MPs against referendum on deal over Boxer APCs purchase

Ljubljana – The opposition Left’s motion to call a referendum on the government’s purchase of Boxer armoured personnel vehicles (APCs) from the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) did not receive sufficient support in parliament on Wednesday. MPs may now continue with the ratification of the agreement with OCCAR.

Only eight MPs voted in favour of the proposal, that is all seven MPs from the Left and MP Željko Cigler, a former member of the Left who recently quit the party’s deputy faction and instead joined the one by the SocDems. A total of 42 MPs were against the motion and 27 abstained.

In his presentation of the initiative, Left MP Miha Kordiš said that his party was opposed to Slovenia’s spending EUR 412 million on the purchase of 45 eight-wheeled Boxer APCs, stressing that Slovenia did not need these armoured vehicles because it is not under military threat, and that the money would be better spent on other ways of ensuring security in the country.

According to him, the price is another controversial aspect of the deal, as it has ballooned, he said, from EUR 207 million for 56 APCs to EUR 412 million for 45 since 2017, when the government led by Miro Cerar decided to buy them. This is proof of the “corrupt nature of the deal”, as all major arms deals in Slovenia have been, he added.

Defence Ministry State Secretary Uroš Lampret meanwhile said that the government did not support the referendum proposal, as it found it contrary to national defence interests and international commitments. It also contradicts fundamental strategic documents in the field of defence and security, he added.

The estimated value of the project is indeed EUR 412 million, he said, but this was not only meant to cover the purchase of 53 Boxer vehicles, but also other things, such as appropriate logistic support, spare parts, maintenance, testing and training.

As Slovenia is now planning to purchase 45 vehicles and not 53, it expects OCCAR’s offer to be proportionally lower, he added.

The Left’s proposal was met with understanding among the party’s fellow centre-left counterparts cooperating under the KUL coalition, but they did not support the motion.

Although opposed to the purchase of the APCs, mainly because of the large and unexplained price increase, they argued that the referendum would not be binding, hence not committing the government in any way, especially not just before the end of the parliamentary term.

Meanwhile, the coalition was against the Left’s proposal, highlighting that the Slovenian Armed Forces needed good equipment and protection to operate. Moreover, the country has made commitments to NATO allies that have to be respected, it added.