The Croatian Defence Ministry said on Monday that in March it prevented an international scandal involving the participation of the Honorary and Protection Battalion in a commemoration in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The ministry said in a press release that on 17 March President Zoran Milanović’s office informed the military Chief-Of-Staff, Admiral Robert Hranj, that the president’s advisor Marijan Mareković would be his envoy at an event marking the 27th anniversary of the exchange of prisoners of war in Bugojno, BiH.
The president’s office also made it known that, under the president’s decision, members of the Honorary and Protection Battalion would also attend the event, the Ministry added.
Under the Defence Act, a decision on platoons and smaller units attending ceremonial activities abroad is made by the defence minister, the Ministry said, adding that according to its information, members of the Honorary and Protection Battalion were sent to BiH before the minister made a decision to that effect.
However, the ministry said, it was realized that they would not be able to cross the Croatian border without the minister’s decision and order for official travel abroad, which is within the ministry’s remit.
By such course of action, the president’s office “unnecessarily exposed the Croatian Army,” the ministry added.
Upon the realization that the request from the president’s office could not be carried out without the minister’s decision, the ministry said, Hranj wrote to the minister on 18 March to ask that the request from the head of the president’s office, to engage members of the Honorary and Protection Battalion abroad, be authorized.
In line with his powers, the ministry said, the Minister gave his authorization the same day for the battalion to accompany Mareković to the commemoration in BiH.
The ministry said the battalion’s participation in the commemoration was not contentious, but the president’s office should have respected the procedure as envisaged by the Defence Act.
“The Ministry of Defence, by adopting the decision, prevented an international scandal,” the press release said, adding that the course of action by the president’s office was inappropriate and that it should have forwarded the request to the minister.