STA, 21 April 2022 - The German news agency dpa has reported that Germany has concluded an agreement to send heavy weapons to Ukraine with several other European countries, including Slovenia, which is to send its tanks to Ukraine in return for tanks and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) from Germany's own stock.
The press agency, citing unnamed sources, said on Thursday that the agreement had been confirmed in Berlin.
Asked for a comment, the Slovenian Defence Ministry initially told the STA that it could not comment on potential agreements on sending weapons to Ukraine.
Later on, it said in a statement that Defence Minister Matej Tonin had talked with his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht via video call on Wednesday.
"At the meeting, they discussed how allied countries can help Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression, and from this aspect, different ways in which Slovenia and Germany can jointly help Ukraine," the ministry said.
According to dpa's sources, Slovenia will send Soviet-made T-72 tanks to Ukraine, while Germany will give Slovenia German-made tanks and APCs from the country's own stock.
That Germany has concluded an agreement on sending heavy weapons to Ukraine was confirmed on Thursday by German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht, according to the French news agency AFP.
The sources say that, in line with the agreement, Germany will give Slovenia Marder and Fuchs APCs, while Slovenia is said to have asked for more modern weapons, including Leopard 2 tanks and Puma and Boxer APCs.
According to the information available on the website of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Slovenia does not have T-72 tanks, but Yugoslav-made M-84 tanks, an updated and upgraded version of T-72.
STA, 15 April - The parties standing in the 24 April general election mostly support raising defence spending, stressing that it should also cover rescue and protection. But they have different views on what these funds should be invested in and what the main threats to Slovenia are.
Responding to STA questions about defence, most parties pointed to Slovenia's commitments to NATO regarding defence spending, agreeing that the Slovenian Armed Forces should have good work conditions and equipment. However, many parties would invest mostly into equipment that can also be used for civil purposes.
The Freedom Movement and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) would give priority to such investments. The Freedom Movement would also strive to pick Slovenian suppliers. The Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) too would opt for capabilities that can also be used in rescue and protection and against hybrid threats. It would stop the procurement of the 8x8 armoured vehicles.
Connecting Slovenia would purchase multi-purpose helicopters and tow trucks. Resni.ca would stop the purchase of "expensive tanks that are more or less intended for missions abroad".
The Social Democrats (SD) believe the energy and funds should be redirected towards cyber and air defence and strengthening of defence against hybrid threats.
The Democrats (SDS) advocate for consistent implementation of defence goals and commitments to NATO, EU and the UN, stressing that the army also has a big role in dealing with natural and other disasters. "Strengthening the defence power of the state and in particular the capabilities of the national system of cyber defence is vital in these times."
Meanwhile, the green party Vesna calls for a modern system of rescue and assistance, funded from the defence budget. The party would also develop stronger medical units within the army and invest in the food and energy security. With this in view, it would thoroughly review the planned investments in the army.
The National Party (SNS) would first change the concept of defence and only then secure funding, while the Left, Boris Popovič List - Digitalise Slovenia, Our Future and Good State, and the Pirate Party oppose raising defence spending.
Parties assert that Slovenia is not at risk in the military sense but are aware that the Ukraine war affects the sense of security, also in terms of the quality of life.
Their opinions on what are the main threats to Slovenia's security at the moment vary. The Freedom Movement pointed to the war in Ukraine, which "affects the sense of security among our citizens", and the SDS stressed the importance of cyber defence.
The LMŠ warned against provocations by the "ruling politicians" to keep Slovenia's security risks low. The Ukraine war has shown NATO is a guarantee of security for its members, the party said.
The SD listed hybrid threats, cyber threats, terrorism, violent extremism and organised crime. It also warned against destabilisation in the Western Balkans.
The Left thinks the biggest threat is the imperialist policy of "the so-called allies", which it believes is the main source of conflict and instability in the world.
Home League warns against foreigners who arrive in the country illegally, Resni.ca thinks the main threat is the prime minister's Twitter account. The Pirate Party sees the current government as the biggest threat.
Vesna thinks the biggest threats are the low food self-sufficiency, fragile health system, growing social differences, lack of solidarity, the possibility of cyber attacks, and corruption and crime.
The SNS thinks the biggest threat is NATO, "as due to America's extortion Slovenia will pay significantly higher prices for energy, food, industrial products".
Most parties oppose reintroduction of conscription. Only the SNS and Homeland League expressed strong support to the idea, while several other parties left this topic open for debate, as most believe a broad social consensus should be reached.
One of the first moves by any new government are usually replacements of top officials in the national intelligence agency SOVA and the police and then also in the army. In particular parties that are not in the government said they too would make staffing changes to hire professional and apolitical staff. The need for competent and apolitical top officials in these structures was also highlighted by the coalition parties.
STA, 22 February 2022 - The Defence Ministry plans to renovate several military barracks. The costs of renovation of the Edvard Peperko Barracks in Ljubljana and the General Rudolf Maister Barracks in Maribor have been estimated at EUR 130 million.
The renovation is to improve energy efficiency of the buildings, its functionality and the working conditions.
New logistic capacities of the warehouses are planned along with new workshops and garages and training infrastructure.
The project will be funded under the act on the provision of funds for investments in the Slovenian Armed Forces in the 2021-2026 period, which was passed in 2020. The money will also be secured from EU cohesion funds.
According to director general of the logistics directorate at the ministry, Uroš Korošec, the Ljubljana barracks have not been renovated since the 1970, when they were built.
At the Ljubljana barracks, energy efficiency improvement work and interior renovation will be conducted, three new garages will be built along with new rooms for the command, two additional accommodation facilities, and solar power plants. The sewage system will be renovated.
The project is estimated at some EUR 70 million and the work is to be completed by October 2023.
In Maribor, the renovation of the General Rudolf Maister barracks will include new command and accommodation facilities and the construction of new warehouses, energy facilities and a gym.
The project will cost some EUR 60 million and is to be concluded in 2024 and 2025. The new facilities are to be built in 2025 and 2026.
According to Korošec, works will be simultaneously conducted at the barracks in Bohinjska Bela and Brnik. Recently, the Bač training grounds was renovated for about EUR 4.1 million.
Korošec said the Slovenian army would also have permanent berths at the port in Koper as soon as the third pier is constructed.
STA, 17 February 2022 - Slovenia is still among the NATO countries with the lowest defence spending. It ranks 25th in terms of efforts to have 2% of GDP allocated for defence and 26th when it comes to defence investments, Defence Minister Matej Tonin said in Brussels on Thursday as a two-day NATO ministerial drew to a close.
NATO defence ministers, meeting to discuss the Russian threat to Ukraine, also reviewed the implementation of the key defence goals of the alliance, which Tonin said had been very unpleasant for Slovenia.
NATO countries committed at a summit in Wales in 2014 to raise their defence spending to 2% of GDP in ten years and to spend 20% of defence funds on investments.
According to the latest data, Slovenia's efforts towards achieving these two goals put her on the 25th and 26th place within the alliance, respectively. "So much about the much talked about excessive spending of Slovenia, of which we hear at home," Tonin said.
This year, Slovenia will allocate 1.3% of GDP for defence and in 2023 and 2024 this will rise to 1.4% and 1.5%, respectively. Nine NATO countries already meet the 2% goal and about half of them expect to reach it in 2024, he said, adding that "unfortunately, Slovenia will not be among them".
Ministers stressed during debate in Brussels that it was not fair that economically weaker countries were paying for the security of the economically stronger countries. "Solidarity is not without limits," he said.
As for the goal of having 20% of defence money spent on investment, Slovenia has made significant progress in the past five years, increasing the share from just 5% to 17% last year. This year, this is to rise to 22% and next year to 23%, Tonin said.
He noted that NATO charts showed somewhat different figures as data was collected in October when Slovenia was still in the process of passing the budgets.
Last June, Slovenia's defence spending amounted to 1.28% of GDP, which was among the smallest shares in NATO, and allocated 15.7% of defence funds for investment, which was the lowest share of all NATO countries.
Asked whether US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin commented on Slovenia's defence spending at a bilateral meeting, Tonin said Austin had noticed Slovenia's efforts.
He said Austin had acknowledged that the Slovenian government had achieved a lot in this term and that progress was visible. He also expressed the wish for Slovenia to continue on this path.
STA, 17 February 2022 - Slovenia will respond to Ukraine's request for military and economic aid by providing technical equipment such as mobile kitchens, heated tents and dual-use equipment, but no weapons, Defence Minister Matej Tonin said in Brussels on Thursday after a two-day NATO ministerial.
Tonin stressed that NATO's intelligence and satellite footages did not confirm Russia's claims of withdrawal and reduction of military presence along the Ukrainian border, so NATO believed Russia was misleading the public.
The current situation is foremost harming the country's economy, so Ukraine asked for military and economic assistance, Tonin said, adding the country did not expect NATO countries to fight on its behalf. They are prepared to fight themselves if necessary.
Since the Ukrainian ambassador to Slovenia said the country needed mobile kitchens and heated tents, this is what Slovenia will provide, the minister said.
Ukraine has also requested additional aid as part of the European mechanism for civil protection. In the first phase, Slovenia will donate sleeping bags, boots, diesel generators and gloves in the total value of EUR 62,000.
"Slovenia currently has no plans to send weapons to Ukraine, but we will send dual-use equipment," Tonin said.
Srečanje obrambnih ministrov #DefMin #Nato je pokazalo, da je zveza Nato v kritičnih situacijah enotna - naša vrednota je ohranjanje suverenosti in ozemeljske celovitosti, naš cilj mir. #WeAreAlies pic.twitter.com/BZNRI6VE3y— Matej Tonin (@MatejTonin) February 17, 2022
The main topic of the two-day meeting of NATO defence ministers was the planned strengthening of the presence of allied forces in SE Europe in response to Russia's threat.
Slovenia currently participates in the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence in Latvia under Canada's command, which was set up as a response to the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea.
Slovenian troops serve in a contingent together with members of the Montenegrin army.
Tonin also attended in Brussels today a meeting of countries participating in the mission. He said that the contingent in which there was currently some 50 Slovenian and ten Montenegrin troops would be joined by nine or ten Macedonian soldiers in June.
According to Tonin, Slovenia is ready to increase the number of its troops in Latvia, in any other existing mission or in potential new ones. The problem with increasing the number of Slovenian soldiers is limited capacity, he said.
The minister also noted that representatives of the Defence Ministry had recently paid a working visit to Lithuania, where the Enhanced Forward Presence is led by Germany. Slovenia is prepared to increase cooperation in the future "but first we need to see what the future brings", Tonin said.
STA, 21 October 2021 - Slovenia and four other EU countries have drawn up a proposal to transform the EU's existing battle groups into a rapid reaction force in an initiative prompted by the experience of troop withdrawal from Afghanistan where the EU had to rely on the US, the Germany press agency dpa has reported.
The report says the concept proposed by Slovenia, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands and Portugal is to create effective forces capable of responding to crises at short notice. Along with special forces and air transport they would also include space and cyber capabilities.
"Recent events in Afghanistan have shown once more that the EU has to be in a position ... to act robustly and rapidly," reads the document compiled by the five countries and obtained by the dpa.
To provide greater flexibility, the five countries propose invoking Article 44 of the EU Treaty, which talks of intervention by a "coalition of the willing" and which has never been activated. The countries also propose using regional cooperation arrangements already in place to greater effect.
While not specifying what size the reaction force should be, the document says the land-based forces should be of brigade strength, which means around 5,000 troops.
The current battle group concept provides for two 1,500-strong units to be on standby but currently only one such unit is available and the force has never been in fact deployed.
The five countries hope to have the document included in the Strategic Compass - a key European defence and security process aimed at enhancing the EU's strategic autonomy.
Answering a query from the STA, the Defence Ministry confirmed that Slovenian had participated in drawing up the proposal from the field of crisis management.
"It is just another segment in the mosaic of thought papers and discussions with which EU members make efforts for the Strategic Compass to give concrete political guidelines for further development of the common security and defence policy in the coming five to ten years," it said in a written statement.
EU members' efforts are directed towards using and upgrading the existing EU structures and elements to make them more operational, the ministry said, adding the proposal received broad support at today's discussion of EU defence ministers in Brussels with more countries announcing to join it.
STA, 18 August 2021 - An interpreter who had helped the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) on its mission in Afghanistan has made it to Kabul airport along with his family. They are now waiting for the first available flight out of the country, Defence Minister Matej Tonin told the broadcaster Kanal A on Wednesday.
The interpreter and his six-member family travelled four days to get from Herat to Kabul. It took them another two days to get to airport facilities guarded by US and Turkish troops, the N1 portal first reported.
According to N1, the Slovenian Defence Ministry is in regular contact with NATO allies to make sure the interpreter and his family are evacuated as soon as possible.
Slovenia will then take them in and grant them asylum status.
Minister Tonin confirmed the reports for the news show Svet, saying the family was waiting for safe passage to Slovenia.
He thinks evacuation flights will continue to be operated from the airport in Afghanistan's capital for some time. He said he had been told this by his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Tuesday when he met him in Istanbul.
The SAF had worked with another Afghan interpreter, who has not made it to the airport so far and neither has his family. Slovenia is willing to give all eight of them sanctuary as well.
"This is our moral duty as the interpreters had helped Slovenian soldiers. Now that their lives are at risk, Slovenia is helping them," Tonin said, adding: "For the remaining eight persons the evacuation will take more effort as they are not in Kabul."
Apart from these two families, Slovenia is also willing to welcome up to five Afghans who had assisted the EU out of solidarity with other EU countries, Foreign Minister Anže Logar announced today, adding that the country would not offer to take in any additional Afghan refugees beyond these for now.
STA, 16 August 2021 - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. "Violence should be ended, the civilian population, in particular women and children, should be protected, and basic human rights standards should be upheld," the ministry said on Twitter on Monday.
The ministry told the STA that it was collecting information about possible Slovenian citizens still being in Afghanistan.
It added that no one had asked it for help and that all Slovenian soldiers who had operated in Afghanistan had returned home safely on 20 May.
Unofficially, a few Slovenian civilian citizens were in Afghanistan at the weekend, and they have already left the country. The ministry is checking this information.
Defence Ministry Matej Tonin meanwhile said today that three Slovenian citizens were currently in Kabul, with attempts being made to evacuate them.
There were four Slovenian citizens there until recently, with Slovenia successfully evacuating one of them, the minister added.
The remaining three are still near the Kabul airport, said Tonin, who did not want to identify the Slovenian citizens or explain what they were doing in Afghanistan.
"Taking care of our own citizens is currently our main priority," he said.
There is no news about the Afghan citizens who had cooperated with the Slovenian Armed Forces and who asked for assistance and protection from possible retribution of the Taliban, either.
The Defence Ministry said on Friday it is in constant touch with them, and that possibilities of providing assistance to them and their family members were still being examined.
According to unofficial information, these are two to four Afghans who cooperated with Slovenian soldiers as interpreters. The number could amount to between ten and fifteen persons, their families included.
It is not publicly known where these people are. Slovenian soldiers operated in Herat in western Afghanistan, which was taken by the Taliban on Thursday night. Currently, evacuations take place only from the Kabul airport.
Tonin said that the Slovenian Armed Forces had cooperated with Italy in Afghanistan, hiring interpreters and other staff through the Italian forces.
The Afghans who cooperated with the Slovenian army had the opportunity to go to safety together with their families with the Italian army, which is what the majority of them did.
Some of them, however, hoped that the situation will improve and did not take this opportunity, and now are still in Afghanistan.
They have turned to Slovenia. which has been working in recent days on logistic details to enable them to leave Afghanistan safely, while the situation was deteriorating virtually on an hourly basis, the minister said.
"Our message to these people is that we will not abandon them, that we will carry out all necessary asylum and other processes in Slovenia ... and move them first in a safe country, and then further to Slovenia," Tonin added.
He said that the Slovenian army knew their names, surnames, locations and their precise number, which was not higher than 20.
"The entire global public, and unfortunately intelligence services as well, are surprised by the fact that practically all Afghan institutions, including the army, disintegrated so quickly. This also causes logistical problems."
The Foreign Ministry also told the STA that the EU foreign ministers would discuss on Tuesday the situation in Afghanistan in a meeting called by High Representative of the EU Josep Borrell.
Slovenia is in the group of around 70 countries that have called on the Taliban in a statement to enable safe departure of all foreign citizens from Afghanistan and also to Afghan citizens who want to leave the country.
STA, 29 June 2021 - Slovenian military pilots are to train on and test aircraft produced by the light aircraft maker Pipistrel under an agreement signed by the Defence Ministry and the Ajdovščina-based company. A special partnership has also been agreed on that includes efforts to obtain EU and NATO funds for development projects.
The agreement was signed in Ajdovščina on Tuesday by Defence Minister Matej Tonin and Pipistrel director Ivo Boscarol.
Tonin told the press on the occasion that the Slovenian Armed Forces would be testing Pipistrel aircraft to become "greener" and contribute to greater representation of the Slovenian defence industry in the national defence system.
He said the Slovenian army was modernising its fleet, which would include training aircraft for military pilots at the beginning of their careers. Currently, ten worn-out Zlin aircraft are being used for pilot training.
By using Pipistrel aircraft, the ministry also wants to send a clear message to the allies in NATO and elsewhere in the world that these aircraft are of a very good quality, and help the company be even more successful in global markets.
Tonin and Boscarol have also agreed on a special partnership under which Slovenia would attract as much EU and NATO funds as possible to develop various technologies for the defence forces.
Boscarol noted that Pipistrel aircraft were already being used by large armies, adding that the advantages of the ones that will be tested by the Slovenian army included energy economy, low noise level and safety.
He added that the company was also developing systems and aircraft for defence and surveillance from the air, and announced steps in the direction of unmanned aerial vehicles. He and Tonin today also touched on the possibility of drone defence.
The Slovenian army will test the two-seat, fully electric Valis Electro and the two-seat Virus SW 121. The plan is also that it tests the four-seat Panthera in the future.
Learn more about the aircraft at the Pipistrel website
STA, 6 May 2021 - Defence Minister Matej Tonin argued the EU should put political decisions into practice faster, as he attended what was the first in-person EU defence ministerial in about a year. The ministers discussed military mobility in Europe where the Slovenian infrastructure, in particular the Koper port, will play a major part.
The ministers endorsed the decision to include Canada, Norway and the US in PESCO projects on military mobility to enable troops to move more quickly across Europe. In this way they for the first time allowed third countries to participate in the EU's Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO).
The project aims mainly to upgrade infrastructure such as bridges, railways and roads with the goal being to reduce the time it takes to move troops.
Addressing a virtual press conference in Brussels, Minister Tonin hailed the agreement as a major success. "Military mobility is not just a matter of logistics, it is a strategic one," he said.
Minister @MatejTonin se je v Bruslju udeležil simpozija o vojaški mobilnosti. K njej Slovenija pomembno prispeva tudi z uvajanjem uporabe alternativnih goriv za obrožene sile. @eusatcen #EUdefence #MilitaryMobility pic.twitter.com/HChz879NmP— Ministrstvo za obrambo RS (@MO_RS) May 6, 2021
Slovenia is actively involved in the project with Tonin noting that attention was being paid with all infrastructural projects to allow civilian-military dual-use.
This was also kept in mind in planning the new Koper-Divača rail track so that all the tunnels and viaducts and the entire link will also be suitable to move military vehicles. The Koper port will play an important role there, also for strategic movement of troops to the East and Central Europe, said Tonin.
To boost military mobility the EU allocated roughly EUR 1.7 billion over the next seven years. Tonin could not say yet how much Slovenia will draw, but he promised they would try to use every opportunity available.
The defence ministers dedicated much of their attention today to the Strategic Compass, a process seeking to link strategic and operative levels to achieve the bloc's ambitions in defence and security. "It's an additional tool to enhance Europe's strategic autonomy," said Tonin.
He emphasized that strengthening European cooperation in defence and security was not meant as competition to other allies in NATO but to upgrade joint capabilities. "A strong Europe is a strong NATO," said Tonin, adding that to do that faster action was needed and putting political decisions into practice faster.
In discussion on the Strategic Compass the ministers focused on crisis management and risk assessment. Slovenia will continue discussion on the topic during its presidency of the Council of the EU, and Tonin today discussed the issue with the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.
The ministers also talked about the end of NATO-led mission to Afghanistan on 11 September. Tonin said it did not mean a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan as cooperation would continue at the civilian level, in particular development cooperation.
Slovenia will complete its involvement in the Resolute Support Mission in coordination with the allies. The date of when the six Slovenian troops will withdraw has been determined but Tonin would not disclose it for security reasons. The last Slovenian rotation was deployed in Afghanistan in February for half a year.