The Slovenia Times

Slovenia pulling out of Boxer defence deal


Brdo pri Kranju - Slovenia will rescind the EUR 281 million agreement on the purchase of 45 Boxer armoured personnel carriers from the OCCAR programme after an audit of the deal was completed, Defence Minister Marjan Šarec announced after Thursday's cabinet session. The contractual fine could reach as high as EUR 70 million.

The audit found that the price did not include a special communications system called C4I, which is estimated at EUR 13.5 million, nor a potential annual indexation of the contractual value, according to Šarec.

The auditors could not determine whether the purchase is economical since the prices of comparable vehicles were not provided, nor was the feasibility of alternative purchases.

They also found that a Defence Ministry instruction that Poland be asked for a quote for a similar type of vehicle had not been carried out.

As a result, it is not possible to say for certain whether the purchase could have been cheaper since the data on potential other variants came from a market survey done as far back as 2017.

The government also said in a press release that the audit did not arrive at a clear conclusion as to whether the vehicles had been tested in real-life conditions as required by the strategy on the long-term development of the Slovenian Armed Forces.

The Boxers were supposed to form the backbone of a medium-sized battalion battlegroup, but Šarec said the audit showed 45 vehicles were not enough for this, at least another 24 would be needed.

"Our objective is to satisfy NATO requirements regarding the capabilities of our battlegroups, but not at any cost and most certainly not with prototypes," said Prime Minister Robert Golob.

"What we're going to be looking for in the future is how to secure these capabilities much more efficiently and cheaply, and as compliant as possible with what the Slovenian army already has," he said.

Šarec said the ministry had now been tasked to come up with alternative solution by the end of the year.

The agreement with the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) was signed in the dying moments of the Janez Janša government this spring despite calls by the election winners that such a decision should be left to the new government.

Matej Tonin, the former defence minister who signed the agreement, said the termination was "exceptionally damaging," its sole driver the "stubborn political opposition to the previous government."

Commenting on Twitter, he said the decision had been taken before the current government took office. "Everything else is a farce. The audit has shown there were no mistakes," he said, accusing the government of undermining the modernisation of the Slovenian Armed Forces.

There have been several media reports in recent months indicating the deal will be revoked. Two months ago, Delo reported that Polish-made Rosomak armoured vehicles were one potential alternative and that talks were already under way.

The Rosomak is a licenced variant of a Finnish-made Patria armoured vehicle, of which Slovenia already has several dozen.

Tonin referred to these reports by saying that the cheaper Polish vehicles would put Slovenian soldier in greater danger. "The government plans to replace the Boxers with the Rosomaks, which are a generation older and offer inferior protection."

One major point of the termination is the contractual fine, which the previous government warned the new government about.

Šarec acknowledged that the contractual fine is set at 20% of the value of the agreement, but noted that he could "not prejudge that, the fine will be subject to a [contractual] procedure."

Asked whether the ministry would try to hold someone to account for the deal or press criminal charges, Šarec said that the audit "did not look for mistakes, nor has it found any in the procedure itself. This was a subjective political decision by the previous government."


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