COVID-19 crisis confirmed Slovenian adherence to the OSCE commitments
Statements by Ambassador-at-Large Andrej Benedejčič, Special Envoy of the Foreign Minister, at the 10th IWG Structured Dialogue in Capitals Format, 4-5 June 2020
Session 1, Cluster I: Implications of COVID-19 on pol-mil commitments
The most important normative document in the OSCE's First Dimension is the Code of Conduct on Politico-Military Aspects of Security. It provides key guidance on how to organize and govern the security sector in democratic societies. One of its relevant provisions stipulates that each participating State will at all times provide for and maintain effective guidance to and control of its security forces, which must act solely within the constitutional framework. Another one refers to the importance of cooperation among participating States.
I would therefore like to point out that the response of the Slovenian Armed Forces to the crisis was two-fold, both national and regional.
At the national level the Army reacted by deploying its large, ROLE-2 field hospital, as well as other medical facilities. It also provided logistical and transport support. This was in line with the Slovenian Defence Law, which specifies that in the event of natural and other disasters the Army participates in the protection and rescue efforts with its personnel and equipment.
At the regional level the Slovenian Armed Forces focused on the Western Balkans. Assistance was delivered to North Macedonia, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Medical experts were also flown in to conduct COVID-19 testing among EUFOR troops.
In that sense, the crisis strengthened regional cooperation, while also confirming the adherence of Slovenian Armed Forces to instruments and commitments of the OSCE participating States in the First Dimension.
Session 2, Cluster IV: COVID-19 as a challenge to security
As of yesterday, the border between Slovenia and Austria is open. In other words, the crisis is abating, at least in this part of the world. I therefore hope that the next meeting of the Informal Working Group on Structured Dialogue in the Capitals Format will already take place in Vienna.
Having said this I also cannot but acknowledge some of the threats and challenges that the COVID-19 crisis has raised. Let me mention three. The first one is a marked increase in military incidents in eastern Ukraine, where members of the Special Monitoring Mission have been shot at in close proximity. This is simply unacceptable. The monitors need to be assured of safe and unhindered access on the ground. Slovenia therefore calls for an immediate cease-fire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
Another issue that has to be addressed is the difficulty that many of the OSCE participating States encountered during the crisis in procuring the necessary medical equipment and supplies. This is security vulnerability and it has to be treated as such. In Slovenia we have come to the conclusion that we need to increase our resilience, also by investing in additional airlift capability of the Slovenian Armed Forces. The OSCE, for its part, could make an important contribution by providing early warning. It could also include health and sanitary threats in its comprehensive approach to security.
Finally, I have to mention the issue of disinformation. There have been many examples, including a false story about a supposed outbreak of COVID-19 among members of NATO's multinational battalion battle group in Latvia. Let me say that we did not take this fake news lightly, not only as a NATO Ally, but also as a country whose soldiers form an integral part of that unit. This sort of propaganda must stop. We therefore support the idea that the Representative on Freedom of the Media could include aspects of disinformation in the OSCE media monitoring.