Rear Admiral Robert Hranj
It is difficult determine how the future security environment may affect the Croatian Navy’s force-posture requirements in the coming years. Since Croatia joined NATO in 2009 our own perception of the security environment has changed. Simply being a member of this collective defense organization has reinforced our assumption that conventional aggression against Croatia is unlikely. As a member of the European Union our sea borders are now part of EU borders, and we understand that security concerns of our European partners have become our own. On one hand, we have joined an additional layer of the cooperative approach to common economic and defense challenges, but on the other Croatia has become more attractive as an entry point for the countless immigrants in their search of a better life in the West. With the likely entrance of Croatia into the Schengen Zone, this issue will gain additional importance.
The EU marked the Mediterranean Sea as one of the four areas of privileged interest and indicated securing maritime communication lines and strategic communications infrastructure as an objective. In that regard, we share our European partners’ perception of security challenges stemming from the sea. However, as the Adriatic is a semi-closed bay of the Mediterranean—distancing us from some southern threats—the priority list of our own maritime-security concerns might be slightly different from those of our Mediterranean neighbors. Our focus is on organized crime and trafficking, weapon proliferation, and ecological pollution. We also recognize that illegal immigration and terrorism, together with emerging challenges such as cyberattacks, climate change, and increased competition for energy, water, and other resources—both at the national and international level—have to be taken into consideration.
Recognizing threats and security challenges has been the easy part of the equation. Figuring out what capabilities we need to cope with the challenges and how to develop these capabilities during an economic downturn is the real challenge. In spite of fiscal austerity, the Croatian Navy has launched modernization projects that will improve our capabilities in the maritime-security domain. We are building five coastal ships for coast guard tasks, working to modernize the radar network, and planning to acquire two mine hunters.
To contribute to regional maritime security the Croatian Navy participates in a number of regional and international maritime-security-related initiatives, like the ADRION project that brings together the navies of the Adriatic and Ionian seas. We expect that some of the ongoing initiatives within the ADRION project will, in the near term, provide opportunities for tackling maritime-security threats and challenges jointly. We also participate in the Virtual Regional Maritime Traffic Center/ Trans-Regional Maritime Network maritime situational awareness.