STA, March 19, 2018 – Slovenia would be paying much more for security if it were not a NATO member, PM Miro Cerar said in parliament on Monday in response to criticism over the country's commitments to NATO and the costs they entail. He said all decisions in this field enjoyed the support of parliament, noting that NATO membership was confirmed in a referendum.
The head of the deputy group of the opposition Left, Luka Mesec, enquired during the last questions' time for Cerar why the government had agreed to meet NATO demands and spend EUR 1.2bn on setting up two battle groups.
He asked the prime minister, who offered his resignation last week, whether he agreed with the Left's demand for a referendum on the matter.
Cerar said the government had gotten acquainted in 2016 with the results of a strategic review of the defence, which envisaged the forming of two mid-sized battalion battle groups.
He said that Slovenia could not go on as a NATO member or guarantee the safety of the country and its soldiers without modernising its army.
The Defence Ministry has drawn up a mid-term 2018-2023 defence programme, which is to be discussed by ministries. No final decisions have been made yet, he stressed.
According to him, the issue will be discussed by parliamentary committees and wider. But Cerar has no doubt that the government and the National Assembly would take a responsible decision.
The outgoing prime minister is not in favour of a referendum on the investment into the two battle groups at this point, because he finds the intended question misleading. But he did not exclude the possibility of a referendum on the matter in the future if this proves necessary.
Cerar pointed out that only a few years ago Slovenia's security issues seemed to have been solved, but then it turned out that security and defence were "very important elements of a nation and state".