Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic spoke to the press on Thursday, commenting on the NATO summit meeting that took place on Wednesday in Brussels.
Are you satisfied with the final conclusions of the summit? Is NATO strong as ever?
Absolutely. I would say that the conversation was very honest, very interesting at times, but overall, the summit was successful. We reaffirmed out unity, cohesion, and solidarity, but also the concept of credibility – that we need to stick to our obligations.
Even before the summit, I said on so many occasions that I expect that President Trump will come with a strong request to fulfil the commitment of 2 percent GDP for defence investment. Not spending, but investment, because I believe it’s investment in the future. That was expected, and I said that it was rightfully so, because that was the pledge we took in Wales. In addition to that, that’s our commitment to our own people for their security and defence.
(At the 2014 Wales NATO summit, the Alliance members agreed to move towards the goal of spending 2 percent of their countries' GDP on defence, 20 percent of which on new equipment. The countries which spent less than that were expected to meet the target within a decade.)
Do you think the message that the Alliance is strong is the right one, and that President Trump won’t make any disruptions in the future?
I don’t think there have been any disruptions, I said there was honest conversation. And I do understand the position of the United States. For years and decades they have been the main provider of capabilities, ranging from 75 to even 80 percent, as some say. And it is time for the European member states of NATO to really step up to the plate. Some of them have increased their defence budgets to 2 percent (of GDP). Of course, it’s mostly countries that now feel sort of an immediate security threat, but the rest of us have also made plans on how to increase the defence budget to reach the commitments that we have made.
When can Croatia reach the 2 percent target?
The government accepted 2024 as the year, and there are also predictions by the Defence Ministry. Croatia will talk with other states on which expenses are included – for example, military pensions are included in the budget in some states, but not in Croatia. In some states investments in border protection are part of the budget. Since we want to be part of Schengen, our spending might be more than is presented officially. There have been some territorial threats, they do not have to come from foreign states, but in a situation when many countries are suspending their Schengen system on their borders, I think we need to take care of our own security, and then discuss it with other members of the Alliance.
Croatia,it seems, has been the story of the day yesterday evening, and today (because of its victory over England in 2018 World Cup semifinals). What were the messages and how was the atmosphere last night?
It was wonderful. Yesterday, I was absolutely exhilarated. At the end of the dinner, (French) President Macron and myself watched the last minutes together. I believe we will meet in Moscow, that’s what we agreed upon. There was a lot of excitement by many countries, everybody congratulated us. I hope this is going to give a boost to the economy and the overall development of the country as well.