of all necessary to have an equal understanding of the challenges and proper situational awareness,” he said.
On this occasion, Minister Banožić mentioned that in this challenging security context, the Republic of Croatia has its role and a share of responsibility.
“The Republic of Croatia promotes Euro-Atlantic integration, and makes efforts to detect and combat various malicious external influences that, together with local supporters, seek to undermine the stability and Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the region. Accordingly, the Republic of Croatia strongly supports the Euro-Atlantic aspirations of all the countries in the region, and clearly insists on meeting all the accession criteria,” the Minister emphasized.
Minister Banožić also referred to hybrid warfare, disinformation campaigns, legal warfare, appropriation of Croatian cultural heritage and migrant flows directed towards the Republic of Croatia.
“It can be concluded that the challenges ahead are greater than ever since the end of the Homeland and the Cold War. That is why the eight edition of the Forum is the right moment and the right place to keep promoting interdepartmental and cross-country cooperation, which is necessary to counter the wide range of hybrid threats we face,” Minister Banožić concluded