Ljubljana related

20 Apr 2020, 11:21 AM

STA, 20 April 2020 - Brigadier Robert Glavaš will formally take over as the new chief of the general staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) on Monday. His major challenge will be staffing and modernising the underfunded army.

Born in 1962, Glavaš has been with the SAF since its beginnings in 1991, gaining experience and praise as a commander at home and abroad.

Before being appointed first as interim and then full-fledged chief of the general staff, Glavaš served as deputy to his predecessor, Maj-Gen Alenka Ermenc, who was dismissed at the new government's maiden session on 14 March. Earlier, he served as commander of the 1st Slovenian Armed Forces Brigade,

Glavaš, who specialised in transport sciences at the Faculty of Maritime Studies and Transport, has earned a reputation as a dedicated and broad-minded officer.

He has taken part in several international missions, serving as deputy chief of staff for support at Regional Command West, KFOR, Kosovo, contingent commander, ISAF, Afghanistan, and mentor to commander, 207th Corps, Afghan National Army.

He has also chaired different NATO exercise and training boards, headed the NATO CIMIC Centre of Excellence Steering Committee, and had assignments at tactical, operational and strategic levels in Slovenia and abroad as well as commanded units and branches in Slovenia and abroad.

His service has earned him a number of national and international medals and decorations, including Peace Peeping KFOR Medal, Non-Article Five ISAF Medal, EU Presidency Medal and the Italian Medal for Cooperation.

On Glavaš's appointment by the government on Thursday, Defence Minister Matej Tonin praised him for his operational skills, commitment and professionalism, adding: "I believe the is the right choice to lead the SAF in the future."

Glavaš has also been praised by Iztok Prezelj of the defence studies chair at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, who mentored Glavaš on his thesis for the military HQ and commanders school in 2008.

In his thesis Glavaš deals with the security situation in the Balkans from a broad aspect, including nationalisms, organised crime, corruption, refugees and internally displaced persons.

Talking with the STA, Prezelj expressed the belief that such a broad-based approach was the most suitable for the present situation when the talk is of involving the SAF in securing the south border.

President Borut Pahor, the SAF supreme commander, knows Glavaš as "a professional soldier with experiences gained as a commander and at other military duties at home and abroad".

Pahor is planning to host Glavaš for a meeting this week. He is expected to shortly promote him to the rank of major general, with promotions usually taking place on 15 May, Slovenian Armed Forces Day.

Even before that Pahor is expected to unveil to the public the conclusions of the annual SAF readiness report, which will reveal the state of the legacy handed down to the new chief of the general staff.

Last year's report, covering 2018, found the SAF state of readiness for peacetime action satisfactory, but their capacity for wartime action remained unsatisfactory for the fifth straight year.

On receiving the report last year, Pahor proposed adopting a systemic law to secure funding for national security.

Like Glavaš's predecessor Ermenc, Pahor identified shortages of staff, equipment and armament as the key issues affecting the readiness assessment both for peacetime and wartime or crisis action.

During her stint, Ermenc was also warning of delays in the building of military capabilities. She found a 4% increase in the defence budget for 2020 insufficient for a development breakthrough.

According to data as of March this year, the SAF numbers 7,013 members, 6,353 members of the regular permanent force and 660 members of contract reserve. This is almost 3,000 short of the 10,000 target.

Minister Tonin believes part of a solution to filling up the shortages lies in extracting the SAF from the single public sector pay system.

He has also pledged to tackle the status of soldiers beyond the age of 45, and expressed support for reintroduction of conscription, saying he would like to attract the young eager to serve.

Apart from the staffing, Prezelj believes another challenge for the new team will be developing the SAF to boost its capacity to operate in various security scenarios and modernisation in the direction of forming two battalion-sized battle groups.

One of the goals will be investment in cyber defence capacities. "All those goals will obviously depend on an increase in defence spending. If these funds don't increase, most ambitions will be jeopardised," said the defence expert.

01 Apr 2020, 10:09 AM

STA, 31 March 2020 - The government has adopted a motion that, if passed in parliament, will activate a legislative provision that gives the military limited police powers in controlling the border. To be passed, the proposal needs the support of two-thirds of MPs. The National Assembly might discuss it as soon as on Thursday.

In two days, the National Assembly may discuss a mega-package of stimulus measures worth EUR 3 billion to help companies and individuals cope with the ongoing coronavirus epidemic.

The government wants to give police powers to the military so as to allow troops to take over some of the tasks from police officers patrolling Slovenia's border with Croatia, which is also the Schengen border.

Interior Minister Aleš Hojs told the Odmevi news show this evening that the proposal has not secured sufficient support in parliament. This comes nearly a week after he said that the government would not go forward with the motion before discussing it with deputy groups.

He said that some remarks by deputy groups had been taken into account, while some could not be. He also said that the remarks were more technical than anything else and believes that the opposition might provide the votes needed for the proposal to pass.

The proposal has raised a lot of dust in public, with many claiming this was a disproportionate measure and that the government was trying to use the coronavirus epidemic to send the military to the border.

Hojs also said last week that the army was not currently needed in Slovenian cities or on the country's roads, but it is "badly needed on Slovenia's southern border" so as to ease the burden on the police force.

The government said in a press release after adopting the proposal that it would brief the relevant parliamentary bodies about the troops' engagement on the border every two weeks and that the troops would have police powers for a period of three months.

Moreover, the troops would be working alongside police officers in line with a plan drafted by the police force and based on its guidelines, the government also said.

06 Mar 2020, 13:11 PM

STA, 5 March 202 - A proposal to reintroduce mandatory military service tabled by the incoming ruling Democrats (SDS) was defeated in parliament on Thursday in a 36:51 vote. Apart from the SDS, the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and National Party (SNS) were in favour of the proposal, but failed to convince the others.

The Modern Centre Party (SMC) and New Slovenia (NSi), the two of the four parties forming the new SDS-led coalition, did not back the bill, same as the newly-formed opposition.

The SDS tabled the proposal in January before outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's resignation. It envisaged military service of six months or civil service of twelve months for conscientious objectors.

The first reading of the proposal took place on Wednesday, with the SDS highlighting that reintroducing conscription would reinforce Slovenia's standing army and military reserves.

The caretaker government did not support the amendment, with Defence Ministry State Secretary Nataša Dolenc saying that compulsory service was not warranted and that any changes to the system should be based on a comprehensive analysis.

Most critical were members of the Left, highlighting that instead the state should come up with actual solutions for the issues of the young and announcing that, should the proposal be adopted, the party would use any means available to fight its implementation, including a referendum.

01 Mar 2020, 11:26 AM

STA, 28 February 2020 - The security apparatus of the state will be a major priority for the incoming centre-right coalition, according to the coalition agreement, which suggests asylum procedures will be tightened, the police force strengthened, and army conscription reintroduced.

The agreement makes "efficient protection of the state border" the no. 1 priority in the chapter on security and defence. Asylum procedures will be "consistently respected" and "mandatory integration of foreigners" instituted.

The priorities are broadly in line with the agenda of the Democrats (SDS), who have long advocated a tougher stance on migrations and called for stronger border security.

The police force gets several mentions, with the coalition pledging to "sort out the situation in the police" and "sort out the status, staffing and operation of the police". Consideration will also be given to the re-establishment of a secondary school for police officers, which was shut down in 1999 and transformed into a police academy.

While other details have not been disclosed, some media have speculated that a thorough overhaul of the police may be in the works. The speculation is borne out by a point from the SDS's election platform from 2018, which states that "during the transition from the former totalitarian regime to a democratic society, the criminal police has not been entirely purged by ideologically blinded officers".

One major priority that has captured the imagination of the public is the idea to gradually phase in conscription military service, which was abolished in 2003 and replaced with a professional force; the idea was floated by the SDS in January and was immediately endorsed by the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), one of the partners in the emerging four-way coalition.

The army has for years had problems enlisting enough soldiers and some see conscription as a good way of increasing the potential pool of professional soldiers.

Critics say introducing conscription will not improve the performance of the military until there is sufficient funding since the conscription system is potentially even costlier than a professional military. Some have also questioned whether conscription makes sense from a military perspective given the advanced technological requirements of modern warfare.

The incoming government also plans to develop cyber-defence capabilities and beef up measures to protect critical infrastructure.

This is the first in a series on the new government’s plans, to be posted in the next few days, with the whole set here

21 Jan 2020, 09:07 AM

STA, 20 January 2020 - Slovenia's defence budget will finally reach 2% of GDP by 2035, according to a white paper released online by the Defence Ministry on Monday. The document also shows plans for the Armed Forces to gradually grow by more than 1,500 soldiers, reaching 8,000 by 2035.

The long-awaited document shows that the military reserve force is to more than double, going from 700 today to 1,500 in 2035.

The white paper says that unless the measures foreseen attract additional force members, Slovenia will have to "reconsider the concept of the state's defence system, the scope and structure of the Armed Forces, and consider the introduction of other elements of military duty". Thus the country may think about reintroducing obligatory military duty in the future.

In terms of finance, the 2% spending foreseen in the white paper means that Slovenia would finally meet the defence funding target set by NATO in 2035. Moreover, 20% of the funds is to be spent on investments.

This year, defence spending will reach EUR 545.85 million, some EUR 40 million more than in 2019. Another increase is planned for 2021, when the defence budget is to reach EUR 561 million.

When the 2020 and 2021 budgets were discussed in parliament, Major General Alenka Ermenc, the chief of the general staff, said that additional funds planned for this year and the next will not allow a development breakthrough for the Armed Forces.

In the white paper, the ministry also wants to introduce territorial organisation of the Armed Forces and ensure that they are involved in local environments.

Moreover, a reorganisation of the military reserve force is planned. Under the plan, a part of the reserve could also be deployed on missions abroad, while the rest would be active exclusively in Slovenia and could be activated as part of the national system of protection and rescue.

The white paper also sees Slovenia becoming more resistant to cyber threats and its civil defence system strengthened.

This regards uninterrupted operation of authorities and branches of power at all levels, uninterrupted operation of public infrastructure and services, and uninterrupted energy supply, as well as ICT support and other sources vital for the functioning of the state and the security of its people.

Moreover, Slovenia is to upgrade its crisis response system, boost the use of ICT technologies in defence and create a comprehensive system for the management of cyber security in defence.

In terms of equipment, the white paper underlines the importance of cost optimisation and purchase transparency, and the possibility of joint purchasing with other countries. The paper also does not exclude the possibility of purchasing used equipment and weapons.

The document, which will not be binding, was drafted under the leadership of former Defence Ministry State Secretary Klemen Grošelj.

He left the ministry in July 2019 after being elected MEP. It took another six months before the document was made available online. Tomorrow, the white paper will be presented at the National Council.

10 Jan 2020, 09:31 AM

STA, 9 January 2020 - The six Slovenian troops who have served in the international operation Inherent Resolve in Erbil in northern Iraq have been safely brought home following a decision to relocate them in the wake of Iran's attacks on Iraqi bases in the night to Wednesday. However, Slovenia is not ending its presence in Iraq.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and Defence Minister Karl Erjavec assured the public that the decision to bring the current rotation home early did not mean Slovenia was withdrawing from Iraq.

Speaking after briefing MPs on the latest developments at a joint session of the parliamentary committees on defence and foreign policy, Erjavec said a new rotation would be deployed by 1 February at the latest.

He said the six soldiers deployed at Erbil base to train Iraqi security forces so far were unable to perform their duties anyway at the moment because of the security situation.

He said that a new rotation was ready to start work "as soon as training resumes, if necessary even before 1 February".

This was echoed by Šarec, who told reporters that Slovenia was staying on all international missions it was participating in.

The missions are what enhances the international reputation of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) and Slovenia. "If we are a trustworthy partner, we must act in such a way that our partners can count on us." Šarec said.

The Slovenian soldiers were flown from Erbil to Ankara airport in the afternoon before being flown to Slovenia aboard the government jet.

Slovenia decided to evacuate the troops after Iran attacked Erbil airport in the night to Wednesday in retaliation for the US killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

Slovenia being part of a German-led group in Erbil, the soldiers were originally supposed to withdraw with German logistic support, but Germany decided against withdrawing on Wednesday evening following US President Donald Trump's statement indicating a de-escalation in the US-Iran crisis.

The developments were discussed by the parliamentary committees on defence and foreign policy at a joint session behind closed doors for three hours.

No special resolutions were adopted but the committees voted down an initiative by the opposition Left to call on the government to end Slovenia's deployment in the operation Inherent Resolve.

Matjaž Nemec, the chair of the Foreign Policy Committee, told reporters after the session that the important message of the session was that Slovenia remained part of the anti-Daesh coalition.

"Slovenia participates in the mission as part of the global anti-Daesh coalition. We are implementing all tasks in accordance with our presence," said Erjavec, adding that Slovenia had coordinated its activities with other allied and partner countries participating in the operation Inherent Resolve.

08 Jan 2020, 12:08 PM

STA, 8 January 2020 - The attack by Iran on the military airbase in Erbil, Iraq, was one of the worst incidents involving Slovenian troops deployed abroad. They often face dangerous conditions but have luckily managed to avoid major injury. Below is a timeline of major security incidents involving Slovenian troops.

July 2005 - A hummer carrying four Slovenians participating in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan hit on an explosive device. While the vehicle was heavily damaged, the troops did not sustain serious injury, only some minor hearing problems experienced by one of them.

November 2009 - A Slovenian soldier committed suicide while serving in the KFOR mission in Kosovo. She is the only Slovenian soldier to die during deployment.

30 May 2011 - A civilian member of the Slovenian contingent in Afghanistan suffered a minor injury in a bomb attack that demolished a large part of Herat headquarters of the provincial reconstruction team. She sustained a superficial injury and was spared worse because she was inside an office, behind closed doors, when the bomb went off.

November 2013 - Six Slovenians deployed to Afghanistan came under fire by the Taliban while out on patrol with an Afghan unit they had been training. None of the Slovenians were injured.

22 January 2014 - A Slovenian soldier was shot in the leg in hostile fire while training an Afghan unit.

21 November 2014 - A soldier serving in Kosovo suffered a head injury caused by a smoke flare during crowd control training. He was taken to Slovenia for treatment.

April 2015 - Slovenian soldiers participating in the peacekeeping UNIFIL mission in Lebanon were ambushed by an unknown Arab militia, allegedly armed. The militants stole a computer allegedly carrying sensitive military data from their armoured vehicle.

February 2017 - Slovenian UNIFIL troops were ambushed, their convoy of light armoured personnel vehicles stopped in a roadblock and damaged by blunt objects.

4 August 2018 - A Slovenian UNIFIL patrol was attacked twice in the same day. First they were surrounded by an armed group that damaged their vehicle. They got away only to be attacked by a larger armed group that doused the vehicle in petrol and set it on fire. The troops fired two warning shots and returned to base unharmed.

8 January 2020 - Erbil airbase, were six Slovenians were deployed as part of the Inherent Resolve mission to Iraq, came under attack by Iran. Nobody was injured as the troops escaped to the bunkers following a detonation near the base. Slovenia decided to evacuate the six troops from Iraq.

08 Jan 2020, 09:36 AM

The is a developing situation, and updates will be posted as they arrive.

Updated at 12:10, 09/01/2019

STA, 8 January 2020 - The six Slovenian soldiers stationed in Erbil in northern Iraq in the German-led international operation Inherent Resolve will be evacuated after Iran attacked Erbil airport in retaliation for the US killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, the Defence Ministry announced on Wednesday.

The evacuation will be conducted in cooperation with the German partners, the ministry said.

The supreme commander of the armed forces, President Borut Pahor, and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec have been informed of the decision.

Pahor, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec and Major General Alenka Ermenc, the chief of the general staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces, talked to the Slovenian troops in Erbil via video call early this morning.

They said they were all well and they had been in the base's shelter during the attack on the airport in the proximity of the Stefan base, the ministry said.

The prime minister's office said in a press release that Šarec had given an order "for all necessary measures to be taken to protect our forces, including moving, evacuating them from the area".

The office added the evacuation would be conducted simultaneously with the evacuation of soldiers from other partner countries that are participating in the operation in northern Iraq.

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar welcomed the decision to evacuate the soldiers on Twitter and again called for easing of tensions. "It is important that the soldiers are not injured and are feeling fine," he wrote.

The minister also announced he would attend on Friday an extraordinary meeting of EU's foreign ministers where they would determine further action.

Iran fired multiple missiles at two US military targets in Iraq on Tuesday night, the al-Asad airbase north of Baghdad and Erbil in the north of the country, where Slovenian soldiers were stationed.

07 Jan 2020, 14:08 PM

STA, 7 January 2020 - Slovenian soldiers deployed in the German-led international operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq will stay in the Erbil base, the Defence Ministry said on Tuesday after Germany and several other countries decided to temporarily pull out their troops from Baghdad following the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.

All of Slovenian soldiers are currently in Erbil in northern Iraq, the ministry noted, adding it was constantly monitoring the situation and would make decisions based on further developments.

"The Slovenian Armed Forces troops in Iraq are safe," Defence Minister Karl Erjavec said. "We estimate that the situation in this part of Iraq is fairly stable, we are keeping an eye on the situation."

Due to increased risk, several measures have been adopted at Erbil base. Soldiers are required to wear flak jackets and helmets, and they are not allowed outside base. Their primary assignment - the training of Iraqi troops - has been put on hold as well, he said.

Slovenia can pull out its troops "within hours" if necessary, with several scenarios prepared in the event a political decision is reached to withdraw the soldiers. Slovenia has an agreement on logistic support with the German Defence Ministry, another possibility would be using the government jet, he said.

Erjavec was also quick to point out that Slovenian soldiers were not a part of the NATO operation but the global coalition against Islamic State, which is supported by several United Nations resolutions.

"It would be very bad if each country decided individually what to do. After all, we embarked on this mission together and should leave it together if such a decision is made." Based on the current security situation in north Iraq, pulling out troops now would be premature, he said.

After the US air strike in which Soleimani was killed on Friday, the situation in the country deteriorated.

Germany announced today it would transfer its 30 soldiers stationed in Baghdad and Taji to Jordan and Kuwait after the Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution calling on the government to expel foreign troops from the country.

Croatia also said that 14 of its troops had been transferred to Kuwait and seven returned home after their concluded their mission.

In line with an agreement with NATO, Italian forces also pulled out last night, Italian newspaper La Stampa reports today. Italy had some 50 Carabinieri stationed at the US army base in Baghdad.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg would not comment on the possibility of expulsion of foreign troops from the country on Monday. He said NATO's mission benefited both the allies and Iraq, and that NATO had been invited to the country by Iraqi authorities.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor said on Monday he was being briefed on the state of the six-strong Slovenian contingent in Iraq and that the situation was being monitored. "In the event the decision is taken that their status in Iraq has to change, the Slovenian state will immediately respond," he said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg would not comment on the possibility of expulsion of foreign troops from the country on Monday. He said NATO's mission benefited both the allies and Iraq, and that NATO had been invited to the country by Iraqi authorities.

Slovenian President Borut Pahor said on Monday he was being briefed on the state of the six-strong Slovenian contingent in Iraq and that the situation was being monitored. "In the event the decision is taken that their status in Iraq has to change, the Slovenian state will immediately respond," he said.

09 Dec 2019, 08:26 AM

STA, 5 December 2019 - The opposition Democrats (aka Slovenian Democratic Party - Slovenska demokratska stranka, SDS) issued a demand Thursday that the government widen deployment of the army on the border under provisions of the defence act that may be triggered in the event of mass migrations.

Police figures show 11,786 cases of illegal border crossing in January-September, up over 70 from a year ago, which the SDS says demands that the government take measures to "provide for the security of the residents of Slovenia".

The SDS motion will be debated at a joint session of the parliamentary defence and home policy committees on 12 December.

The army received limited police powers under amendments to the defence act passed in October 2015, at the peak of the migration crisis when thousands of migrants crossed into Slovenia each day.

The provisions may be activated for a period of up to three months, a decision which requires an absolute majority in parliament to be initiated.

Soldiers are already assisting the police in patrolling the border and the SDS motion is unlikely to gain traction considering the government's official position that the police are doing a good job protecting the border.

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