The Slovenia Times

Military investment act cleared by Constitutional Court


Ljubljana - The Constitutional Court has cleared an act securing EUR 780 million in investments in the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) until 2026 as well as parliament's decision not to allow a referendum on the act sought by the centre-left opposition.

In a decision passed by five votes to four, the court found the National Assembly and the government have reasonably grounded the urgency of the investments and that the decision not to allow the referendum was justified.

Given the current state of its equipment and capabilities, the SAF cannot provide a satisfactory defence capability in case of a military threat or security crisis nor meet international commitments within the expected scope, reads the explanation.

The court holds the situation is not changed by the fact that the SAF is relatively well prepared for peacetime action.

In deliberating on the matter, the court took into consideration the investments planned under the act are not in above-standard equipment, but to tackle the problem of the SAF no longer attaining the minimum standard of equipment as investment in the SAF has all but stopped in recent years.

The court holds that such as situation calls for immediate investment in the equipment, to be implemented over a longer period based on a phased investment plan.

It moreover says that securing adequate equipment is also needed to allow the required level of troop training, a decisive component to build SAF capabilities to the required standards, so securing suitable financial means is prerequisite to ensuring good defence and security.

The act, securing EUR 780 million in additional defence spending in a six-year period between 2021 and 2026, was passed by the National Assembly in late November. The bulk of the money is to be spent to purchase armoured personnel vehicles and set up a medium infantry battalion group. An aircraft and two helicopters are also to be bought.

Challenging the act, the Left and the Social Democrats (SD) filed an initiative for a referendum and then went on to collect more than 28,000 signatures in support of the bid.

However, the National Assembly voted the referendum inadmissible, invoking a constitutional provision that bans referendums on issues concerning emergency measures to provide for the defence and security of the country.

In response, the Left, SD, Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) asked the court to abrogate the act and the decision to prevent a referendum on it. In January the court stayed the implementation if the act pending its final decision.

The government intervened in March to secure military investment through amendments to the 2021 and 2022 budget implementation act. After the amendments were passed by parliament, the Left launched a new referendum initiative, but the National Assembly also declared such a referendum inadmissible earlier this week.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin welcomed the court's decision as being in the interest of the state, tweeting that the "door for SAF modernisation is open". He thanked SAF members for their perseverance in the service of the country and MPs for their courage in supporting the SAF investments act.

Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, said the court failed to deliberate on their key argument, that is whether the EUR 780 million was more needed in other underfunded areas such as healthcare, long-term care or housing. If they did he believes they would have agreed the funds are badly needed there.

The Left plans to keep a close eye on military procurement. The party has already asked the parliamentary Finance Oversight Commission to obtain documents on the procurement of a transport aircraft the cost of which Mesec said increased from EUR 50 million to 72 million in a matter of months.

"The Left will do all in our power [...] so that 780 million doesn't become a billion or a new armament TEŠ 6," said Mesec in a reference to the infamous coal-fuelled generator project.

The Left will not seek a referendum on the amendments to the budget implementation act, but it will seek its annulment on the grounds that two acts cannot deal with the same issue.


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