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Slovak Republic - Personnel

From The Slovak Republic's Defence Reform Long Term Plan SR Force 2010 - the demand arose to adopt a new system of troops training management that will be more modern than the earlier model and fully compatible with the training methods of the Western European countries' Armed Forces. To secure this goal the Principles of training management (SPJ- 3-3) were created. This document originates in the premise that training is the primary occupation of all army units in the time of peace.

As of 2008 the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic numbered 15,400 professional soldiers, as it had managed to reduce its standing army from approximately 46,000 troops in the 1990s. According to the scheme in the 2009 military strategic development document known as Model 2020, the number of personnel in the Slovak Armed Forces is not to exceed 14,000 troops.

The morning of 22 December 2005 marked the release of the last 214 conscripts and the end of the 85-year period of compulsory military service in the Slovak Republic. January 2006 marked the transition of the Slovak Armed Forces to fully professional armed forces. Historically, between December 1868 and December 2005, young men would be conscripted into the armed forces which, unfortunately, had not always served on the side of democracy, where they are so strongly embedded today. From January 1, 2004, conscripts were called upfor a 6-month basic military service. Its length had gradually been shortened due to the democratic transformation of Czecho-Slovakia. During the totalitarian regime, the compulsory military service lasted for two years. By saying their good-bye to the last conscripts serving in the Slovak Armed Forces, Defence Minister Juraj Lika and Chief of the General Staff Lubomr Bulk drew a symbolic line behind the 137-year-long history of the basic compulsory military service in Slovakia.

Although the Defence Ministry of the Slovak Republic was looking clearly ahead, it must not forget the past. With the aim of indemnifying individuals against claims arisen in the previous regime, it s pushed forward a new legislation rectifying areas of concern. For example, in 2007 the Act on Financial Contribution for Former Soldiers came into effect. It applies to soldiers who, during the Stalin era, served in the military forced labor camps. In the former Czechoslovakia, between 1948 and 1954, forced laborers amounted to a total of 40,000 young men. They either disagreed with the communist regime, or came from entrepreneurial family backgrounds, practised a religion, or had relatives in the West. They would work in the mines, stone quarries, forests or at construction sites. Furthermore, most of them were not released into the reserve after two years of service, as was stipulated by law, but were forced to stay for another year or even more. Those who lived under socialism know very well what destiny awaited them, once they returned to civilian life with a personal record - politically unreliable.

In this regard, the Defence Minister himself initiated a legislative amendment. In his own words, the Act does not bring a complete rectification, but it offers compensation. Also, it acknowledges the historical truth and the fact that the former regime promoted illegal and immoral practices. And if we want to build up new, fully professional armed forces, serving the cause of democracy, we cannot fail in our efforts to cope with the past. Why not take the opportunity to turn over a new leaf?"

The bolstering of the Slovak involvement in peace support operations in KFOR and ALTHEA in 2006 was an all-clear signal in that direction. In addition to the announced increase in the troop levels in operations abroad and a new system of the fully professional Armed Forces, which is no longer backed upby conscripts, another essential element in the life of the military resurfaces in the form of the Act on State Service of Professional Soldiers. Besides other goals, its key priority is to stabilise military services and branches, to improve the quality of personnel and, to define rules for further career development. Indeed, the Slovak Armed Forces had since long needed this legislation.

In the past years professional soldiers could accept degradation into lower ranks to keep their jobs. It not only helped them to stay in the armed forces but also prevented some units from failing to function adequately. This was an unsystematic move, one which deeply undermined the long-term development of the armed forces on a hierarchical principle. The new Act created conditions for a career development system and not a decline or degradation. As a result, degradation for thepurpose of keeping a job would be exceptional. However, the Act permitted the application and validity of this practice only until 31 December 2007.

The old legislation allowed the personnel, who had met their obligations, to decide to leave freely from the armed forces anytime they wanted to. Secondly, the decentralisation of powers, which also affected service personnel, gave commanders the powers to dismiss servicemen and women anytime whenever they requested it. People who had been enabled to study abroad or sent on peace support missions to acquire necessary experience to staff higher positions returned and just smiled and accepted more lucrative offers from the public sector. For instance, almost 400 professional soldiers left the military upon their own request at the end of 2004. They were mainly higher-ranking officers. Consequently, the situation almost spun out of control when the number of higher officers went down below the set limits.

The adopted Act helped to stabilise the personnel levels because it created equal and clear rules for employees, i.e. professional soldiers as well as for the employer, i.e. the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic. The new system boasts transparency, justice and it also gives equal opportunities to everyone. And if subject to thorough application, it will definitely eliminate space for corruption, and prevent people from giving preference to personal interests, or benefiting friends and acquaintances. The Act has created ample space for the formation of a new professional environment.

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