Croatian Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic met with the Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency (EDA), Jorge Domecq, in Zagreb on Monday, their talks focusing on the priorities of the Croatian presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2020, the Defence Ministry said in a press release.
Domecq arrived for an official visit, following an informal meeting of EU defence ministers and ahead of Croatia's six-month rotating EU presidency, at Krsticevic's invitation.
During the meeting, Krsticevic said that the EU presidency was both a great responsibility and a great opportunity for Croatia.
"In the area of defence, the focus of the Croatian presidency will be on the implementation of defence initiatives such as PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation) and CARD (the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence) and on military mobility, with emphasis on their coherence and complementarity, as well as on the industrial dimension of defence (the European Defence Fund), on strengthening EU-NATO cooperation and further EU efforts in southeastern Europe," the defence minister said.
A defence industry conference to be held in Croatia in 2020
Krsticevic went on to say that a defence industry conference would be held in Croatia as part of its EU presidency.
He expressed his satisfaction with the EDA chief executive's visit, citing excellent cooperation and support from EDA as part of the implementation of PESCO projects, CARD and the national plan for the implementation of PESCO. He recalled that Croatia was actively participating in six PESCO projects.
"The existing cooperation framework provides a good foundation for us to implement our ambitions, but additional efforts should be made to ensure the coherence and complementarity of initiatives and the cooperation of all relevant stakeholders," the defence minister said.
Krsticevic noted that the next multi-annual financial framework would see a major step forward in financial allocations for the development of defence capabilities and research within the European Defence Fund.
Speaking of the Croatian defence industry, he said that it was internationally recognised for its specialised and state-of-the-art products, noting that Croatian troops were fully equipped with Croatian-made equipment and weapons.
He said that it was very important to make sure that small and medium-sized businesses had access to funding, adding that this was the only way to ensure even distribution of funds and development of the defence industry and research community.
Krsticevic thanked EDA for supporting Croatian companies in applying for EU tenders, which resulted in the allocation of funding to the Utilis company for the Cyber Conflict Simulator project in 2017.
"This is the first primarily defence project co-financed from the European structural and investment funds (ESIF), which is a milestone in EDA's long-term efforts to open the possibility of EU funding for defence research projects," the minister said.
Speaking of Croatia's participation in EDA programmes, Krsticevic said that the procedure had been initiated for Croatia to join the MARSUR programme, which allows interested countries to further develop the network of information exchanges in the fight against drug trafficking, smuggling, illegal migration and international terrorism.
Krsticevic thanked Domecq for helping establish cooperation regarding the Croatian presidency of the EU and for support in organising planned activities relating to the defence industry.
Croatia's EU presidency an opportunity to incorporate EU defence initiatives into national defence plans
Domecq said that EDA was deeply committed to providing support to its member states regardless of their size.
The present and forthcoming presidency is an opportunity for further progress in incorporating EU defence initiatives into national defence plans and programmes and for improving cooperation to ensure an effective and interoperable European defence, the EDA chief executive said.
He confirmed EDA's interest in organising a high-level defence industry conference in the first half of 2020.
During his visit, Domecq is due to hold a lecture at the Croatian Chamber of Commerce for representatives of the defence industry and research community about the work of EDA and the European Commission and about opportunities which new EU defence initiatives provide to small and medium-sized enterprises and the research community, the Defence Ministry said.
EDA was established in 2004 with a view to supporting the Council of the EU and member states in their efforts to improve the EU's defence capabilities. Croatia became a member of EDA on 1 July 2013 when it joined the EU.