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PRESS CENTRE

Mandatory Military Service Abolished

9. September 2003

Prime Minister Anton Rop and Defence Minister Anton Grizold have announced the final abolishment of the mandatory military service system in Slovenia, as recruits that were to start service in October will not be called in.

The announcement came on Tuesday as PM Rop inspected a barracks in Ljubljana.

The announcement means that Slovenia is concluding the transition to a streamlined professional armed force with voluntary reserves. The voluntary reserves are to be fully in place by 2010, when mandatory reserve forces will be dismissed.

Grizold said that it would not be expedient to keep this system until June 2004 - the latest possible date envisaged in the amendment to the military service act passed in October 2002. Rop meanwhile labelled the move a "historic event" that would make happy many young people who do not want to serve, while opening new opportunities for those willing to serve as professional troops. According to Grizold, the number of recruits has been reduced since last year, as a result of a gradual decrease in the number of troops, an increase in the number of professional troops and engagement of voluntary reserves. The declining trend in the number of recruits continued this year: 861 recruits were called up in January and 409 in April. The July generation of recruits was not called up, while civil service was not carried out. The decision to bring down the number of recruits came after military officials established that Slovenia has a sufficient number of trained servicemen who have concluded their service. The abolishment of mandatory military service is one of the last steps in the transition to a streamlined professional armed force with voluntary reserves. The voluntary reserves are to be fully in place by 2010, when mandatory reserve forces are dismissed. This year more than 500 persons have been employed with the Slovenian Armed Forces. Now that the mandatory service will be done away with, citizens will be offered to serve in voluntary service or as members of the professional troops. Voluntary service, which will however be paid, will be introduced as of January 2004, said Grizold, who met the prime minister for a working meeting as Rop visited the Ljubljana barracks. Voluntary service was made possible by the relevant decree which took effect last week. It enables citizens aged from 18 to 27 to enter a three-month military training programme, for which they will get paid. Besides, their medical and pension insurance will also be covered by the state. Grizold and Rop used today's meeting to discuss the course of professionalization of the Slovenian Armed Forces, the army's co-operation with companies as well as its participation in disaster relief operations. The co-operation between armed forces and the police in the protection of the Schengen border was also touched on. As Rop told the press, this matter is still being examined. An ardent advocate of the abolishment of mandatory military service since its establishment in the summer of 2000, the opposition Youth Party (SMS) has already welcomed the move. "Today is undoubtedly a very important day. We have enabled young Slovenians to decide for themselves whether to serve or not...," SMS head Dominik Cernjak said in a press release. The party however expects the government to do all in its power to ensure that the abolishment of obligatory military service does not affect Slovenia's national security.

Slovene Press Agency

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