The Slovenia Times

Up in Arms



The scope of the deal covers the purchase of 136 armoured personnel carriers in 4 different configurations, which would be manufactured both in Finland and in Slovenia, with staggered deliveries scheduled between 2007 and 2012. Mr Jorma Wiitakorpi, the president and CEO of Patria, applauded the decision saying: "The Slovenian Ministry of Defence has made a professional decision based on the excellent field test results we produced together with our competitive offer. By choosing the Patria AMV, the customer will get the most technologically advanced product available, while, in the longer term, co-operation with Patria will offer new employment opportunities for our local partners and new opportunities for Slovenian industry." Local Protests Not everyone shared Mr Wiitakorpi's optimism and the decision has now become a major political battle. One of the unsuccessful tenderers, Sistemska tehnika, a branch of the Viator and Vektor group and one of the largest defence companies in Slovenia, expressed its "grave disappointment" over the decision and has already filed an official complaint and demanded an explanation from the Defence Ministry's. In the meantime, residents of the Koroska region - upset that the ministry decided that the Finnish Patria's offer was more suitable than the locally-produced Krpan vehicles from Sistemska tehnika - staged a protest outside the Defence Ministry. The angry workers, concerned about their jobs, demanded that Defence Minister Karl Erjavec open negotiations with their employer. Just as the situation reached the boil, the daily Finance uncovered the amazing fact that the Patrias had been offered to Croatia for 43% less and for a smaller production run. However the Defence Ministry responded that the price that Croatia was offered was probably for a very basic configuration of the vehicle and didn't include the add-ons that Slovenia had opted for. Joint Venture Mr Erjavec remained undeterred, saying that Rotis' bid (the authorized dealer of Finnish defence contractor Patria) was 10 to 18 per cent cheaper than that of Sistemska tehnika. Furthermore, he was of the opinion that the Koroska-based company's management was not professional enough in the preparation of their tender documents. Meanwhile, the Finnish company and Slovenia's largest home appliance maker, Gorenje, announced that they would be forming a joint venture to produce the controversial armoured personnel vehicles. Gorenje said that at least 360 new jobs would be created as a result. Previous Purchases When Jelko Kacin was the Defence Minister, the government decided to modernize 30 old T-55 tanks that Slovenia had inherited from the Yugoslav army. The SIT 8-billion-plus fit out proved to be largely pointless as the tanks were withdrawn from service a few years later. Mr Kacin also oversaw the purchase of howitzers and grenade launchers, Bell helicopters and a Pilatus aircraft. A couple years ago, the Defence Ministry again caused a stir when it decided to spend USD 8 million on the purchase of 30 US-made Humvee all-terrain vehicles. Among many other complaints, it was said that they were inappropriate for Slovenia's topography. Yet one of these vehicles saved the lives of a number of Slovenian army personnel when they ran over a mine while patrolling during their peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. Future Plans The armoured vehicles will not be the only additions to Slovenia's arsenal. By 2010, the Defence Ministry plans to spend in excess of EUR 700 million buying automatic rifles, a new air-defence missile system, anti-tank missiles, at least two transport planes, new helicopters, unmanned reconnaissance aircraft, a high-speed patrol boat, communications equipment and ammunition. While the government is apparently fully committed to spending billions of tolars on purchasing weaponry to protect the country, its commitment to the country's inhabitants is less than apparent. It seems that the market price for 18 desperately needed operating tables, which stands at around SIT 500 million, is just too high to warrant relieving the misery of patients waiting for life-saving operations in Slovenia's hospital system.


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