Slovenian president calls for immediate increase in defence spending

Slovenian president calls for immediate increase in defence spending
By bne IntelliNews March 31, 2016

Slovenian president Borut Pahor has called for an immediate increase in defance spending since the annual report on the readiness of the Slovenian Armed Forces for 2015 showed that Slovenian military is at crisis point, a statement posted on the website of the Slovenian president on March 30 reads.

Slovenia has been a full Nato member since 2004, but its defence expenditure remains well below the NATO requirement of 2%, staying at just slightly over 1% of GDP for the last few years. The country’s environment looks stable and without any significant security threats like domestic unrest, terrorism or crime, and the government continues to focus its budget on socio-economic development. However, the role of the military became more important since October 2015 when Slovenia was heavily hit by the migration crisis and thousands of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and North Africa passed through its territory every day, increasing security threats.

According to Pahor Slovenia needs to find political consensus on raising security funding quickly since keeping the army in shape is crucial given the uncertainty and the prospects of the migration crisis being followed by a security crisis.

"Slovenia cannot afford the luxury of not investing more in security in the hope that things will improve internationally," he said.

He added that the main task of the army is to protect the country and help Slovenia's allies.

"It is paramount to preserve its battle character, which requires higher staffing levels, more modern equipment and better training," he said.

The annual 2015 report concludes that the army is barely prepared for peace time operations, while its readiness for action in crisis or war is insufficient. The cause of the poor readiness is cuts in defence spending, which have all but eliminated investments in defence and have led to a drop in troop numbers, Slovenian Press Agency reported on March 30.

The armed forces contracted by 540 members last year to number around 7,050 troops, which is 88% of the planned force. The contractual reserve is currently only filled to 36% of planned capacity, the statement reads.

Only two-thirds of the planned exercises were carried out last year and the number of bullets fired per soldier continued to drop.

Over a third of vehicles are outdated, the availability of equipment such as helicopters is limited, while the supplies, infrastructure and personal gear are at a critical point, the report points out.

According to Pahor, who acts as the supreme commander of the armed forces, this is the third year in a row that army readiness is at the lowest point at which the force can still be considered as functional.

Meanwhile, defence minister Andreja Katic said that the contraction of defence expenditure had been stopped but acknowledged additional funding would be needed.

She said the army needed about €45mn in the short term just for the upkeep of existing equipment and preservation of capabilities while an additional €50mn would be needed per year for modernisation.

According to the chief of the general staff, Major General Andrej Osterman, the situation in the army is critical and the force cannot cope with existing challenges without extra funding.

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