Opening ceremony of the Balkan Medical Task Force Standing Organization
On Wednesday, 5 October, Defence Minister Andreja Katič attended the opening ceremony of the Balkan Medical Task Force (BMTF)’s Standing Organization in Skopje. Along with Minister Katič and the host, the Minister of Defence of Macedonia, Zoran Jolevski, the ceremony was attended by the Ministers of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina and of Serbia, Marina Pendeš and Zoran Djordjević respectively, as well as high-ranking representatives of the other participating nations, Norway and the USA.
Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Slovenia jointly participated in the BMTF construction project, which began in October 2010. The USA and Norway are partner nations which have been fully financing the project and offering professional support and guidance. The BMTF represents a regional multinational military rapid response medical capability, providing sustainable medical care in the event of natural and other disasters, as well as in international operations and missions (IOM). Its goal is to enable BMTF member countries to provide vital military medical capabilities and to promote the upgrading of their national capabilities in order to achieve both their national goals and the NATO Capability Targets.
The keynote speaker was the Minister of Defence of Macedonia, Zoran Jolevski, who expressed his satisfaction with the work performed by the partner nations. According to Minister Jolevski, the BMTF project will ensure the member countries have rapid and efficient access to and use of the medical capabilities provided by the partner nations.
In April 2015, Slovenia signed the agreement on the establishment of the BMTF, and then on 21 May 2016 ratified it, thus committing itself to active participation in the project, the deployment of a Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) member to the BMTF headquarters, and a contribution to the crisis structure unit. A member of the SAF has been operating in the BMTF since June 2016, supervising the renovation and equipping of the premises, and coordinating the manning of posts in the BMTF peacetime and crisis structure. From 2017 to 2019, Slovenia could participate in the BMTF crisis structure with up to three medical teams (a total of up to 13 members): the surgical team (5 members), the preoperative or evacuation team (3-5 members), and the intensive care and therapy team (3 members).
As pointed out by Defence Minister Andreja Katič, the opening ceremony was an important milestone in the evolution of the Balkan Medical Task Force. She added: "This is a military project focused on helping people when they need it most. Almost all the Balkan countries have recently been faced with major natural disasters and I believe that a medical task force will prove itself very useful. I wish the force as much training and as little real work as possible. I am confident this will be a success story." Minister Katič thanked the partner nations, Norway and the USA, for their financial support in the project.
The Minister of Defence of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Marina Pendeš, also expressed great satisfaction with the BMTF project, saying that this was an opportunity for the partner nations to demonstrate they could cooperate efficiently despite their differences. The Minister of Defence of Serbia, Zoran Djordjević, added that the entire region was faced with similar problems, particularly the provision of security, and that this project would allow the countries to effectively use their joint capabilities and provide help to people.
The BMTF should attain its initial operational capability in 2017 and its final operational capability in 2018. It is expected to include up to 86 partner nation members.
Photo: Borut Podgoršek, Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Slovenia