Croatia rejects joining EU mission of Ukrainian military support

Croatia's President Zoran Milanovic attends a NATO summit in Madrid, Spain June 30, 2022. REUTERS/Susana Vera/File Photo

ZAGREB, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Croatian lawmakers on Friday narrowly rejected a proposal the country should join an EU mission in support of the Ukrainian military after hours of heated debate reflecting deep divisions between the premier and the country's president.

A majority of two thirds was needed to agree the proposal that would have included allowing up to 100 Ukrainian troops to be trained in Croatia over the next two years, which President Zoran Milanovic who is the supreme commander of the Croatian armed forces, opposed.

Of the 107 who voted in the 151-seat parliament, 97 supported it. Ten voted against.

Opposition deputies said they did not want to become hostages to the top leaders' political disagreement and said the constitution does not envisage parliamentary votes on matters normally approved by the president in agreement with government.

In response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine begun in February, the European Union agreed in October to set up the Military Assistance Mission in support of Ukraine (EUMAM Ukraine), and appointed a Polish general to lead training that will mostly take place in Poland.

Milanovic declined to consider the government proposal for Croatia to join the EUMAM Ukraine. He said Croatia should not be involved in the war and that the proposal would violate the constitution because it failed to clarify the basis for declaring Ukraine an ally, given that it is not a member of the EU or of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The government then sent the proposal to the parliament, hoping to secure the two-third majority needed to pass decisions on military matters.

"The participation in this military mission is just a consistent, principled and rational decision of Croatia, in its national interest," Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said ahead of the vote, dismissing criticism that legal procedures had been violated.

Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic in Sarajevo; Editing by Barbara Lewis

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