Croatia strongly supports Ukraine's NATO membership

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Croatia strongly supports Ukraine's NATO membership, Foreign Minister Gordan Grlić Radman said in Vilnius on Tuesday.
"We are expressing the Croatian government's strong commitment when it comes to Ukraine's membership of NATO and the EU," he told the press ahead of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers, taking place alongside a summit of NATO heads of state and government.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine would be given a “positive message on the path to membership" today.
Three things are key when it comes to the message to Ukraine - military assistance and raising Ukrainian army-NATO interoperability, the establishment of the NATO-Ukraine Council, which will first meet tomorrow, and easing the formal conditions for joining, said Grlić Radman.
At the ministerial meeting, he said, he will emphasise that Croatia strongly supports Bosnia and Herzegovina's Euro-Atlantic journey. Asked about the danger of negative Russian influence in BiH, he said it was "evident."
"For the first time since the Cold War, NATO is trying to review the strategic and regional plans" for deterrence and defence from Russia, he added.
The meeting of NATO foreign ministers will also be attended by their counterparts from the countries potentially exposed to negative Russian influence - BiH, Moldova and Georgia.
Croatian Defence Minister Mario Banožić is attending a meeting of NATO defence ministers. He said that "today's summit reflects a new era in collective defence" both in terms of increasing defence budgets and potential new members, including Sweden.
Croatia's defence budget is the largest since the 1991-1995 Homeland War, he said.
"We are looking forward to new purchases and common plans about which we... will communicate with other NATO members for the purpose of common deterrence."
Croatia is close to setting aside 2% of GDP for defence, which should be a new NATO minimum.
"Now we are at more than 1.8%," Banožić said, adding that at least one-fifth of that should be for modernisation and equipment. "Croatia is at 26%."
Ahead of the summit, Grlić Radman and Banožić visited the 3rd Croatian contingent in Lithuania, thanking them for contributing to the security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area.

Text: Hina/MVEP

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