EDA Chief Executive, Jiří Šedivý, visited Croatia this week (2-3 December) for high-level talks with Minister of Defence Mario Banožić, Chief of Defence Vice Admiral Robert Hranj, Defence State Secretary Zdravko Jakop, as well as the country’s national policy, capability, armaments and research directors. Mr Šedivý also met with Political Director Petar Mihatov (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and representatives of Croatian Defence Industry Competitiveness Cluster.
Discussions with Minister Banožić focused on the potential and opportunities for Croatia to grow its engagement with EDA. Mr. Šedivý took the opportunity to further present EDA’s work and projects, with a special focus on the cooperation opportunities identified in the first Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and the state of play in the PESCO implementation where Croatia is participating in seven projects. Defence innovation, and EDA’s crucial role in it, were also raised with the minister, following up on the recent debate at EDA’s ministerial Steering Board. Several options for EDA’s future role are currently being discussed, including that of establishing a Defence Innovation Hub within the Agency. The ongoing work on the EU’s Strategic Compass was another agenda point. Mr Mr. Šedivý explained how the Agency contributes to the capability and technology dimensions (Invest chapter) of the Compass while insisting on the need for developing full spectrum, high-end capabilities by using the existing prioritisation and implementation tools such as the CARD, PESCO and the European Defence Fund (EDF).
“I am delighted to have had the opportunity to personally present EDA’s work and role to Croatia. This visit also allowed me to thank Croatia for its continuous support to the Agency and the different EU defence initiatives, including CARD and PESCO, which are crucial for bringing defence cooperation forward. I believe with the challenges that Europe is facing, cooperation remains the best and most effective way of addressing them. There is much potential in defence cooperation and the EDA for Croatia to exploit. I particularly welcome the opportunity to encourage the Croatian authorities to benefit further from collaborative opportunities in defence, especially using the Agency to their full potential”, Mr Šedivý commented.
Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić said: “The participation of Croatian companies in projects co-financed by the EDF opens up numerous opportunities. Certain amount of financial resources will need to be invested and this fact should also be considered when planning activities in the coming years. From the very beginning, Croatia has supported the establishment of the European Defence Fund and one of the priorities in the field of defence and security during the Croatian Presidency of the Council of the EU was to support strengthening the competitiveness of the defence industry. Therefore, Croatia supported the initial proposal of 13 billion euros for EDF and also regarding the cooperation - we supported the requirement of having minimum 3 entities from at least three Member States”.
Croatia is involved in several major EDA projects and programmes, such as Military Mobility (under which two technical arrangements for air and surface cross border movement permissions were signed by Croatia on 16 Nov.), the Chemical, Biological, Radiological Nuclear Surveillance as Service (CBRN SaaS) project where a Croatian company (Dok-Ing) is a member of the consortium implementing the project, or the Maritime Surveillance Network (MARSUR) which Croatia joined last year. Yet, the list of opportunities for additional involvement in EDA’s work is long.
The Chief Executive began his trip to Zagreb with a visit to the afore-mentioned Croatian defence company Dok-Ing where he stressed EDA’s industry engagement and the existing opportunities for industry to participate in and benefit from EDA’s activities, especially in the R&T domain.