Soldiers' Union Calls for Slovenian Defence Minister to be Fired

By , 07 May 2019, 10:41 AM Politics
Karl Erjavec Karl Erjavec DeSUS Facebook

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STA, 6 May 2019 - A soldiers' trade union has urged MPs to file an ouster motion against Defence Minister Karl Erjavec for his recent dismissal of the army's force commander and his unacceptable attitude to the army. PM Marjan Šarec, on the other hand, expects Erjavec to produce a report on related abuse of the military intelligence service.

In late April, the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission found Erjavec had abused the Defence Ministry's Intelligence and Security Service (OVS) to spy on Brigadier General Miha Škerbinc, the force commander, before sacking him.

Erjavec had asked the OVS to spy on the officer after hearing rumours he had spoken ill of the health of the chief of the general staff, Maj Gen Alenka Ermenc.

The OVS then on 3 April talked to 25 troops only to find out Škerbinc had not gossiped about Ermenc, but the commission said the OVS had no legal basis to do so.

The prime minister's office told the STA on Monday Šarec expected Erjavec to produce a report on the commission's findings and Škerbinc's 5 April replacement.

Commenting for the STA, Erjavec said he would send a report to Šarec and President Borut Pahor as the supreme commander of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) tomorrow or on Wednesday.

He reiterated Škerbinc's dismissal was lawful and the right decision, saying he had dismissed him upon Ermenc's proposal after the brigadier general had lost her trust.

Erjavec added the late-night shooting at the Poček training area which upset the Postojna local community in late March and the alleged gossiping had probably been among the reasons for the dismissal.

He is also convinced he did the right thing to ask the OVS to interview the soldiers about the alleged gossiping about the chief of the general staff's health.

A similar view was expressed by Marjan Miklavčič, a former OVS director, who believes Erjavec did not abuse his powers in the OVS case.

He told private broadcaster POP TV that slandering Ermenc as the chief of the general staff was not innocent gossiping but should be seen as slandering an institution within the SAF.

Erjavec was today again accused of having unlawfully dismissed Škerbinc by the soldiers' trade union, which said in a press release Erjavec had lost their trust.

The union also urged the chair of the parliamentary Defence Committee to call an emergency session to take a stance on Erjavec's "unacceptable conduct".

It would like the committee to engage in a serious debate on the situation in the SAF to avert the negative staffing trends.

Although the union has been pointing to the unbearable conditions in the SAF for several years, there has been no change for the better, it said.

When more funds for the SAF are approved, politics always first thinks about new military equipment, whereas the union believes "it is high time for SAF troops to be put first, alongside a systemic solution to the situation and relationships in the defence system".

Even if Erjavec had identified understaffing as the SAF's most serious problem when he presented his ministerial bid in parliament, "this acute situation has severely deteriorated since he was appointed", the union added.

It labelled Erjavec's actions and attitude detrimental to Slovenia, adding that not even the Slovenian president had responded adequately to the union's warnings.

The union thus expects the committee to condemn Erjavec's conduct and adopt the resolutions it has proposed to improve the government's approach to the defence system.

Meanwhile, Erjavec, who believes he enjoys the trust of Šarec and the coalition, expressed surprise at the union's appeal, saying it went beyond its powers.

All our stories about the military in Slovenia are here

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