Prague - Czech President Milos Zeman hopes that the present crisis in Ukraine would speed up the formation of a joint European army, he said today at a conference marking the 15 years of the country in NATO.
Prezident Miloš Zeman (na snímku) zahájil 12. března v Praze národní konferenci 15 let Česka v NATO - naše bezpečnost není samozřejmost. ČTK Šulová Kateřina
"Apart from the North American pillar, a second NATO pillar should be developed," Zeman said about joint European armed forces.
He said a joint military would be in line with further EU integration.
Zeman was Czech prime minister in 1999 when the country joined NATO, along with Hungary and Poland.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said the reinforcement of the European defence pillar was of key importance.
Europe needs to be capable of bearing more responsibility for security in its neighbourhood, Zaoralek said.
Zeman said even the most optimistic estimates that he heard from European politicians during his recent visit to Strasbourg said a joint European army could be established within 10-15 years.
He pointed out that the situation in Ukraine is a security threat.
"Security is indivisible. A security threat to any country is a threat to all of us," Zeman said.
Zeman supported the view that Ukraine should become a federation and that free elections should be held as soon as possible.
He warned against the possibility of the conflict spreading to other countries.
However, Zeman did not mention Russia that has taken military control of Crimea, which is part of Ukraine.
Zeman today also criticised the cutting of the Czech defence spending and the use of money for armed forces, which he called ineffective.
He said the redundant L-159 subsonic combat aircraft and the unsuccessful modernisation of the T-72 tanks were examples of a waste of money.
Zeman said the country has not been meeting the commitment of spending 2 percent of GDP on defence since 2004.
He recalled that the defence spending is slightly over 1 percent of GDP now.
Czechs to sent troops to Golan Heights mission in 2015 - Zeman
The Czech Republic will send about 150 troops to U.N. observer mission in the Golan Heights in 2015, Czech President Milos Zeman told participants in a conference marking the 15th anniversary of the country's membership of NATO today.
Zeman supported the idea of Czech soldiers being deployed within the UNDOF peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights last summer for the first time.
Zeman said he reacted to the withdrawal of Austrian troops from the region and the unclear situation in Syria.
Zeman highlighted the role of Czech troops in foreign missions such as those in the Balkans and Afghanistan.
"I could speak about our participation in Mali, the participation in the Sinai, but also about the planned mission at the Golan Heights where we have suggested the planned deployment of roughly 150 soldiers," Zeman said.
Chief of staff Petr Pavel said the deployment would only start after 2015 as the current capacity of the peace-keeping mission was quite filled.
Pavel said the deliberations about the deployment of the troops in the Middle East were premature.
"For purely technical reasons, the discussion will not take place before 2015, because, as the mission command has said, the mission is filled until 2015," he added.
Pavel said a number of allied militaries had voiced interest in the deployment of their troops abroad as they considered this a chance of maintaining them ready for real fighting.
The UNDOF mission has been at the Golan Heights, a Syrian territory occupied by Israel, since 1974.
Prague officially offered its participation in the mission to the U.N. last autumn. Then Czech defence and foreign ministers, Vlastimil Picek and Jan Kohout, presented the offer to U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Herve Ladsous in September 2013.
Zeman today praised the role of Czech troops operating in foreign missions in Afghanistan, the Balkans and other regions.