Czech govt not to make further defence cuts - PM


26.08.2013 13:56

Prague - The Czech government does not want to further lower the defence budget and the military spending may even grow if the economy develops well, Prime Minister Jiri Rusnok told a meeting of Czech ambassadors today.


Premiér v demisi Jiří Rusnok (vlevo) a ministr zahraničí v demisi Jan Kohout se zúčastnili 26. srpna v Praze porady vedoucích zastupitelských úřadů v ČR. ČTK Krumphanzl Michal

Rusnok, who heads an outgoing interim government, confirmed that the Czech Republic will meet its promise, given to the EU and NATO, not to further reduce the portion of GDP earmarked for defence.

He said the defence expenditures would be going up as the Czech economy is expected to slightly grow.

NATO recommends that its member states spend about 2 percent of their GDP on defence, which the Czech Republic, along with other member states, is not fulfilling. It allocates about 1 percent of GDP to the military.

Outgoing Foreign Minister Jan Kohout said the government is discussing possible further participation of the country in military foreign missions not only within the European Union and NATO but also within the United Nations.

Rusnok said the difficult situation in domestic politics has affected the country´s image abroad.

He said he would like to find additional finances for the budget of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, mostly to cover the costs of reinforced consular services.

Kohout said, first of all, support to foreign trade should improve.

The Industry and Trade Ministry should have its representatives at diplomatic missions, the network of foreign missions should be reinforced and a new exports website should be launched.

The Foreign Ministry and the Czech Technology Agency today signed a cooperation memorandum that is to help Czech innovative firms, among others.

Kohout said he would like to improve visa politics, too.

Rusnok repeatedly said his government wants to be more open to the EU than the previous centre-right government of Petr Necas (Civic Democrats, ODS). The government wants to be a responsible member of the international communities and organisations in which the country has been long participating, he added.

But only a Czech government produced by the autumn elections may decide on the possible joining of the EU fiscal compact, Rusnok said.

Kohout said Czech ambassadors should emphasise the pro-European stance of their country to get rid of the troublemaker image.

Czech ambassadors and other senior diplomats on missions abroad have a meeting in Prague these days. This meeting, regularly held once a year, is to coordinate, decide on priorities and Czech interests and exchange information.

In the past years, a number of Czech foreign missions were being closed in order to save money. Now there is a tendency not to reduce the country´s representation abroad and possibly open new diplomatic offices, for example in Senegal and Burma, to promote Czech economic interests.

Kohout criticised "brutal cuts" that the ministry agreed in the past few years.

He also briefly mentioned the dispute between President Milos Zeman and former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg, due to which the naming of new ambassadors was blocked.

Kohout said he wanted to end the untenable situation and pointless uncertainty.

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