Brussels – Defence Minister Matej Tonin argued the EU should put political decisions into practice faster, as he attended what was the first in-person EU defence ministerial in about a year. The ministers discussed military mobility in Europe where the Slovenian infrastructure, in particular the Koper port, will play a major part.
The ministers endorsed the decision to include Canada, Norway and the US in PESCO projects on military mobility to enable troops to move more quickly across Europe. In this way they for the first time allowed third countries to participate in the EU’s Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
The project aims mainly to upgrade infrastructure such as bridges, railways and roads with the goal being to reduce the time it takes to move troops.
Addressing a virtual press conference in Brussels, Minister Tonin hailed the agreement as a major success. “Military mobility is not just a matter of logistics, it is a strategic one,” he said.
Slovenia is actively involved in the project with Tonin noting that attention was being paid with all infrastructural projects to allow civilian-military dual-use.
This was also kept in mind in planning the new Koper-Divača rail track so that all the tunnels and viaducts and the entire link will also be suitable to move military vehicles. The Koper port will play an important role there, also for strategic movement of troops to the East and Central Europe, said Tonin.
To boost military mobility the EU allocated roughly EUR 1.7 billion over the next seven years. Tonin could not say yet how much Slovenia will draw, but he promised they would try to use every opportunity available.
The defence ministers dedicated much of their attention today to the Strategic Compass, a process seeking to link strategic and operative levels to achieve the bloc’s ambitions in defence and security. “It’s an additional tool to enhance Europe’s strategic autonomy,” said Tonin.
He emphasized that strengthening European cooperation in defence and security was not meant as competition to other allies in NATO but to upgrade joint capabilities. “A strong Europe is a strong NATO,” said Tonin, adding that to do that faster action was needed and putting political decisions into practice faster.
In discussion on the Strategic Compass the ministers focused on crisis management and risk assessment. Slovenia will continue discussion on the topic during its presidency of the Council of the EU, and Tonin today discussed the issue with the the EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.
The ministers also talked about the end of NATO-led mission to Afghanistan on 11 September. Tonin said it did not mean a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan as cooperation would continue at the civilian level, in particular development cooperation.
Slovenia will complete its involvement in the Resolute Support Mission in coordination with the allies. The date of when the six Slovenian troops will withdraw has been determined but Tonin would not disclose it for security reasons. The last Slovenian rotation was deployed in Afghanistan in February for half a year.