Croatia's police air fleet has a new modern AW139 helicopter valued at HRK 119 million, purchased with funds from the Schengen Facility Fund for the purpose of border surveillance.

"This is the first time in Croatia's history that we have a new helicopter," the interior minister in the caretaker government, Ranko Ostojic, said at the official takeover of the new helicopter, which was delivered to Zagreb's Pleso airport from Milan.

The police have two smaller Eurocopters at its disposal that were almost new when bought, however, because they were used, their price was significantly lower, Ostojic said.

He added that the new helicopter was the state-of-the-art in its class, the most used by police forces with modern equipment and it will be used by six trained pilots who will conduct surveillance of the state's border and partake in Frontex activities and other international missions.

A representative of the AgustaWestland company, Stefano Villanti, who signed the handover agreement of the helicopter, told reporters that he believed that this was one of the best options for state border surveillance. 

So far Croatia has procured 240 vehicles, 10 vessels and 2 helicopters with money from the Schengen Facility Fund and has upgraded its communication and IT system. Funds will be used to refurbish nine police stations, build 2 centres for the the accommodation of border police and two transit centres for aliens.

By mid-January, Ostojic said, 152 contracts valued at more than 91 million euros have been concluded, which is 80% of the funds approved and with the delivery of another new AW139 helicopter, the entire amount of 120 million euros available to the border police will have been spent.

Ostojic added that the key to success, however, was trained personnel and that investments in them must not cease.

With regard to Croatia entering the Schengen Area, Ostojic said that Croatia has to pass evaluation, both technical and political and this will require joint action if Croatia wants member states to uphold its accession to that Area. Schengen continues to be Croatia's strategic interest as it would offer Croatia an exceptional advantage for tourism and free movement of people without any obstacles, he said.

Asked whether the migrant crisis could slow down the process of Croatia's accession to the Schengen Area, Ostojic said that there was no need to hide the fact that this was the case. "Certainly the migrant crisis and the question of how it will be dealt with will be one of the vital elements impacting the assessment of entry to Schengen, which at the moment is jeopardised."

Ostojic said that the EU has obviously not succeeded in its endeavour to solve this issue where Croatia has said it should be solved and that is in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and on the Greek border with Turkey.

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