Today, Slovenian Minister of Defence Matej Tonin discussed with North Macedonian Minister of Defence Radmila Šekerinska in the context of her official visit to Slovenia. After her reception with military honours, the two ministers had a short meeting followed by official talks between the two delegations. The visit of the North Macedonian Minister to Slovenia is a continuation of regular meetings at the highest political level between the two friendly countries, representing yet another opportunity to further strengthen cooperation, especially in light of the NATO membership, the Slovenian Ministry of Defence announced.
This is Šekerinska’s first official visit abroad since North Macedonia was granted full NATO membership.
During the official talks, the interlocutors focused on bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the field of defence, army and cooperation in the Alliance. They concluded that bilateral cooperation is very good and has been greatly strengthened in recent years, and this year’s cooperation program is the most comprehensive so far. This is certainly the result of proactive action by Slovenia, which has decided to support the integration of North Macedonia into NATO by running a contact embassy for NATO and a NATO liaison office in Skopje, as well as a defence adviser at the North Macedonian Ministry of Defence. The defence adviser took office in Skopje in March 2020.
Cooperation is particularly intensive in the areas of military education, exercises and training. Members of the armed forces regularly participate in military exercises, which are held on the training grounds of both countries, both in international formats and bilaterally. In addition, Slovenia offers support to North Macedonia in building the capacity of joint fire controllers (so-called JTACs) through participation in courses at the AGOS regional school in Cerklje ob Krki. This way, members of the North Macedonian Armed Forces who have already completed the course will be invited to the first regional Air Week in September this year, which will be organized for the purpose of further training of joint controllers from the Western Balkans. “In the future, we also want to strengthen operational cooperation with North Macedonia following the example of cooperation with Montenegro, which has proven to be extremely positive for both defence systems. Thus, we will agree on a joint contribution to the NATO operation eFP Latvia, as is already the case with Montenegro, as well as in other international operations and missions,” the statement adds. Both ministers stressed the importance of joint participation in international military exercises and training.
The two countries also cooperate solidly in the field of logistics, where they will further strengthen cooperation in the future. Due to comparable needs, the countries of the region have decided to purchase similar military equipment and techniques, opening up opportunities for cooperation in the field of their maintenance. As Minister Tonin emphasized, cooperation in the use and maintenance of Oshkosh light vehicles (JLTV), which both countries are introducing into operational use this year, will also be agreed upon. From this point of view, operational cooperation will be strengthened in the future, for which the basic condition is the construction of interoperability. Furthermore, excellent cooperation in the field of protection and rescue and protection against natural and other disasters was underlined. Most of these activities in recent years have taken place both at regional level and within the European Union.
Regional cooperation is very important for both countries, said Minister Tonin and Minister Šekerinska. It takes place in several areas and enables action in accordance with the concept of smart defence. As an example of smart defence, the Minister pointed out the joint training of the Slovenian and North Macedonian armies at the Krivolak training ground, where one army contributes with modern technology and the other with a suitable training ground for joint training. Another example of such co-operation is the Skopje-based Balkan Medical Working Group (BMTF). The Ministers agreed that the BMTF represents a welcome multinational regional military rapid response capacity, capable of providing medical care in the event of natural and other disasters and in international operations and missions.
Part of the conversation was dedicated to the presentation of segments of the Slovenian defence and security system. Minister Šekerinska was acquainted with the role and work of the National Crisis Management Centre in the National Crisis Management System. /ibna