Borut Pahor, President of the Republic of Slovenia and the Commander-in-Chief of its armed forces

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A few days ago, you attended the 52th Munich Security Conference in the Bavarian capital, which is the most important security conference in the world. This year, the Conference was focused on global security challenges and their impact on security in Europe. What are your impressions after the Conference and are there any indications that hostilities in Syria might be coming to an end?

This is the most important security conference in the world and this year, the focus was on global security challenges and their reflection in Europe’s security (conflicts in the Middle East with emphasis on Syria, migration issues and their impact on the situation in the EU). Particular attention was paid to Euro-Atlantic alliances as a guarantor of stability in South-eastern and Eastern Europe.

I am convinced that the agreement on a cessation of hostilities in Syria reached by representatives of 17 countries at the meeting in Munich is a small piece in the mosaic. However, for a more permanent solution and achieving peace in the Middle East, peace negotiations need to be supported and, although resolving the Syrian conflict has been unsuccessful several times, we must never give up hope.

Recently, I think I can say, we have been witnessing progress. In Syria, a cease-fire between Syrian government forces and opposition rebels is soon to take effect. I hope this will be a breakthrough in the civil war that has lasted for almost five years, claiming at least 250,000 lives and driving millions of Syrians out of their homes and country. Continuation of the peace process is necessary to end the war in Syria. However, there is a long way to go. An agreement on the political process in Syria will have to be reached and the opposing views of the Syrian Government and the opposition will need to be brought closer.

At the Conference, you also participated in the panel discussion entitled “Towards Further Euro-Atlantic Integration.” How important do you consider Euro-Atlantic alliances to be as a means of ensuring stability in the Middle East and in Eastern Europe?

Striving for international peace and stability is important; the central crisis-related issues of our time and the most important political challenges of the contemporary world tell us that the need for Euro-Atlantic partnerships or partnerships and integration in general is urgent. It is important that we integrate Southeastern European countries into the European Union as well. A European perspective is the first condition for peace. The second is mutual trust to achieve unity, which is necessary for the implementation of the European perspective. We must help each other in order to secure ourselves a better future.

At the Brdo-Brioni Process summit toward the end of last year, you talked about security dilemmas in the region. Do we need to be concerned about peace and safety? Namely, Croatia and Serbia have recently been putting great emphasis on arming their security and defence structures.

It is important to continue the political dialogue and regional cooperation. These are also two fundamental ideas behind the Brdo-Brioni Process initiative. We need a multifaceted dialogue between neighbouring countries to help resolve open issues. Such a dialogue is necessary in order to create the trusting atmosphere required for addressing unresolved issues.

In 2015, you hosted a conference entitled “Slovenia 2030, a Future of Peace and Security.” At the Conference, the following question was raised: Does the existing international political and security architecture enable peaceful resolving of conflicts and efficient ways of dealing with old and new global security challenges? What is your opinion on this question?

At the conference Slovenia 2030 on the future of national security and the required modernisation of its system, it was evident from the discussion that a high level of security in Slovenia should not be taken for granted and that the country needs to invest in security in accordance with its available resources. I found essential the point that the current concept of defence organisation, doctrine, structure and composition of Slovenian armed forces need to be modernised. It would be right to have a clear picture of at least elementary courses of this modernisation before we start amending the legislation governing this area. These findings would also be useful for our active role as a member of NATO alliance.

As the Commander-in-Chief of the defence forces of the Republic of Slovenia, what is your view of insufficient funding being available for the equipment and functioning of the Slovenian army?

We find ourselves in a situation in which financial resources for the Slovenian army and the security system of our entire country are decreasing. The amount of funds for modernisation, for training of individuals and units, for maintenance of military equipment and for staffing of units is insufficient. On the other hand, security risks are becoming higher, which leads to burdening of the army with additional tasks, while its structure and available resources remain at the same level. As the President of the Republic and the Commander-in-Chief or our defence forces, I am obliged to do everything within my constitutional powers to assure that Slovenia remains one of the safest countries in the world. As regards the preparedness of the Slovenian army, it is neither possible nor fair to rely exclusively on the human factor. Equipment and conditions that are essential for the operative preparedness of the troops must also be provided; therefore I estimate that the time has come to reach a political consensus on providing the most necessary budgetary funds for the successful functioning of the Slovenian armed forces and the security system in general. As regards the safety of our country, we must not assume that the current situation will remain as it is. Instead, we need to make sure that our system remains reliable in cases of greater security risks in the future.

I would like to express my appreciation to Slovenian soldiers and police officers who carry out their duties successfully and responsibly on missions abroad and to those who pursue security and humanitarian missions within the country. Regardless of the current financial situation, I expect the employees within the national security system to carry out their duties in accordance with the mission of their organisation. The duty of Slovenian politicians, on the other hand, is to modernise the national security system, including the Slovenian armed forces, according to the currently demanding circumstances. This, in turn, requires adequate financial resources.

Andrej Kovačič                             E: andrej.kovacic@varensvet.si

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