Ljubljana – The parliamentary Defence Committee approved the draft resolution on the general long-term programme for the development and equipping of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) until 2035. The resolution is strongly opposed by the Left party, which plans to propose a consultative referendum.
Defence Minister Matej Tonin explained that the resolution is the army’s key development-guidance document that outlines the plans for the future development of the Slovenian Armed Forces.
The ministry first unveiled the long-term programme plan for the SAF in June. It envisages a different structure, organisation and equipping, an overhaul of the system of military education and training and a financial framework for realising these plans.
According to Tonin, a lot has changed since 2010, when the resolution currently in force was adopted. He pointed to the increased uncertainty in the international security environment, and the many negative assessments of the Slovenian army over the past decade.
Tonin stressed that in a way, the new resolution represents a continuation of the work of his predecessors, and follows the preceding policies of all political parties, with the exception of the Left.
The resolution thus follows financial commitments made by former PMs Alenka Bratušek and Marjan Šarec. In this context, Tonin also mentioned the financial crisis as the reason for not meeting the long-term and medium-term development objectives.
“A number of structural and developmental problems have accumulated, which are still reflected today in the SAF’s understaffing, materiel shortage, and in the key constraints on its further development,” the defence minister said.
However, the opposition Social Democrats (SD) had initially proposed that the motion for the resolution be withdrawn from the agenda of Tuesday’s committee session.
According to SD deputy Gregor Židan, the adoption of the resolution is being rushed unnecessarily, as the Defence Ministry has enough guidance documents at its disposal to enable the functioning and development of the defence system.
He pointed out that the current resolution would remain in force for the entire term of the next government, and that the logical first step in adopting a new resolution would be to analyse the implementation of the objectives set out in the previous one.
Miha Kordiš of the opposition Left, which supported the SD’s proposal, stressed that this kind of document should be addressed through a broad public debate and “certainly not in the last moments before an election”.
The Left was also critical of the proposed resolution itself. According to Kordiš, it envisages EUR 5.4 billion for the SAF until 2035, mostly for the purchase of weapons “which are not needed in this country, only intended for NATO operations”.
“If we are going to spend EUR 5.4 billion on weapons, where are we going to find the money for what we really need?” asked the MP and announced a proposal for a referendum.
MPs from the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) also voiced their concerns about the resolution, particularly about the allocation of funds and some inconsistencies and ambiguities it contains.
The resolution was endorsed by MPs from the coalition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), who dismissed the criticisms of inappropriate timing and said that in contrast to some of its predecessors, this government was not just about words.
Jurij Lep from the group of non-affiliated MPs also endorsed the resolution, but highlighted the need for a broader political and social consensus on the possible reintroduction of conscription.
According to Tonin, the final count is envisaged to be at least 7,000 permanent and up to 3,000 contract personnel.
He also mentioned renegotiations with NATO as one of the biggest changes envisaged in the resolution – instead of two battalion task forces, Slovenia is only expected to establish one medium battalion battlegroup by 2026.
Instead of the latter, the ministry offered what the SAF already has: a transport aircraft, the Triglav warship, and a reconnaissance battalion that is to be developed next year. Tonin said he expected this deal to be finalised soon.
In his view, the resolution also includes a realistic proposal for growth in defence spending, with 1.5% of GDP planned by 2024, followed by a gradual and slow increase to 2% by 2035.