With democratic changes and the independence of Slovenia, the Territorial Defence Forces of Slovenia were transformed into the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF). The SAF's most important duties include the defence of the Republic of Slovenia, fulfilling international defence, military and other commitments taken on by the Republic of Slovenia, cooperating in tasks related to protection, salvage and aid, and in peace-keeping and humanitarian missions. Until 2002, the SAF was a conscript force, but it is now being transformed into a professional force. The process was concluded in 2010. During this time, Slovenia established a professional army with a voluntary reserve.
Slovenia has rapidly integrated into the Euro-Atlantic community of nations and is one of the focus countries for the US southeast European policy aimed at reinforcing regional stability and integration. The Slovenian Government is well-positioned to be an influential partner for other southeast European governments at different stages of reform and integration, and has introduced initiatives toward this goal, including the establishment of the Center for European Perspective, the Bled Strategic Forum, and the Brdo Process. To these ends, the US urged Slovenia to maintain momentum on internal economic, political, and legal reforms, while expanding its international cooperation as resources allow. US and allied efforts to assist Slovenia's military restructuring and modernization efforts are ongoing.
With the adoption of the Defence Act (Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, No 82/1994), the defence forces of the Republic of Slovenia were given a new name – the Slovenian Armed Forces. When established, the Slovenian Armed Forces set a number of goals directed into the provision of national security and participation in international security structures. In 1994, a decision was adopted that the Republic of Slovenia was to become a NATO member and was to assume obligations and responsibilities demanded by the integration into European and other international structures. Consequently, on 30 March 1994, the Republic of Slovenia was the first to join NATO Partnership for Peace programme. At that time, the defence forces of the Republic of Slovenia began to implement developmental and organisational changes required by the changes in the security environment and by the obligations within the Partnership for Peace (PfP) program.
The Slovenian Armed Forces actively strengthened their path towards the North Atlantic Alliance. Nevertheless, this still did not suffice to receive invitation to join NATO at the 1997 NATO Summit in Madrid. The Slovenian Armed Forces therefore devoted even more effort to the professionalisation and build up of modern and deployable forces. With a thorough development, they wished to establish a small, modern, effectively equipped and armed as well as highly competent armed force which would be able to operate independently or within international security structures. These efforts also included the deployment of the first Slovenian Armed Forces members to an international humanitarian operation ALBA in Albania.
After ten years as a PfP member, the Slovenian Armed Forces came to fulfil military conditions and at the 2002 NATO Summit in Prague received an invitation to join the Alliance as a full member. Along with this, a strategy of transition to professional armed forces was being developed and adopted at a national level. This set the conditions for the implementation of the strategy, and the preparations were underway for the PROVOJ project (transition to a professional armed force complemented with a contractual reserve). The aim of the project was to design a military organisation which would be founded on professional active and contractual reserve components, and would be able to implement all tasks and missions within the national defence system and the Alliance. Even before that, the conscripts had been increasingly opting for conscientious objection or alternative service, which was a clear sign that the general Slovenian public agreed with the professionalisation of the armed forces.
After having joined NATO on 29 March 2004, a very intensive five-year period of integration activities followed. These activities culminated in the signing of a Declaration on SAF integration into NATO. This Declaration defines the ability of the Slovenian Armed Forces to operate in line with NATO standards, which unite interoperability, deployability, sustainability, survivability in the area of operations and ability to recover. With the integration into NATO, the Slovenian Armed Forces proved to attain the required quality standards, which would in the future be intensively developed and upgraded.
In the 20 years of operation, the Slovenian Armed Forces have evolved into a modern, highly competent and credible institution which enjoys high reputation at home and abroad and manages to effectively work alongside the forces with longer traditions. Today, our troops not only perfectly cooperate with servicemembers from other countries, but also pass their knowledge and lessons learned along to their counterparts. In addition to their participation in international operations and missions, members of the Slovenian Armed Forces also perform peacetime duties within military representations, command structure and NATO and EU structure, international organisations and bodies as well as multinational commands and staffs.
These representatives provide for national relations and homogeneity, a unified representation of the interests of the Republic of Slovenia and the Slovenian Armed Forces abroad, as well as for a rational and efficient support of its servicemembers.
Slovenia's military has taken great strides in a short time to become an all-volunteer force that is professional, equipped and ready to contribute to the collective security of the NATO Alliance. The SAF underwent a major reorganization from 2003 to 2005, with the goal of changing from a conscription-based territorial defense force to a professional, deployable, and combat capable military with NATO. The SAF is also responsible for civil-military disaster relief and continually assists with fire-fighting, mountain and water rescue, and disaster relief from earthquakes and floods.
Slovenia is an important partner in US efforts to stabilize the Western Balkans, integrate these countries into European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, and further the democratic transformation of each nation,s polity. Slovenia has the highest per capita GDP of any post-communist country and was the first country in CEE to adopt the Euro. Economically, politically and militarily, Slovenia is boxing above its weight.
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