STA, 23 November 2018 - One hundred years after General Rudolf Maister established the first Slovenian army in modern history, Alenka Ermenc was promoted to become the country's first woman army general.
Slovenia celebrates Rudolf Maister Day on Friday in memory of the day in 1918 when the general (1874-1934) took control of Maribor and in effect secured what later became Slovenia's northern border.
The ceremony at which President Borut Pahor formally elevated Brigadier Ermenc to major general and decorated the association dedicated to the preservation of memory of General Maister was only one in several events marking the anniversary.
Pahor noted that a century ago Maister, "with his bravery and patriotic heart, preserved Maribor and the Lower Styria as Slovenian".
"One hundred years later, Slovenia is one of the world's safest countries. It is the merit not only of our defence force, but of society and country as a whole."
Pahor noted that Slovenia had to defend its independence with an armed force in 1991 and that Ermenc, who was made the first woman general today, was a member of the emerging Slovenian army then.
"This is a momentous moment for her, for the Slovenian Armed Forces, for our national and civic confidence, for our homeland and country," he said.
Putting on her new uniform of major general and accepting the Slovenian flag from the president, Ermenc said it was "the love for homeland" that guided her on her path, which was not always easy.
"I'm aware that the army is victorious only through joint effort and that the average never win," she said, underscoring the importance of knowledge and hard work.
Ermenc graduated from the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences and from the Royal College of Defence Studies in London and got her master's degree in 2009 at the King's College University of London.
She was actively involved in the 1991 independence war as a member of the Territorial Defence, the army's precursor. She has been employed in the SAF for 27 years.
She was promoted to the rank of brigadier in May 2011 and in March this year she was named deputy chief of the general staff, the highest rank for a woman in the army.
Roughly one out of six members of the active component of Slovenia's Armed Forces are women (1,097 out of 6,658), including 188 civilians. As many as 301 are officers or non-commissioned officers.
Pahor also presented an Order of Merit to the General Maister Association and its founder Milan Lovrenčič for their efforts in the preservation of memory of the general and his contribution to Slovenia.
It was thanks to the association that 23 November has been observed as a public holiday since 2005, although not as a bank holiday. At the association's initiative the Maister Library of the University of Maribor, which keeps his books, has recently been declared a monument of national importance.
Ob dnevu Rudolfa Maistra je PRS in vrhovni poveljnik obrambnih sil priredil posebno slovesnost ob povišanju Alenke Ermenc v čin generalmajorke in vročil državno odlikovanje Zvezi društev general Maister in mag. Lovrenčiču. https://t.co/a4eYNg1n6I pic.twitter.com/dDE952kbRF— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) November 23, 2018
Judging by his popularity, Maister is likely the most prominent military personality in Slovenian history. It is largely owing to him that Maribor, Slovenia's second city, and the north-east of Slovenia became part of the new Yugoslav state rather than Austria after the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed.
Maister was in command of the regional headquarters at the end of World War I and in 1918 assumed command of Maribor and the Slovenian part of Carinthia. He set up a Slovenian army of 4,000 soldiers, disarmed the German Schutzwehr security service, and disbanded the militia of the German city council.
The general then occupied Slovenian ethnic territory, establishing the northern border between Austria and Yugoslavia that was later ratified by the Saint Germain Peace Treaty. The same border still runs between Slovenia and Austria today.
The main ceremony marking the holiday was held in Maribor last night. In his keynote, Speaker Dejan Židan described Maister, a general and a poet, as a resolute, confident, courageous, selfless and honest patriot with the soul of an artist. He said people of his calibre were needed today.
"At the time it was about life and death. The situation called for quick decisions and actions, not just on Maister's part but on the part of everyone involved ... It wasn't until after Slovenia's independence that his historic merit was acknowledged by official politics." Židan said.
The ceremony was also attended by President Pahor and members of the government, including Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who praised Maister as the epitome of bravery, determination and resolve.
An exhibition showcasing Maister as general and poet was launched at the National Assembly today. While wreaths will be laid at his grave in Maribor, Slovenian air force aircraft will fly over the city.
In keeping with a tradition launched by him, Pahor is holding an open door at the Presidential Palace today.
Predsednik Pahor je na predvečer dneva Rudolfa Maistra položil venec k spomeniku Rudolfa Maistra na trgu generala Maistra v Mariboru. pic.twitter.com/ZABRh0dlom— Borut Pahor (@BorutPahor) November 22, 2018
Related: All our stories on Slovenian history are here
STA, 21 November 2018 - Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, pinpointed some of the issues for the party in the draft supplementary budget for 2019 on Wednesday by saying that the government faced the dilemma between "guns and butter".
Mesec said the Left, a partner to the Marjan Šarec minority government, was happy that the draft budget implementation bill envisaged an increase in the annual allowance for pensioners, an extra adjustment of pensions, and 10 new jobs at the Labour Inspectorate.
The draft, which the party received today, also contains a provision saying that public sector staff would as a rule have salaried jobs instead of being hired by agencies, which means they will also have appertaining worker rights.
However, Mesec said that there was a major flaw in the draft, which was that social transfers such as child benefit, baby bonus, unemployment benefit, disability benefits and scholarships would not be adjusted to inflation next year, measures valued at EUR 16m.
Mesec juxtaposed that to the EUR 15.5m deal to procure 38 Oshkosh armoured personnel vehicles for the Slovenian Armed Forces to form a battalion-sized battlegroup, the signing of which had been confirmed by Defence Minister Karl Erjavec.
The Left has been opposing the deal for months on the grounds that Slovenia is not facing any such threat to national security. Mesec said that even in case of aggression against Slovenia, the four-wheelers would not come useful because they were meant for offensive rather than defensive action, while they were also useless for civilian purposes.
The party thus called on the government to reconsider the contract. It will also call a session of the parliamentary Defence Committee to propose rescinding the deal and a legislative amendment under which any defence procurement in excess of EUR 1m would require parliament's consent.
In response the Defence Ministry said that the Oshkosh light combat all-terrain vehicles to be supplied to the army between 2021 and 2023, would replace the worn out Hummer vehicles and would provide troops with a high-level of protection, which was one of the main reasons for the purchase.
The ministry said that a well-protected armoured vehicle had proven to be essential for the survival of teams in combat and non-combat incidents as the one in Afghanistan a few years ago as Slovenian troops on a routine mission run onto an explosive device and "the vehicle's armour prevented fatalities and major injury".
The ministry said that Slovenia was one of few countries without casualties during more than two decades it had been participating in various international missions, and that high security and protection standards would remain a key requirement in army equipment in the future.
The ministry initiated procurement of 38 Oshkosh light combat vehicles in the previous term and completed it last week by signing an agreement with the US administration.
All our stories about the Slovenian military are here
STA, 9 October 2018 - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg paid a working visit to Slovenia on Tuesday to meet PM Marjan Šarec, President Borut Pahor and address the National Assembly. He expressed the expectation that the country would increase its defence spending, with Šarec saying Slovenia would strive to allocate 1.5% of GDP to defence in "a few years’ time".
STA, 5 October 2018 - NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has welcomed Slovenia's increase in defence spending in real terms in a correspondence interview with the STA ahead of his visit on Tuesday. "But we expect Slovenia to do more to meet the target that we all agreed."
STA - Following media reports that the Koper port could become a major NATO logistic hub, which Slovenian officials denied yesterday, the STA learned from a source at NATO that the port would only be used during a NATO exercise in October.
STA, 12 July 2018 - Prime Minister Miro Cerar said after the last day of talks on defence spending at the NATO summit that Slovenia had made no new promises but was sticking to its commitments from the past. "Our commitments remain the same. We are economical and reliable. We promise only what we can actually keep," he said.
STA, 11 July 2018 - Outgoing Prime Minister Miro Cerar said as he arrived for the NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday that the new government would need to have an even more ambitious approach regarding the commitments to increase defence spending.
STA, 2 July - The government adopted at Monday's correspondence session a decision raising defence spending in 2018 to one percent of Slovenia's gross domestic product (GDP), tasking the Ministry of Finance to implement the decision by 29 September.
STA, 29 June 2018 - A Slovenian battalion-sized battle group which failed a NATO combat readiness test in February improved its result in a test that took place this week. The battle group has been deemed combat ready by an evaluation team made up of Slovenian military testers and two officers of the Allied Land Command.