Croatia has six weeks to come up with a concrete plan on how to increase its defence budget to 2 percent of GDP by 2024, Defence Minister Damir Krsticevic said on Friday in Brussels.
"NATO thinks that Croatia has to invest more in equipment and the modernisation of its army. The heads of state of NATO member countries are set to meet in London in six weeks' time and NATO believes that Croatia has to come with a concrete plan on how to achieve a defence budget of two percent," said Krsticevic who was in Brussels to attend a meeting of NATO defence ministers.
NATO heads of state agreed at a 2014 summit in Wales that within a period of ten years (by 2024), member countries needed to increase their defence spending to at least 2 percent of their respective GDP with at least 20 percent of that going to modernisation and equipment. US President Donald Trump in particular insisted that the goals be met during his term in office.
Croatia currently allocates between 1.7 and 1.75 percent of its GDP for defence.
Krsticevic said that he would pass on NATO's message to the government and the president, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces.
Croatia can increase its defence budget with the procurement of fighter jets.
After the procurement of Israeli jets fell through, a second procedure has been launched and it is being conducted by a interdepartmental commission. The first phase of that process which involved sending an enquiry to countries for a show of interest in selling their planes to Croatia, has been completed and the second phase is for Croatia to seek concrete offers and that is expected to be conducted soon.
"I hope that the the interdepartmental commission will soon launch the second phase and request particular countries to send concrete bids which will then be given a deadline of a few months," he added.
Asked whether recently appointed US Defence Secretary Mark Esper was familiar with the fact that Croatia is seeking to procure fighter jets, Krsticevic said that Esper was informed of all the activities in relations between the USA and Croatia.
"I informed him of the Croatian Army's development plans and he reiterated that the USA is prepared to continue intensively helping the Croatian Army's development," Krsticevic said.
He added that the United States is a key partner and ally to Croatia and the two countries are collaborating in a lot of areas, "with three priority" areas, he concluded.
Croatia gets 5 letters of expression of interest for new fighter jets and 8 for used ones
In late August, the Croatian interdepartmental commission for the procurement of multi-purpose combat aircraft said that it had received five letters of expression of interest to provide the country with new fighter jets and eight letters of expression of interest for second-hand jets.
In early August, the interdepartmental commission, set up by the government on 4 July, sent requests to 26 potential bidders concerning the procurement of multi-purpose combat aircraft, the government's press office recalls.
Since then the commission has considered the proposals made by those bidders who expressed interest in this project.
During the selection procedure, the commission is going to check the validity of all potential bids and to see if they comply with the tactical and technical requirements made by the Croatian Air Force.
Media outlet speculate that the expressions of interest have been submitted by Italy, France, Sweden, the USA, Norway, Denmark and Israel.