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Minister of Defence of the Republic of North Macedonia pays official visit to Slovenia

The Minister of Defence of the Republic of North Macedonia, Slavjanka Petrovska, is paying a two-day official visit to Slovenia at the invitation of the Minister of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia, Marjan Šarec. Her visit is a continuation of the meetings at the highest political levels between the two friendly countries, and an opportunity to further strengthen the cooperation between Slovenia and the Republic of North Macedonia in the field of defence and military affairs.

After reviewing the Guard of Honour in front of the Ministry of Defence, Minister Petrovska and Minister Šarec had a tête-à-tête, followed by official bilateral talks between the two delegations, led by the two Ministers. The talks first touched upon bilateral defence cooperation and cooperation between the armed forces of the two countries, based on the Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia and the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Macedonia, signed in Skopje on 11 July 1994 and ratified in September 1995. The cooperation, which has intensified over the years, goes beyond the scope of the current Agreement, and Minister Šarec proposed that a new Agreement be prepared to cover the newly established areas of cooperation.

Both Minister Šarec and Minister Petrovska agreed that cooperation in this area has been excellent for several years and that it is to be further strengthened in the future. This is particularly important at a time when international peace and security are being tested and it is necessary to strengthen relations and cooperation between allies who share common values, Minister Šarec stressed. He added that Slovenia is committed to improving military cooperation with the Republic of North Macedonia, particularly in terms of joint training. This also includes the use of the Krivolak military training area for firing large calibre weapons, continued cooperation within multinational military exercises, and continued support for the affiliation of members of the Army of the Republic of North Macedonia to the Slovenian Armed Forces contingent in the Enhanced Forward Presence in Latvia.

During the talks, the Ministers exchanged information on the measures taken by both countries in the area of manning and the plans for the equipping and modernisation of both armed forces. The Ministers agreed that the challenges in terms of solutions to address these areas are very similar in both countries. The two countries have also been cooperating very well for several years in the field of protection and disaster relief, and, in this context, in firefighter training in the Republic of Slovenia. Up to 40 North Macedonian firefighters are planned to attend such training next year.

The two ministers further exchanged views on regional cooperation, which is important for strengthening trust and security in the wider region. The two countries participate in several regional initiatives: the Adriatic Charter (A-5), the South-East Europe Defence Ministerial (SEDM) and the Balkan Medical Task Force. As an example of good cooperation, the two Ministers highlighted the joint cooperation in the Enhanced Forward Presence in Latvia, where the North Macedonian and Montenegrin decontamination squads operate as part of the Slovenian contingent. According to Minister Petrovska, North Macedonia intends to maintain the participation of its squad in the Slovenian Enhanced Forward Presence contingent in Latvia until 2024.

During their talks, the Ministers devoted particular attention to Slovenia's initiative to establish a regional logistics centre for the maintenance of JLTV 4x4 Oshkosh vehicles. The manufacturer has positively accepted the initiative and selected a contractor in Slovenia. The contract between the contractor in Slovenia and the manufacturer is expected to be concluded early next year. This will create the conditions for maintenance, spare parts supply, training on modern trainers and joint procurement in all three user countries using JLTVs (Slovenia, Montenegro and the Republic of North Macedonia).

At the end of their talks, the Ministers exchanged views on the security situation in the Western Balkans and the dynamic developments and implications for European and wider international security in the wake of Russia's aggression against Ukraine. Both Minister Šarec and Minister Petrovska agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation and exchange experience also in the fields of cyber security and critical infrastructure protection, which are increasingly turning into a serious challenge for national security.

After the talks at the Ministry of Defence, the Minister of Defence of the Republic of North Macedonia was also received by the President of the Republic of Slovenia, Borut Pahor, in the Presidential Palace.

In the afternoon, Minister Šarec and Minister Petrovska will officially open the part of the exhibition at the Military History Park in Pivka, which was complemented with a quadruple-barrel 20mm M 38 anti-aircraft gun donated by the Republic of North Macedonia to the Republic of Slovenia at the beginning of 2022, and which has been a part of the permanent collection of the Military History Park ever since. Minister Šarec thanked the North Macedonian Minister for the donation, which has greatly enriched the collection of military heritage in the Pivka Military History Park.

Minister Petrovska will conclude her official visit to the Republic of Slovenia at the Cerklje ob Krki airfield, where she and Minister Šarec will observe the plane-crash fire-fighting and disaster relief exercise Letalo (Aircraft) 2022.