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12. 11. 2012 15:10

Speech delivered by Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Prague, 12 November 2012

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, 

It is a great honour to meet you at this assembly. First, allow me to thank you, representatives of national parliaments, for attending this Prague meeting in such numbers.

Personally, I am very pleased that the Czech Republic is able to host your meeting this year. We consider the work of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and international parliamentary cooperation in general, to be very important and irreplaceable. We view the sound relationship between the executive and the legislature as an indivisible component in the provision of a stable security environment both nationally and internationally.

Speech delivered by Czech Prime Minister Petr Nečas to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, Prague, 12 November 2012

Your input in the creation of security policy does not only entail the approval of defence budgets and decision-making on the posting of armed forces abroad. The legislature also raises awareness of security issues through critical discussions held in the format in which you have gathered here and by means of debate in national parliaments.

By engaging in these activities, parliaments contribute to the broader universal adoption of the ideas of collective security and to the promotion of NATO’s reputation. Without such a broader understanding in society, a working system of common defence would be unthinkable.

At a time of economic problems and budget cuts, the main topic for the Alliance is evidently the preservation of its level of ambition and defence capabilities. From the perspective of the Czech Republic, this is a burning issue and we are acutely aware of the tasks expected of us if we are to remain a credible member of the Alliance. Nevertheless, a major and urgent priority for the Czech government is to stabilize our public finances. Fiscal instability would effectively pose perhaps an even greater threat to our defence capabilities.

Despite all this, the Czech Republic, and I would like to emphasize this, fully honours all obligations arising from its NATO membership, as is evident from the National Security Strategy updated last year and the recently approved new Defence Strategy. The Czech Republic will do everything in its power to ensure that budget cuts have no palpable impact on our political and military ambitions.

Fortunately, Alliance programmes and policies approved and under development give us the opportunity to deal responsibly with the current situation at both national and Alliance level.

Since we joined the Alliance, the defence planning mechanisms of the Alliance and the Alliance’s military missions have been an engine driving forward the transformation of our armed forces and their adaptation to the current security environment and the international context. It is no different now.

The objective of the current stage of transformation of our military forces is to have a leaner but more efficient military better prepared for future challenges. The principal emphasis is on the sustainability of our capabilities, guaranteeing credible participation in future operations.

The new Defence Strategy of the Czech Republic also confirms our intention to participate in collective programmes of military capabilities that would be difficult to manage on a purely national level. These programmes provide indisputable added value and are the perfect embodiment of Alliance solidarity. We need to support them, because their failure would be a negative political signal. For instance, the NATO AWACS system is a successful example of the development of capabilities that Member States would be unable to secure individually.

Another way to increase efficiency is multinational cooperation. The Czech Republic sees great potential here. Whether they concern participation in NATO’s Smart Defence or in the EU’s Pooling and Sharing, such policies appear to be a way of meeting our commitments to NATO and the European Union in the future with lower budgetary resources.

Under these policies, the Czech Republic primarily focuses on helicopters. Our multi-national training activities have delivered results in Afghanistan. We are also working on a Multinational Aviation Training Centre, which looks to be a very rewarding project.

Another Czech priority is multinational logistics, in which respect we have established a Multinational Logistics Coordination Centre. We are working with Slovakia on the organization of a “Capable Logistician” exercise – 35 countries have already notified that they will take part in this exercise, the largest of its kind.

We promote these forms of cooperation with our regional partners in particular. This was also one of the items on the agenda of a recent joint meeting between the Czech and Slovak Governments, and we will continue this discussion at the meeting of the Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Four in December.

However, if we want to maintain the vitality of the NATO and the EU initiatives I have described in the long run, it will be necessary to involve the defence industry – which must adopt these initiatives as its own – to a greater degree in their implementation.

In my opinion, the involvement of national parliaments and their members in this task is also essential.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In June, the Czech Government and Parliament approved a new mandate for future foreign operations which received broad political support.

Our operational priority remains Afghanistan. Here we fully respect the principle of “together in – together out”, and the Government is considering what form our participation could take even after 2014.

Next year, our Provincial Reconstruction Team, which has helped to stabilize Afghanistan, will be wound up, and we will focus our capacities on training Afghan security forces and on the deployment of transport helicopters.

The role and performance of the provincial reconstruction teams, not just ours, but in general, needs to be carefully evaluated, again at both executive and parliamentary level.

As I have noted, participation in foreign operations is the driving force behind the transformation of our military power. The current Czech army is incomparable with that of ten years ago, mainly thanks to participation in the ISAF operation. The question remains as to what the Alliance will be like in the period after the end of the mission in Afghanistan in 2014. Maintaining the dynamics of multinational cooperation between armed forces and the development of defence capabilities, including improving their interoperability, will be a challenge for the whole Alliance.

In our view, a “return to roots”, focusing on collective defence under Article 5 of the Washington Treaty, could contribute to this objective. Future defence planning should take place with this in mind. An integral part of future Alliance activities must be military exercises, which, besides fulfilling the above tasks, can help to bring the Alliance’s activities closer to the general public. For these reasons, the Czech Republic has decided to participate in Steadfast Jazz 2013, where our presence will be strongly felt.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout its existence, the Alliance has shown that its domain is between security and freedom, and that it furthers economic and social development. After all, no society can develop adequately if the country lacks basic security. The certainty of a long-standing secure environment is a prerequisite for economic initiative.

For foreign investors, too, the country’s Alliance membership is an important indicator of stability. In turn, the country’s defence capabilities rely on a well-run economy. In other words, security and economic development are two interdependent variables.

NATO countries share common core values. These are mainly the promotion of democracy, freedom and human rights. These values, of course, along with arrangements for mutual security and stability, are what motivate others in their pursuit of Alliance membership. And it is important to realize that, ultimately, it is you and your national parliaments who approve the expansion of NATO to embrace new members.

The Alliance has undergone several waves of expansion. I remember well the expansion in 1999, when the Czech Republic, together with Poland and Hungary, joined the Alliance. At that time, for the Czech Republic NATO membership was a sign of appreciation of its reforms and consolidation of the trend taken by its socio-economic development.

The issue of further enlargement will always be a delicate and complex issue. We will always ask how this or that country will contribute to the Alliance’s common defence, or, at the very least, whether it will pose a heavy burden.

In my opinion, however, there is one more aspect that we need to consider when thinking about NATO expansion. As I have mentioned, the expansion of the Alliance also expands the area of security, freedom, stability and economic prosperity. I believe it is in the interests of NATO member countries to ensure that this stable area is as wide as possible. It is partly for these reasons that the Czech Republic has always supported the further expansion of NATO.

At present there are four countries aspiring to membership. All these countries have our support in their Euro-Atlantic orientation. We are confident that their rapprochement and potential membership of NATO will expand the area of stability and prosperity not only in our immediate neighbourhood, the Balkans, but also in a strategically important area in the Caucasus.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are in a complex and dynamic period. Reducing defence budgets, the direction to be taken by NATO after the mission in Afghanistan, and not least the question of expansion are major challenges facing the Alliance.

I am convinced that, as always in the past, the Alliance will cope with these challenges and remain a valid guarantor of security and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area. I am confident that you will and your national parliaments, along with the parliamentary assembly, will shoulder your share of responsibility in this respect.

Thank you for your attention.

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