The proposed amendments to the State Border Control Act and the Defence Act, adopted by the government on Friday, will enable the army to assist the police in controlling the state border when necessary, and in case of such a scenario the army will act exclusively in line with police instructions, Defence Minister Josip Buljevic said.
Under the amendments, a proposal for deploying troops to assist the police is given by the minister of the interior or the prime minister, and a decision on the army's support to the police is made by the government at the proposal of the defence minister and with the prior consent of the president of the republic and the armed forces' commander in chief, Buljevic told reporters after a government session.
Asked which instruments of coercion the army would have at its disposal, Buljevic said that the army would act exclusively in line with police instructions.
Asked if there was a specific number of troops to be deployed to help the police, Buljevic said that there were no concrete numbers for the time being because no requests had been made for military assistance. "However, if necessary, we will make an assessment of the number of people to be deployed in agreement with the Ministry of the Interior," said Buljevic.
He added that the army was 15,000-strong.
Asked who would command the army if the army answered to the police, the minister said that the army would be commanded by the Armed Forces' Chief-of-Staff who would agree on the army's conduct with the Ministry of the Interior.
Asked if the army would be deployed at border crossings or along the green border, Buljevic said that no decision on army support to the police had been adopted yet and that the proposed amendments provided for that possibility.
Asked if the government's decision was proof that a system of homeland security was being developed, the minister said that the system of homeland security was a way of thinking and was not about formalising a concept.
"The system of homeland security is being discussed in such a way to make the defence system and national security more efficient and cheaper. So this indeed is in the spirit of developing a system of homeland security," said the minister.
Buljevic confirmed that there would be cuts in his ministry's budget. Asked if those cuts would be big, he said the necessary cuts would have to be made but that the ministry would continue its development projects.
Responding to a reporter's remark that he had recently said that there would be no need for deploying the army along the border, Minister of the Interior Vlaho Orepic said the amendments to the two laws were a reaction to a specific situation and did not mean that the task of border control would be transferred from the police to the army.
The amendments make it possible in exceptional cases, when the ministry or the prime minister assess it as necessary for security or humanitarian reasons, to deploy the army to help the police in protecting the state border, he said.
"The police will continue doing their job and are capable of carrying out all their tasks. Don't put that question in that context. Rest assured that I will be the first to react should there be any developments going in some other direction," Orepic said, describing as positive the fact that the amendments "are designed to unify and ensure the rational use of all available security systems."