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8. 6. 2017 20:03

Prime Minister Sobotka: The European Union must stand united in order to ensure security of its citizens

A conference on “Our security cannot be taken for granted” was held in the Chamber of Deputies on 8 June 2017.
A conference on “Our security cannot be taken for granted” was held in the Chamber of Deputies on 8 June 2017.
On Thursday 8 June 2017, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Bohuslav Sobotka, delivered a speech at the conference on “Our security cannot be taken for granted”, which was held by Jagello 2000 at the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic.

Among other speakers at the conference on “Our security cannot be taken for granted” were Pavel Bělobrádek, the Deputy Prime Minister for Science, Research and Innovation; Martin Stropnický, Minister of Defence; Jan Hamáček, President of the Chamber of Deputies; Josef Bečvář, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic; and Rose Gottemoeller, Deputy Secretary General of NATO.

The aim of the conference, which took place for the fourth time already, is to boost discussion about the defence and security policies and to evaluate changes which have occurred in this regard during the past year. The first conference of this kind was held in 2014 at the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Czech Republic joining NATO.

Speech by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka at the conference on “Our security cannot be taken for granted”

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for inviting me to this conference.

I cannot but share the motto of this conference: Security cannot be taken for granted. That has been proven beyond doubt by the sad experience of our nation in the 20th century, and it is more important than ever for us to be part of the current security architecture: the North Atlantic Alliance as an alliance of the democratic Western world, democratic Europe and the United States of America. And maintaining these transatlantic ties is an integral part of the security architecture.

Speakers before me here have already mentioned that the security situation has deteriorated. There are a critical number of factors that have worsened significantly over the past years. Just to recall them briefly: Ukraine and the situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. The Islamic State which, although currently in defence, provides logistic and personal background for terrorist attacks in Europe. The war in Syria, disintegration of Libya, proliferating terrorist attacks in Europe, cyber-attacks, illegal migration. All these are factors which resulted in a significant deterioration of the security situation in Europe in the last three years.

I would like to recall the response of our government. We prepared an update of all key security documents based on this aggravated situation. We decided to increase defence expenditure. Over three years, we increased that expenditure by more than CZK 10.5 billion, thus reaching the nominal level of expenditure from 2004, which only confirms the debt level. So now we are at the 2004 nominal level, but at the cost of adding CZK 10.5 billion over a period of three years.

We focus on improving the implementation of our NATO commitments. They do not concern just the budget. The Czech Republic is among the countries that strive to actively contribute to crisis management and resolving security problems at many locations: Afghanistan mission, UN mission in Mali, Sinai mission. Next year, we will participate in an increased NATO presence in the Baltic region, specifically in Lithuania and Latvia.

Our government joined the coalition against the Islamic State, not only by verbal interventions and participation at conferences; we also provided the L-159 aircraft to Iraq. We are involved in pilot training; we have sent our medical staff there. We supplied and continue to supply ammunition to Kurds and Jordan, and small fire arms which were used in active combat against the Islamic State. This clearly demonstrates that the Czech Republic does not bury its head in the sand; on contrary, we take a pro-active approach in showing interest in events worldwide, we try to actively contribute, within our possibilities, to security crisis management, and we also respond to calls made within NATO and the United Nations.

I was glad to hear the words of appreciation here that many things have changed in the past years. Recruitment for the armed forces, increase in staff number, dealing with the situation in the labour market. I would like to remind you that not just the armed forces, but all security forces reinforce their capacities, including recruitment in the police and security services. However, it is not always simple to fill the budgeted vacancies.

I am glad that the government designed a conceptual framework for the acquisition programme. Based on the respective strategic documents, both the armed forces and the Ministry of Defence currently have a clear view of how the capacities of the armed forces will be enhanced and how the acquisition programme will be implemented. Nobody among us is happy with the speed and with what we were actually able to acquire in the past three years. Let’s hope that some projects can still be completed or at least initiated during the remaining term of the government.

I am glad that we have modernized our legislation and that, as Czechs, we actively participate in the discussion that logically emerged in Europe as regards the issue of increased European defence cooperation upon being faced with the massive illegal migration flows, instability in Europe’s neighbourhood or the proliferating terrorist attacks.

Finally, please allow me to give a few remarks concerning the defence expenditure. I take very seriously my signature that I attached to the commitment of 1.4% GDP until 2020, and I will undoubtedly advocate that we meet that commitment within the budgetary perspective. This entails not only an adequate increase in the budget allocated to the Ministry of Defence for the next year, but also an increased perspective for 2019 and 2020 so that we create a margin for armed forces financing in the coming years.

I consider it essential to emphasize cost efficiency, as well as sound planning and strengthening of the ability to overcome any difficulties related to public procurement. Nevertheless, the issue of budget stability is also important in my eyes, in addition to the increased expenditure and their GDP ratio. Consequently, it is crucial that all key political parties declare ownership of the commitment of 1.4% of GDP in 2020 as minimum, in order to provide the necessary stability for the armed and security forces that this budgetary perspective will continue to apply regardless of the political orientation of the next government coalition.

Thank you all for your attention.

Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic

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