A NATO training centre to be set up in the northern Slovak town of Liptovský Mikuláš is waiting for parliamentary approval after cabinet okayed the project. The centre will see the deployment of foreign military instructors in Slovakia to train young officers from Nato and Partnership for Peace (PfP) member states.
The decision to give the centre to Slovakia, announced to Slovak Defence Minister Jozef Stank on July 2 by British and Dutch diplomats, was interpreted by Stank as "recognition of Slovakia's progress in reforming its armed forces as well as of the quality of Slovak military education".
Slovakia, one of 27 Nato member and candidate countries associated in the PfP programme, is considered a hot candidate for membership in the Alliance, and hopes to receive an invitation to join at a Nato summit in Prague in November this year.
Dutch Ambassador to Slovakia Henk Soeters told The Slovak Spectator July 9 that the decision to open the centre in Liptovský Mikuláš's Military Academy was "proof of the confidence we have in Slovakia".
Minister Stank said that the Academy, as part of the reform of the Slovak army and the country's military educational facilities, should become a top-notch military school.
"The school will be a sort of a small West Point," Stank said.
The training centre, Nato's largest educational project this year, is expected to start at the end of April next year and to boost the qualifications of officers ranging from 2nd lieutenant up to major ranks. The centre will organise three 12-14 week courses a year, admitting around 60 students to each course.
Some 16 British and Dutch instructors are expected to arrive in Slovakia to train the staff, while Slovakia will be responsible for providing the technical equipment for the course. Stank said the project would cost around Sk12 million ($266,000) and would be paid for from the ministry's budget.
Regarding the selection process, Soeters said that a team of experts had visited Slovakia as a well as the other main candidate, Bulgaria, taking into consideration factors such as "commitment, location, training facilities, infrastructure, the building itself, technical equipment and so on.
"We decided in favour of the better candidate."
Soeters said that "being chosen for the project is important for the image of Slovakia - it's like in the Olympic Games. Many countries submit bids for hosting the games, but only the best is chosen."