Protection of Legitimate Interests and Rights of Soldiers – Conference in Slovakia

On 7-8 September 2023 our Slovak member association Zväz Vojakov Slovenskej Republiky (Association of the Soldiers of the Slovak Republic – ZV SR) organized an international conference entitled “Protection of Legitimate Interests and Rights of Soldiers”. The conference was held under the auspices of the State-Secretary of the Slovak Ministry of Defence Marian Majer, as well as the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic (SR), and in close cooperation with EUROMIL, the Armed Forces Academy General M.R. Štefánik and the Hotel Granit Tatranské Zruby HOREZZA. The conference was also sponsored by several Slovak defence industry companies who gave several demonstrations of their products before and during the event. The EUROMIL delegation focused especially on the human interest of their equipment, such as the possibilities of medical evacuation of wounded military personnel.

ZV SR organized a similar conference in 2008. Fifteen years later, almost 60 participants from 9 European countries discussed the protection of social interests and rights of European soldiers in a new security environment. New security threats placed new and additional demands on the readiness of the armed forces, with increasingly variable involvement in the protection of the population.

Before the official opening, the participants joined the wreath-laying ceremony at the Slovak National Uprising Heroes – Pilots Memorial.

The conference agenda has been split into three sessions.

Panel I was dealing with the European and national (Slovak) legislation and requirements regarding the legitimate interests, rights, and social security of the soldier during and after the military career. As moderator of this panel, EUROMIL’s President Emmanuel Jacob gave a short overview of EUROMIL’s activities and challenges. Furthermore Doc. Dipl. Eng. Jozef Puttera, rector of the General M.R. Štefánik Armed Forces Academy, presented the military and professional training of the 21st century military leaders. During a second round of presentations, Brig. Gen. Dipl. Eng. Marek Banas, Chief of Staff for Operational Support of General Staff of the SR Armed Forces, presented the current requirements for members of the SR Armed Forces as modern soldiers of the 21st century and their possible impact on the legitimate interests and social rights of soldiers. This presentation was especially commented on by the President of ZV SR, Col. Ret. Dipl, Eng. Gabriel Merňák.

During panel II, with Maj Mgr. Zdenko Baranec as moderator, the protection of individual and collective interests of professional soldiers and retired soldiers were discussed based on some national experiences. EUROMIL’s President presented the Belgian and Dutch experiences. George Zgardanas from PFEARFU Greece and Board member of EUROMIL gave an overview on the history of Greek military associations leading finally to the implementation of military trade unions. Our colleagues from Poland (Konwent) and Hungary (HOSZ) presented the situation and their work in both countries. It became clear that the challenges are similar in most of the countries. However, there is a huge difference in practical and legal instruments to deal with them.

Last but not least, panel III discussed the protection of legitimate interests and rights of women in the Armed Forces. The moderator, Cpt. Mgr. Lenka Zvalová, introduced the debate with a most interesting presentation of a survey among Slovak female military personnel. One of the discussed topics was the creation – or reinstallation in the Slovak Republic – of a staff organization for women in the armed forces. This issue, as well as the used instruments in Bulgaria and Germany, were presented by Cpt Mariya Krashevska from EUROMIL’s member association BUAFWA, and EUROMIL’s Vice-President Jörg Greiffendorf at the same time representing the DBwV.

At the end of the two-day conference, the ZV SR leadership wrapped up the debates and presented a draft document with conclusions and recommendations for further development of the Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic. EUROMIL’s President Emmanuel Jacob thanked ZV SR as well as the co-organizers for this interesting conference and wished ZV SR success with their many challenges.

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