MPs vote to ban referendum on OCCAR deal

Ljubljana – The National Assembly has voted 43 to 30 to endorse the government proposal not to allow a referendum on a law ratifying the agreement with the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR). The opposition Left, which initiated the referendum bid, is now planning to appeal to the Constitutional Court.

The Left wants to thwart the government’s plan to buy 45 Boxer armoured personnel carriers. Although the price tag on the project is officially not known yet, the party has been taking issue with the cost, arguing the money was badly required elsewhere.

It says the cost has almost doubled to EUR 412 million for 45 vehicles since the Miro Cerar government first started talks on the project in 2017. At the time 56 vehicles were to cost the country EUR 207 million.

The Defence Ministry says the estimated value of the project is indeed EUR 412 million, but for 53 vehicles along with maintenance, logistic support and training, while the price of the planned 45 vehicles should be lower.

After the vote the Left said they would appeal to the Constitutional Court “because hiding the APCs purchase by including them into the OCCAR is a manipulation to avoid citizens’ democratic will”.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin earlier told MPs the constitution did not allow a referendum on ratification of international treaties such as the agreement with the OCCAR.

“The Left’s referendum initiative is a blatant abuse of the referendum institute designed to prevent modernisation of the Slovenian Armed Forces,” said the minister.

The debate saw the coalition and the centre-left opposition disagree over whether the OCCAR agreement was an international treaty or not, with the opposition arguing it was not and people should have a right to a referendum on a defence deal.