President Andrej Kiska dislikes the fact that the Defence Ministry did not inform cabinet members about the planned army purchase, worth about €1.2 billion, in advance.
In his opinion, the processes linked to army modernisation should be as transparent as possible. He said so after meeting Defence Minister Peter Gajdoš, nominee of the Slovak National Party (SNS).
Kiska has recently agreed with Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer) and Speaker of Parliament Andrej Danko (SNS) that transparent and effective modernisation of the armed forces is necessary for increasing the safety and defence capacity of the state, the TASR newswire reported.
The public should be informed
The president was mostly critical of the fact that the Defence Ministry failed to inform him about ordering the development of a prototype from Finnish arms factory Patria. It concerns the purchase of 81 eight-wheel personnel carriers.
Kiska kept repeating during the press conference with Gajdoš that transparency is important in this purchase, the Denník N daily reported.
“The modernisation is extremely important,” Kiska said, as quoted by TASR. “The defence capacity of our army is very low. It is also important to say in this case how much the modernisation will cost, who will do it and under what conditions. We are talking about a significant increase in the defence budget.”
On the other hand, the president appreciated that the ministry and the Slovak government want Slovak companies to participate in the modernisation project, TASR wrote.
He also asked Gajdoš to publish the agreements the ministry will sign. It concerns all contracts, not only between the ministry and the state-run company Konštrukta Defence, which is officially responsible for the project, but also agreements with local suppliers, Denník N wrote.
Opposition critical too
Gajdoš informed the president about the planned development of army modernisation, with the focus on the armed forces until 2030. The ministry’s plans are based on the assumption that army spending will increase to 1.6 percent of GDP until 2020 and 2 percent of GDP until 2024.
The minister also expects that the government will approve the planned purchase of the eight-wheel carriers as well as smaller four-wheel armoured vehicles for nearly €800 million at its November 15 session. The discussion was halted last week after criticism from Smer and Most-Híd ministers who asked for more information.
The opposition parties Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) meanwhile called on Gajdoš to disclose the information about the planned purchase.
They also criticised the way in which the ministry chose the Finnish company, without informing the public or waiting for permission from the government.
The Defence Ministry responded that SaS’s Ľubomír Galko has no right to criticise the ministry, referring to the fact that he was recalled from the post after the wiretapping scandal, TASR reported.