By Ms. Elena Formicone, Analyst, IB Consultancy, Netherlands
The Republic of Croatia is a parliamentary democracy, based on the principles of welfare state, freedom, equality and the rule of law. Its political system lays its foundation on the division of the legislative, the executive and the judiciary powers. The Croatian Parliament, the Sabor, is constituted by a single house and its members are in charge for four years. The President of the Republic is elected by direct elections and remains in office for five years. He represents the country abroad and works together with the Government in outlining and implementing foreign policy and he commands the armed forces.
The Government set forth laws and the State Budget, conducts foreign and domestic policy, and guide the work of the state administration.
Since its declaration of independence in 1991, which was followed by four intense years of war and a decade of authoritarian nationalism, Croatia has been establishing as a free, democratic and responsible country, guaranteeing its entrance to the European Union, NATO and UN, where it has been acting as an active member ever since, by outlining domestic and international strategic policies in line with tenets shared with its partners and allies.
Its geopolitical asset is drawn upon its strategic but also delicate position between the Western area and the South-Eastern part of Europe, and upon the historical security threats linked to the heterogeneous ethnicities and roots of the peoples living in those areas, which, as proven by the past, frightened the European security equilibrium and the so-called Pax Europaea. Therefore, since the dawn of its establishment as an independent country, Croatia has set its national security as top priority in its agenda, while also striving to strengthen its position and role in the international arena as a reliable actor.
In line with what has been mentioned above, Croatia’s latest development regarding its security framework is embodied by the National Security Strategy issued in 2017, which sets forth new policies and tools for the implementation of national interests, and for the achievement of a suitable level of security aimed at leading the country to a gradual and persistent growth.
In fact, Croatia has been drawing its attention towards CBRNe proliferation, since it is perceived by the government as embodying some of the main and ever-growing security threats, which requires a widespread and stable domestic and external system of counteraction.
For this reason, Croatia has been actively committing with its international partners and allies in carrying out existent instruments to counter CBRNe threats, all the while striving to establish a fully-fledged and stable domestic system for producing, trading and conveying sensitive, dual-use and military-use technologies which can be employed for facing CBRNe threats.
Furthermore, one of the main security threats Croatia faces is represented by the notable amount of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmines from the Independence War, which were the main devices deployed by the fighting parties in order to secure military bases. In fact, following the end of the dispute, a fully-fledged demining process of the entire soil has lacked, and the government is still striving to cope with landmine suspected areas, that encompasses around 200 square kilometers of its territory, counting around 15.000 landmines and unexploded ordnance.
Regarding precisely the CBRNe field, Croatia has ratified some of the more significant international covenants on non-proliferation of WMD such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT); the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CBTB) Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction (CWC); Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Biological and Toxin Weapons and on their Destruction (BTWC) and International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
Moreover, Croatia has also agreed to take part in some of the main export control regimes such as the Wassenaar Arrangement (WA), Australian Group (AG), the Zangger Committee (ZC), and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
It is also a member of the Hague Rules of Procedure against the Proliferation of Ballistic Missiles (HCOC) and has joined two international initiatives – the Initiative to Prevent the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (PSI) and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT).
Nonetheless, Croatia has not signed nor ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of nuclear weapons (TPNW) and has openly sided against the annual UN General Assembly resolution which supported the adoption of the TPNW and inviting all states to sign and ratify, due to the fact it stands for the exploitation of nuclear resources.
Croatia complies with its duties and responsibilities deriving from the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, which foresees all the parties to concretely preempt for obstructing WMD proliferation, and to commit to relevant international arrangements in this regard, respecting its domestic legislation and international law.
Although Croatia does not present yet a fully-fledged national action plan for coping with CBRNe devices and terrorist attacks, it came up with a National Strategy for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, where counter CBRNe threats measures are contemplated. Said strategy lays its foundation in line with tenets of the Croatian Constitution, its National Security Strategy, its Defence Strategy and its National Anti-Terrorism Strategy, but also in several specific laws such as Radiological and Nuclear Safety Act and the Act on the Transport of Hazardous Substances.
In addition, Croatia possesses bilateral ties based on mutual assistance in order to fight CBRNe threats.
Overview of CBRNe and IED Stakeholders
In line with the abovementioned strategy and its action plan, the Croatian Government has established a National Commission for the Suppression of WMD Proliferation, which will enable better cooperation and information exchange among all the authorities involved in the Strategy implementation and among other working bodies of the Government of the Republic of Croatia that deal with various aspects of CBRNe threats. Said Commission gathers delegates from the Government itself, from different Ministries, from the main other authorities involved in this field including the Office of the National Security Council, the Security and Intelligence Agency, General Staff of the Croatian Armed Forces, the Coast Guard, the State Office for Radiological and Nuclear Safety and the National Protection and Rescue Directorate
Among its main goals we can detect, on one hand, the general supervision of the Strategy and its Action Plan development, assurance of a safe data and knowledge flow among the parties and threat assessment; while also a more concrete approach to cope with CBRNe threats, through the sponsoring and organization of trainings, exercises, and workshop for both military and civilian parties. All the above-mentioned actions would serve the final purpose of setting up a stable and comprehensive machinery to face and handle crisis scenarios in which CBRNe accidents or attacks are involved.
In such a critical situation, the Commission would also have the power to deploy an ad-hoc Task Force constituted by delegates from several Ministries, different agencies from the Ministry of Defence, and the National Security Council, in order to analyze and immediately cope with the issue.
Overall, when it comes to civil protection from CBRNe matters, the main designated players involved in the process would be on one hand, the Croatian Ministry of Interior (MUP) and the Civil Protections Directorate, which embody the key actors for the assessment of CBRNe incidents response, while on the other, the Croatian Armed Forces (CAF) and the several regional police units from all over the country, which intervene through a coordinated response based on the entity of the incident and its location of occurrence.
Croatia possesses a Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense Unit (NBKO) constituted by the NBKO Battalion of the Croatian Army, alongside with its military vehicles and equipment, whose goal is to assist the entire CAF in CBRNe protection, by conducting CBRN threat assessment, CBRNe reconnaissance and decontamination. Said Battalion also assists Croatian police special forces to carry out Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) and Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) activities, and Fire Departments for Hazardous Materials (HazMat) decontamination activities.
Furthermore, MUP is striving to build expertise regarding CBRNe through trainings, workshops and conferences, in order to establish a strong, comprehensive and harmonized domestic system for responding to incidents falling into this sphere.
As mentioned before, landmines and UXO are still a relevant issue for Croatian Government. Therefore, it is also essential to mention that Mine Action Plans are adopted on an annual basis by the government, while the MUP drafts demining plans, which will be then employed in the demining process of the designated territory.
Croatia defense budget is $1.2 billion in 2022, which embodies the 2.3% of its GDP, with the expectation of reaching a 7% higher Compound Annual Growth Rate between 2023-2027. Croatian defense market research report illustrates the market trends projection regarding the upcoming years.
Croatia is also putting effort in modernizing its military capabilities with brand-new tools and technologies in order to tackle CBRNe threats. In fact, it is also striving to increase its defensive machinery through investment on the private sector and on EU tenders, aiming at allowing its military to tackle heterogenous threats. Military fixed-wing, infrastructure and logistics, land vehicles are among the top four priorities in the market, alongside with ammunitions, tactical communications, military radar, electronic warfare systems, Electro-Optical/Infra-Red systems, military rotorcraft, body armor and personal protection, military simulation and training, naval vessels and surface combatant,Inertial Navigation System, and artillery.
As mentioning Croatian military capabilities, according to the Observatory of Economic Complexity, this country is among the 30 strongest arms exporters in the whole world, having exported, just in 2020, around 4 million dollars’ worth military capabilities, mainly to Togo ($4.05M), Bosnia and Herzegovina ($39.4k), Jordan ($27.7k), Brazil ($8.09k), and Switzerland ($3.83k). On the contrary, Croatia has imported arms for a total amount of around 7.82k dollars from mostly Germany ($7.72k) and Netherlands ($103).
If we have a closer insight at capabilities in CBRNe counter incidents response, it is possible to detect that Croatia possess state of the art instruments such as command vehicle HMMWV, Iveco Astra water tanker truck and Iveco tanker trucks transporting MPD-100 for the decontamination following CBRNe incidents to people, vehicles, equipment and land. More precisely, it consists of an electrical unit, a water tank, a water heating device, a system for preparing and mixing substances for decontamination, and a spraying system. Said MPD-100 has been acquired by CAR since 2009 and it has great value since one MPD-100 system can decontaminate up to 96 people, or 6/7 combat vehicles in one hour. The Iveco Astra water tanker truck is used to supply water to the MPD-100 system , and can also be used as a means of extinguishing fires.
Regarding EOD and C-IED capabilities the Pioneering Battalion of the Croatian Army’s Engineer Regiment has a significant role since it possesses two tEODors, which are robots that are used for deactivation and annihilation of IED. Moreover, this Battalion also possess equipment and EOD 9A heavy protective suits.
Croatia also presents an important training facility, namely “The Croatian Army Training and Doctrine Command – Fran Krsto Frankopan (ZOD), which is the main Croatian Army training center, founded in 2007. In fact, it is constituted by 7 Organizational Commands, 2 Military Training Grounds and 4 Training Centers, where many trainings and exercises to counter CBRNe threats are conducted.
Programs and Joint Operations/Exercises in the field of CBRNe
As mentioned before, Croatia has been striving to increase its level of expertise and knowledge in countering CBRNe and EOD actions. In fact, teams from Croatian Special Intervention Units (SIUs) took part in the NCT PRO Challenge Europe 2022 which was held in Zagreb, Croatia on 3-7 October 2022.
This training based on combined tactical and CBRNe/EOD missions, was organized by the MUP, Lucko Anti-Terrorist Unit, the CBRNe Society and NCT Consultants, and was attended by Command of Special Forces, Special and Intervention Units, Police Anti-Exsploziv Service Police Directorate Public Firefighting Brigade City and the State Intervention Forces Civil Defense from Croatia.
Additionally, Croatia is member of the CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative (EU CBRN CoE), where ten countries of the Southeast and Eastern Europe (SEEE) have set CBRN risk and threat assessment as one of the main regional priorities.
In order to address the regional needs, the SEEE Regional Secretariat initiated an internal discussion with the European Commission and the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI). Upon building up the risk assessment capabilities in the SEEE region, it was agreed to set up a very comprehensive approach in addressing the countries needs comprehensively. From this perspective, Croatia would attend trainings, exercises and conferences for learning about update manners on how to assess threats and increasing its knowhow on CBRNe risk management, along with its main tenets. Moreover, Croatia would also have the chance to strengthen its CBRNe risk mitigation capabilities through the development of early-warning systems, together with standards and operational forces for action within the European Union, but particularly with neighbouring countries with which they share mutual threats.
Within the European framework, Croatia is also an active party of the CBRN Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) projects since 2019 when it was chosen to become one of the members of the CBRN Surveillance as a Service (CBRN SaaS) project, which establishes a deployable 24/7 CBRN surveillance capability. This project’s main objective is to optimize the exploitation of unmanned ground systems and aerial drones which is equipped with a variety of sensors to deliver a real time CBRN surveillance, detection and incident management capability for both civilian and military purposes, in order to strengthen Common CBRNE Operational Pictures used for EU missions and operations.
Furthermore, in 2022 Croatia had the great chance to host the NATO Science for Peace and Security (SPS) Information Day, an event aimed at presenting the launch of this unprecedented program, that entails conferences, advanced training courses and workshops focused on improving civilian cooperation among NATO member states in the field of research, innovation and knowledge sharing in several fields, including CBRNe defense, touching upon topics such as risk management, detection, decontamination, dispose and medical countermeasures of CBRNe agents, but also Mine and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) Detection and Clearance, through the elaboration on the upgraded technologies and instruments, along with C-IED actions. Having been Croatia the hosting country for this event, it is the undeniable evidence of its willingness to embody an active and reliable actor in the international arena alongside with its NATO allies and partners, to tackle the main issues threatening the collective security and peace.
Through this analysis, it is evident to perceive that, although its relatively young age as an independent state, Croatia has been proving to take concrete actions in shaping a strong and complete domestic system capable of facing the heterogeneity of threats, including CBRNe ones. Even though this country does not present yet a fully-fledged national action plan for coping with CBRNe devices and terroris attacks, the MUP is committing in bettering its security framework. We also understood that its defensive machinery is still lacking ad hoc units to be deployed depending on the entity of the incident. Nonetheless, CAF units, police special forces and fire departments have been proving extremely keen on preparing for any possible scenarios, as observed by their successful participation to the NCT PRO Challenge Europe.
Ms. Elena Formicone is an Analyst at IB Consultancy. Her professional background includes an internship at the Italian Embassy in France and over 3 years’ experience in the Italian public administration, more precisely at the University of Pavia.
Regarding her academic portfolio, she holds a Master’s Degree in World Politics and International Relations from the University of Pavia, a Bachelor’s Degree in Political, Social and International Sciences from the University of Bologna (Italy), including a year abroad at Sciences Po Bordeaux (France), and a Training Certificate in Cyber Geopolitics and International Relations from LUMSA University (Italy).