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ECONOMY Defense budget to focus on Army rejuvenation, higher standard of troops

The 2021 defense budget amounts to Mden 11,1 billion (EUR 179,5 million) or 1.57 percent of the GDP, ensuring continued rise of 0.2 percentage points, said Defense Minister Radmila Shekerinska on Saturday.

The budget enables full military integration in NATO structures, rejuvenation of the Army and higher standard of troops, more equipment and modernization, reconstruction of facilities and Krivolak army field.

Minister Shekerinska told a press conference the 2021 defense budget is one of a NATO member-state.

“We show that we are adhering to the tasks, standards and criteria that the country accepted when becoming a NATO member-state. That is why North Macedonia is increasing the defense budget by 0.2 percentage points of the GDP, moving closer to the desired two percent. In addition, more than 20 percent of the defense budget is allocated for equipment and army modernization, also a task for all NATO members,” said Shekerinska.

She said analyses and specific steps have been undertaken, including amendments to the Law on Service and other bylaws, for the purpose of improving the quality of soldiers and officers and rejuvenation at all levels.

“The rejuvenation and improvement process will continue. By the end of the year we will have 270 new professional soldiers, with the number increasing by another 200 in 2021,” added Shekerinska.

In addition, 54 new officers are to be hired, portion of whom to come from the Military Academy, while the rest from civilian universities.

Another novelty is the scholarship programme for students in the Army’s critical specialties.

“This is another confirmation that we are investing in people and brains. We cannot only procure new state-of-the-art equipment but fail to invest in personnel with the required skills,” noted Shekerinska.

She said 73 Army members are currently deployed in international missions and operations.

“We are planning to finish 2021 with 199 peacekeepers, considering the interest of Army members to take part in international missions. The numbers in Afghanistan will go down but will rise in KFOR (Kosovo), along with ALTHEA (Bosnia-Herzegovina) and UNIFIL (Lebanon). In only a few days from now we will send the first two staff officers to the EU Mission in the Central African Republic, and we expect our officers to also join the training mission in Iraq and the mission in the Baltic states,” said Shekerinska.

She added that funds for equipment and Army modernization would rise by 38 percent compared to this year.

“We will continue to refurbish facilities but also make improvements at Krivolak army field, including accommodation and training capacities and road infrastructure,” said Shekerinska.

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