The tenth anniversary of Croatia's participation in international peace missions was marked in Zagreb on Friday at an international conference entitled "Responsibility and Action: Building a Better World", which was attended, among others, by top state officials who said that Croatia had transformed from a recipient of international help to a participant in the protection of peace.
In September 1999, Croatia sent for the first time 10 soldiers to Sierra Leone to serve there in a peace-keeping mission as unarmed UN military observers. Speaking at the ceremonial part of the conference, Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor said that Croatia, as a NATO member, a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and a country standing at the door to the European Union, had shown by participating in international peace missions that it was promoting the values of the international community.
She highlighted the country's participation in the NATO-led peace mission in Afghanistan, which she said included 300 Croatian soldiers, a police officer and a diplomat. Kosor said that since 1999, 61 female members of the Croatian Armed Forces and seven female police officers had taken part in peace missions, and that currently 13 female Armed Forces members and three female police officers were serving in peace missions around the world. Addressing the conference, Parliament Speaker Luka Bebic said that more than 1,700 Croatian soldiers and police officers had served so far in international peace missions.
President Stjepan Mesic said that Croatian soldiers were receiving commendations for their work in international peace missions and that they were regarded highly by both civilians and their superiors. Peace missions today not only separate the warring parties, they are also aimed at "the long-term stabilisation of an area", President Mesic said, calling for a greater engagement of soldiers specialising in certain areas, as well as for greater participation of civilians in such missions.
After the ceremonial part of the conference, the event continued with its working part. Attending the conference were prominent foreign and domestic speakers, and senior military and civilian officials. Croatian soldiers, police officers and diplomats are currently serving in 16 international peace missions, which puts Croatia among top countries providing UN peace-keeping staff. There are 120 such countries.