Prime Minister Janez Janša: The Slovenian Armed Forces have always enjoyed high level of public trust
Today, Prime Minister Janez Janša attended a dynamic demonstration of the Leap 2020 military exercise at the Ivan Cankar barracks. After the exercise, he addressed the participants.
In his speech, Mr Janša highlighted that Leap 2020 is the first military exercise of the Slovenian Armed Forces in a long time that was carried out outside training ranges. This re-established contact with the population, which is of fundamental importance for the military to be able to perform its service to the country well. Mr Janša also pointed out that the public has always had great trust in the Slovenian Armed Forces, despite some trying to reduce it to something less than a constitutional category, if not by other means than by reducing its financial resources.
The Prime Minister clearly stressed that it must be hard sometimes for members of the Slovenian Armed Forces when they see in a part of the Slovenian public that their actions are judged differently than those of other people: "The actions of a masked black-shirted protestor in Ljubljana who attacks the police, which is part of the new normal, are treated with more benevolence than the action of a soldier of the Slovenian Armed Forces who in performing his service points a weapon at somebody who is suspicious at first glance. The latter becomes a major scandal – some even declare it an international scandal – on our soil." He cited the old biblical saying about blind guides who "strain out a gnat but swallow a camel".
Mr Janša also highlighted the dedicated work of soldiers and said that the Government or the Ministry of Defence will formulate solutions for regulating and supplementing the status of soldiers and improving their salary situation and for providing additional long-term and medium-term funds for equipment that the army vitally needs.
Below is the transcript of the address of the Prime Minister Janez Janša.
Dear soldiers and officers of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me first thank you for this illustrative demonstration of your activities in the service of your country and for the exercise you have performed, the Leap exercise which is now almost at an end. It was ordered in a very short time and planned and adapted according to the situation. I believe that during this exercise you met many fellow citizens who welcomed you, particularly in the regions along our southern border. I have also received many positive responses to your activities. This was the first military exercise of the Slovenian Armed Forces in a long time that was carried out outside training ranges. It re-established contact with the population, which is of fundamental importance for you to be able to perform your service of your country well. You are performing it in a time of peace and we are all striving to ensure that it stays so.
Please allow me to look back in time for a bit. In June exactly 30 years ago, we were at the very beginning. We counted those rare pieces of infantry weaponry that had been left to us after the disarmament of the Slovenian Territorial Defence. They were very few. And despite it being known that the iron curtain in Europe was coming apart at the seams, that Yugoslavia was also coming apart at the seams and that the Demos coalition, whose programme included Slovenia's independence and sovereignty, won the elections, we had nothing that would enable us to defend such a decision.
When this decision was adopted in the plebiscite, the situation was slightly better, but if we had measured the balance of power in the categories in which you measure your power and the power of your potential opponents today, it would not have been worth the time. Twenty-nine years ago, also in June, just before the aggression against Slovenia started, we carried out a partial mobilisation. Thousands of your fellows, who were the same age as you are now, were called to arms, which we did not yet have. We had all been waiting for the famous ship bringing weapons, which arrived with a long delay, and for quite some time exercises were performed without what you are holding in your hands today, that is without weapons. You can imagine, I think, the morale of those who knew aggression was coming but had empty hands. When we had equipped ourselves to some extent, a new sun began to shine.
I am talking about this because you are the successors of the defence forces that successfully defended Slovenia those days in June and July 29 years ago. Without their defence, without the courage of Slovenian men and many women then, there would not be an independent Slovenia today. There would not be Slovenian Armed Forces; there would not be a Slovenia in the EU and NATO. It is impossible to know what would have followed, as the course of history always changes in its own way when opportunities presented are not taken.
There have been many such missed opportunities in the history of our nation, and I am glad that we made a different, a better, decision 30 years ago and that we were also able to defend it. Therefore, never forget your tradition. Never forget that the Slovenian Armed Forces were formed practically from nothing. From the Manoeuvre Structure of National Defence, from the units of the Territorial Defence that were first disarmed. It was, however, formed of Slovenian men with military knowledge, which they had also obtained in the former army that later turned out to be the aggressor and which at the right time had been supplemented with the correct response to the call of the mother country.
I know that in these times, which, albeit peaceful, are much more challenging than we could have imagined a few years ago, talking about this period may feel like stirring up old memories, but don't forget that the duties performed in the service of your country have remained practically the same and that you have been entrusted with the most difficult duty of them all – if your country is in danger, you defend it with weapons and your lives.
In light of this, it must be hard for you sometimes when you see in a part of the Slovenian public or in the echoes of the so-called public that your actions are judged differently than the actions of other people. That the actions of a masked black-shirted protestor in Ljubljana who attacks the police, which is part of the new normal, are treated with more benevolence than the action of a soldier of the Slovenian Armed Forces who in performing his service points a weapon at somebody who is suspicious at first glance, and the latter becomes a major scandal – some even declare it an international scandal – on our soil. As the old biblical saying about blind guides goes, they "strain out a gnat but swallow a camel".
But that is a kind of virtual reality inspired by political motives which, when it comes to defending your country and the very status of the Slovenian Armed Forces, should not come into play. When it comes to defending your country, the Slovenian Armed Forces are a key part of its defence forces. They are a constitutional category that belongs to everyone, that is common to everyone, like the flag insignia that your wear on your left shoulder or the Slovenian coat-of-arms or all other common symbols.
Because of this, the Slovenian Armed Forces had a positive image 29 years ago in the eyes of the vast majority of the Slovenian public, the majority that voted for an independent Slovenia in the plebiscite.
I remember public opinion polls from 25 years ago showing that the Slovenian Armed Forces were the most trusted institution of the Republic of Slovenia and, despite what would happen in the years and decades to come, when some tried to reduce the Slovenian Armed Forces to something less than a constitutional category, if not by other means than by reducing its financial resources, even then, the public support remained. I hope and I believe, not least based on the responses I have received, that you have come to a similar belief in these last few weeks of conducting the Leap, when, after leaving your barracks and training ranges, you've seen how people, particularly those living along the southern border who feel threatened because of illegal migration, see you as protectors or those called to protect them if the need arises.
As I've already said, much of what should have been done in the last years and decades but was not, we must make up for. Based on the doctrine, the concepts, the Constitution, the legislation, the Slovenian Armed Forces should be much bigger and much stronger than they currently are. But I believe that those of you who are in the army, although few in number, do your job with dedication, with heart, in the service of your country, and much can be compensated with that. But not everything. That is why, in the short duration of its term, the Government of the Republic of Slovenia and the Ministry of Defence has formulated solutions for regulating and supplementing your status; we will also work on improving your salary situation and providing additional long-term and medium-term funds for equipment that you vitally need.
Slovenia sends you on dangerous international missions, and it is the country's duty to provide the necessary equipment that will protect your lives and allow you to do your job well. I would like to thank everyone who is here and who has already been on such missions for your contribution. Responses from colleagues in Europe and elsewhere in NATO whom I am in contact with have been positive.
There was also a lot of praise for some of the activities you carried out during the epidemic, taking care of sick members of the Slovenian Armed Forces as well as others, being the first to respond when the epidemic broke out among the international forces in Bosnia and helping the Civil Protection Service and the general population with various tasks, at a time when we learned that, in addition to the more typical threats, the epidemic also posed an immediate danger and we were faced with a situation that had generally seemed unimaginable. I would also like to thank the brigadier general, the Force Commander and others who have made it possible for us to keep the number of infections low, who have ensured that, as was said in the presentation, there has not been a single outbreak on the job while you were doing your duties, and that imported infections were limited in real time.
Thank you again. I apologise for not being able to come to the closing ceremony on Friday as was initially planned, as I have to attend a video-conference of the European Council. There are things that cannot be postponed.
Finally, let me congratulate you once again and thank you on behalf of all the citizens who appreciated your presence on the southern border.
May you remain dedicated to serving your country!
Thank you very much.