ZAGREB, Sept 14 (Hina) – The interdepartmental commission on the purchase of military aircraft will recommend the best bid by December 12, Defence Minister Mario Banozic said on Sunday evening.
“Given that the bids were submitted to the Defence Ministry on September 9 and we have three months, it is easy to calculate that (the deadline) is December 12. In these three months the interdepartmental commission will evaluate all the bids,” Banozic said in an interview with the public television service HTV when asked when a decision would be made on which fighter jets Croatia would buy.
“December 12 is the deadline that we have set,” the minister said.
He noted that the best bid may not be final, adding that the commission would talk to each bidder. There are various elements that will be decisive, such as the number of flight simulators, the weapons package, pilot training, the payment plan and cooperation between the states, and the bidders are also expected to reduce the amount of the initial offer, he said.
Banozic said that Croatia should avoid a situation in which other countries would guard its skies. “Croatia should definitely avoid that because it will not be for free. If we leave it to Hungary or Italy, which are mentioned as one of the solutions, we will pay for it, but that money will go to another country.”
Milanovic’s statement was unfair
Banozic said that it was unfair of President Zoran Milanovic to say that American aircraft should be the first choice because no one from the President’s Office is a member of the interdepartmental commission.
“The decision not to be on the commission reduces their responsibility and allows them to speak in public as they now do. And even this, in my opinion, is a form of lobbying and cheering for one of the bids, which in my opinion is unfair,” the defence minister said.
“The commission is the place to present one’s views. One should be very responsible and not present incorrect solutions to the media. One should not try to curry favour with countries involved in the tender, but should clearly stand behind the offer and support a comprehensive, unanimous solution that will be a credit to the Croatian army and the citizens of Croatia,” he added.
Banozic confirmed that there had already been pressure from certain lobbies, saying that a few days before the submission of bids there was news of “a fake offer that will be the best of all,” adding that this strategy of misinformation through the media and social networks was well known.
“I think it will intensify as the decision date draws near. But I am sure that if we as members of the commission take a clear and honest approach as we did in putting together the tender, the result will be good for all – for the Croatian army and the citizens of Croatia,” the minister said.
Speaking of the impact of the corona crisis on the defence budget, Banozic said that the budget had been cut by HRK 500 million from last year’s HRK 5.1 billion to make savings, adding that the number of staff would be reduced by about 20 per cent or 200-250 people. He said that the downsizing would be carried out through job reclassification and retirement of a certain number of staff in consultation with the trade union.