The US ambassador to the Czech Republic, Norman Eisen, is set to leave Prague later this month, after three and a half years in office. In our special programme, Ambassador Eisen discusses the state of the Czech-US relations, his involvement in Czech anti-corruption battle and human rights efforts, as well as his personal reflections of his time in Prague. I sat down with Norman Eisen at the US ambassador’s residence, and first asked him what he thought his biggest accomplishments were.
The Czech government has approved the candidature of the chief of staff of the Czech Army, Petr Pavel, for the post of chairman of NATO’s Military Committee. Speaking after a cabinet meeting on Monday night, the Czech minister of defence, Martin Stropnický, said General Pavel had a “very solid chance” of obtaining the position, which is second only to the secretary general in the NATO hierarchy. For his part, the general said if he wins the post in a vote in mid September it will be a great honour for the Czech Republic and an expression of trust on the part of the country’s allies.
Czech President Miloš Zeman said on Tuesday that membership in the EU and NATO were guarantees of security for the Czech Republic even as conflict elsewhere in Europe continued; speaking at the Vítkov Memorial in Prague, he warned that hotbeds of war could spread and said that peace was not something guaranteed forever, but needed to be fought for. Mr Zeman made the statements on the occasion the upcoming 100th anniversary of World War I. In his speech, he noted the present-day participation of Czech troops in foreign missions and mentioned conflicts in Mali, Afghanistan and Ukraine. The ceremony, paying respect to those who laid down their lives in the First World War, was attended by former president Václav Klaus, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka as well as members of the current government and diplomats.
Attending Ground Forces’ Day at the military training ground in Strašice, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka pledged to increase defence spending, saying the government should earmark 43.5 billion crowns for military spending in 2015 and gradually raise the sum is subsequent years. The Czech Republic has cut its military spending in recent years and at present spends just over 1 percent of the equivalent of its GDP on defence. This falls short of the 2 percent target set by NATO. According to the army chief-of-staff, Petr Pavel, the military would need at least 50 billion crowns a year to fulfil its commitments to the alliance.
The head of the smallest party in government, the Christian Democrats, has criticised Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka for saying the Czech Republic would not be calling for more NATO troops in Europe. The premier made the comment following US President Barack Obama’s pledge in Warsaw to put an extra one billion US dollars into defence in Eastern Europe.
President Zeman has weighed into the debate about Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s comments that he saw no need for more NATO troops in Europe. The head of state said he regarded Sobotka’s comments as a ‘mistake’ and any increase of US troops in Europe would be symbolic and would not bother him. The head of state pointed out that Sobotka did not have much experience of foreign affairs and would have to learn from his mistakes. The Czech prime minister’s comments followed US president Barack Obama’s pledge in Warsaw on Tuesday to commit more troops to Central and Eastern Europe in response to tensions in Ukraine and the Russian annexation of Crimea. President Zeman is also in Warsaw to mark the 25 anniversary of free elections which presaged the fall of the Communist regime.
The head of the smallest party in the governing coalition, the Christian Democrats, has hit out at Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka’s statement that the Czech Republic would not be calling for more NATO troops in Europe. The Christian Democrat’s Pavel Bělobrádek said Mr. Sobotka’s comments were completely unacceptable and irresponsible. In response to President Barack Obama’s pledge to put an extra USD 1 billion into defence in Eastern Europe, the Czech prime minister said on Tuesday that there was at present no need to increase the number of NATO soldiers on the ground in Europe.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka says the Czech Republic will be calling for an increase in the presence of NATO troops in Europe. Mr. Sobotka made the comments in reaction to American President Barack Obama’s announcement on a visit to Poland that the US was planning to invest USD 1 billion in increasing its military presence in Eastern Europe in view of the situation in Ukraine and instability in the region. Speaking on a visit to Vienna, the Czech leader said he understood why Poland or the Baltic States were in favour of a greater US military presence. But he said he believed there would be no need to increase the number of NATO soldiers on the ground in Europe for some years if things remained as they were now.
The current crisis in Ukraine represents a serious security risk for both the European Union and NATO, the Czech Defense Minister Martin Stopnický has said. Speaking at a meeting in Bratislava, he stressed it would be necessary to increase defense spending; he also made clear he strongly supported increased military cooperation by the Visegrad countries, backing a plan to form a joint combat unit of up to 4,000 soldiers by 2016. Earlier this week, the defense minister caused a major stir at home when he suggested NATO troops might be less than welcome on Czech soil, especially by those who still remembered the historic occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops. Mr Stropnický came under fire from the opposition as well as members of the government and was forced to backtrack. He put forward a declaration in the lower house emphasising the Czech Republic’s commitment to NATO and common defense.
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