Only one MP in favour of SAF development referendum on committee

Ljubljana – An initiative by the opposition Left to call a consultative referendum on a long-term programme for the development of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) was voted down by eight votes to one on the Defence Committee on Tuesday. The vote is not binding on the plenary.

The Left opposes this key defence resolution, covering a period until 2035, arguing its lacking a social consensus and being misguided.

Their MP Miha Kordiš said the government’s ambitious plan was designed to build capacities for deployment in NATO operations and procurement of arms “that we in fact don’t need”. He estimated the overall cost of new defence spending at EUR 5.4 billion by 2035.

Kordiš said the plan was playing into the hands of the “geopolitical interests of central countries of the [North Atlantic] Pact” and increasing deployment of Slovenian troops in far-away hot spots.

The Left also took issue with the resolution’s foreseeing a reintroduction of mandatory service.

Defence Ministry State Secretary Uroš Lampret said the intention of the referendum sought by the Left run against national defence interests and Slovenia’s international commitments and contrary to its strategic defence and security documents.

A referendum could negatively affect the building of the required capacities to tackle shortcomings found in annual reports on the SAF’s readiness. Holding back the resolution could hamper the SAF’s modernisation and hurt Slovenia’s credibility as NATO member.

“The SAF is not involved in any occupying missions whatsoever,” the state secretary said, adding that all the missions that the SAF had been involved had a UN mandate.

Commenting on the option of conscription, he said in case of failure to secure a sufficient scope of the permanent and reserve component a reconsideration would be made if necessary “of introducing known or upgraded forms of military duty”.

MP Jožef Lenart announced support for the resolution on behalf of the ruling Democratic Party (SDS), saying the government wanted to restore the SAF within normal frameworks comparable within Europe.

Marko Bandelli of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) announced abstention saying the party saw no value added in such a referendum for the country, while wondering whether such a “generous resolution” was in fact required at the moment.