Concern over the protection of Slovene airspace under NATO

r_2100x1400_radio_praha.png

Slovenia is not just joining the European Union this year, but also the military alliance, NATO. In fact the Slovenian parliament ratified it's accession charter to NATO last week - a move that paves the way for it to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation along with six other countries in April - and there'll be a welcome party for them. But doubts about who will defend Slovenia's airspace may dampen those celebrations.

A Slovene military plane crashed during training on Wednesday, killing the one pilot on board. Air force captain Simon Korez announced the new

"There was one pilot in the plane, who unfortunately died. The Slovene army is shocked and sad. The commander-in-chief has appointed a commission to investigate the circumstances of the accident."

The plane crash comes as Slovenia makes the last preparations for it's accession to NATO on April the 2nd - and has drawn attention to the growing discussion on how the country is going to protect it's airspace. Slovenia has light helicopters, training and transport planes but no fighter jets of it's own. It's an issue that has been subject of heated debate on Slovene television: Public television correspondent in Brussels, Tanja Fajon.

"As stated by a source close to the Nato federation, military specialists are accelerating the preparation plans for the protection of airspace in the eastern wing of the alliance. For Slovenia and the Baltic states the investment in their own air power would be too costly and irrational."

"The protection of air space is supposed to be similar to that Nato have already assured to Iceland. They for instance do not have their own aircraft power, apart from the placement of four F15 aircraft in their military base. In this way NATO would draw Germany or another ally to the Baltic region in order to place the aforementioned number of aircraft. In the case of Slovenia such solution cannot be expected because of its small size and because of the two other big members, Austria and Hungary nearby."

This issue also divided the Slovene public in the lead up to the country's referendum to NATO last March: Slovene did ultimately vote to join the military alliance with 66 percent saying yes - but at the same time many expressed their opposition top having a base in the region and said they did not have complete trust in their neighbours when it came to air defence.

The most likely solution, as unofficially stated by defence experts, would be for Slovenia to perform radar controls themselves, but that any actual incursion of their airspace would be responded to by aircraft from a neighbouring base. Would this change the views of the Slovene public?

Person 1: "I am totally against NATO and money should be spent on other projects."

Person 2:"On one hand I support Slovenia's NATO accession because I feel safer knowing that Slovenia is part of the alliance. On the other hand I am against NATO, I think it's too expensive for such a small country as Slovenia. I don't believe Slovenia will ever become a target, we have no resources, such as oil etc."