The Croatian Government at its first session in 2018 held on 4 January adopted the Bills on the Amendments to the Defence Act and to the Act on the Service in the Croatian Armed Forces respectively.
The amendments to the two acts lay emphasis on the human resources (the members) of the Croatian Armed Forces, as their most important component. The year 2017 was indeed proclaimed as the year of enlisted soldiers, NCOs and officers.
The main purpose of the amendments to the Defence Act is to provide a wider legislative framework for more efficient operation of the defence system and a major role in the Homeland Security System, in accordance with the National Security Strategy and the Act on the Homeland Security System Act.
One of the most important amendments to the Defence Act concerns the introduction of additional opportunities for voluntary service. The objective is to enhance the security culture and the awareness of the right and duty of every citizen to take part in defence.
The amendments to the Defence Act outline more clearly the rights and responsibilities of the reserve component of the Croatian Armed Forces, to expand the personnel pool for the active and the reserve component and to ensure greater operational efficiency in the fulfilment of the tasks laid by down by the legislation and the strategic documents.
The amendments to the Defence Act entail improved education and defence-related research activity and precise regulation of the authoritisation for the use of the Armed Forces.
Five years of the implementation of the Act on Service in the Croatian Armed Forces revealed the need to review certain solutions and amend the Act to provide better support to the development of the Croatian Armed Forces.
The Act aims to upgrade the living and working conditions of the enlisted soldiers, NCOs officers as well as of civil employees.
The amendments to the Act on Service in the Croatian Armed Forces reintroduce work compensation instead of compensating the duty and special benefits (sentry, duty periods and off-base service).
The members of the Croatian Armed Forces will have major opportunities for professional development and the dignity of their profession will be restored, for the purpose of enhancing the recruitment into the Croatian Armed Forces and for promoting the military profession and the values of the Homeland War, aimed at enhanced safety and protection of the Republic of Croatia and its citizens.
Consequently, the age limit for various entry modalities has been lifted to 30 years of age (the current age limit for enlisted personnel is 27, for voluntary servicemen and for NCOs 29 and for officers 30 years of age respectively) to recruit more candidates.
The Act recommends the introduction first of a two-year contract followed by a second contract of indefinite term up to the age of 45 for enlisted soldiers/seamen; to supersede the present three definite term contracts (4-, 5- and 6-year contracts), offering steady employment and all benefits inherent in it.
It also envisages mobility of active duty personnel to other government administration units in the civilian employee status throughout the last contract period and not only during its last year, to value and employ the expertise and abilities of the Croatian Armed Forces beyond the defence system.
The amended Act introduces the mandatory maintenance of physical fitness, promoting health and life quality and upgrading overall readiness. The respective Ordinance of the Defence Minister is recommended to define the fitness criteria and test procedure.
The Defence Act is a crucial defence-related legislation; it was passed in 2013 and amended on two occasions (in 2015 and 2016) and regulates the organisation of defence and the exercise of defence function in the Republic of Croatia.
The Act on Service in the Croatian Armed Forces was passed in 2013 too, and regulates the reception, service, rights and responsibilities of the members of the Croatian Armed Forces. It saw two amendments - in 2015 and 2016.