New Czech Government: do we strenghten the Czech foreign deployments?

New Czech Government: do we strenghten the Czech foreign deployments?
Author: www.vlada.cz|Caption: New Czech Government
28 / 06 / 2018, 10:15

On 27th June the Czech President Miloš Zeman appointed a new government coalition of ANO and ČSSD (socialists). The previous government of the Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) failed to win the vote of confidence in the Chamber of Deputies, Andrej Babiš was named Prime Minister again, and will have his second chance on 11th July, largely depending on the will of KSČM (communits) to vote for or tolerate the government. The new coalition adopted it’s government policy statement in a slightly modified wording when compared to the previous version published earlier in May. The most discussed difference concerns the Czech Army foreign deployments.

In May, just like in January, we read: „We will strengthen our participation in the peacekeeping and training mission in Afghanistan (Resolute Support), we will strengten our participation in Iraq.“ – in the actual version we read: „According to the approved mandate we will continue our participation in the peacekeeping and training missions in Afghanistan (Resolute Support), Iraq and Mali.“

See also: Current Foreign Deployments of the Czech Army

It is generally perceived as a compromise to appease the Communists who openly criticized strenghtening of the Czech foreign deployments and the participation in any missions which lack the U.N. Security Council authorization. The KSČM chairman Vojtěch Filip warned ANO and ČSSD that the Communists would not support the new government should the policy statement include a commitment to strenghten the Czech Army foreign deployments. The Parliamentary mathematics do not offer enough votes for the new coalition: ANO (prime minister’s party) holds 78 seats of 200 in the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament; ČSSD holds 15 seats, and 101 are needed to win the vote of confidence (technically the simple majority of all present deputies). No other political party but Communists expressed willingness to support or to tolerate Andrej Babiš’ government. It is the first time since the Velvet Revolution in 1989 that the Communist Party has a share of central power in the Czech Republic.

On the other hand the policy statement includes the following commitment (which is the same as for the previous government): “We will contribute to the Enhanced Forward Presence in the Baltics, the NATO Response Force (NRF), including the Very High Readiness Joint Task Force (VJTF), and air policing, and we will help to up robust Follow-on Forces.“

The Czech presence in the Baltics and the contextual activities are one of the main issues from the Communist point of view. Their stance is refused by many, including General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee. In May he said in the Czech Television: „It would be an extremely harmful compromise not to send Czech soldiers to the Baltics because of the Communists' demand in exchange for their toleration of the new government.“ According to the final wording of the policy statement of the new government nothing changes in this matter, and the Czech alliance commitments will be respected.

Jan Hamáček, the ČSSD chairman, who has been appointed Minister of Interior and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the new government (President Zeman did not accept the nomination of Miroslav Poche) said that the actual policy statement is basically the same as the original version voted by the ČSSD members in the internal referendum (60 % of the party’s members voted yes, 40 % opposed themselves against the project to from a government with ANO). According to his view the changes are „cosmetic“. As example he mentioned the foreign deployments: „There was an update following the approval to strenghten the foreign missions by the Chamber of Deputies in June.“

The strenghtened deployment of Czech soldiers on foreign missions was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on 1st June. In total the number of deployed soldiers will increase from the current mandate of 806 to 1,081 this year, 1,191 soldiers for 2019, 1,096 in 2020.

Generally the actual policy statement really does not differ much from the policy statement of the previous government. The wording is slightly different concerning the commitment to increase the defence budget. In January we read: “We will gradually push up the defence budget with a view to achieving 2% of GDP in 2024 in order to meet our Alliance commitment.“ – the new government abandons the concrete commitment for 2024 and aims rather 2021: „We will gradually push up the defence budget with a view to achieving 1.4 % of GDP by the end of the electoral term, that means until 2021.“

See also: The Czech Army military equipment overview 2018

The policy statement repeats the basic principles adopted by the previous government: „The Armed Forces of the Czech Republic will continue to be fitted out with domestic gear and weaponry as a matter of priority. We will make purchases from other countries without a middleman. In these cases, the technology must have been tested in active deployment. In these situations, we will also demand the involvement of the Czech defence industry. We will always act transparently. (…) We will keep to the recruitment policy of past years, when the number of professional soldiers was increased from 21,000 to 24,000. The aim by 2025 is to have at least 30,000 professional soldiers, to add to the numbers and weaponry of the two existing brigades and, building on this, to establish further units.“

If the new government fails to win the vote on confidence on 11th July, it will stay in power until a new arrangement is found. It is generally expected that the Communists will support the government. If not, the next Prime Minister would be appointed by the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies Radek Vondráček (ANO). In such case, Andrej Babiš would most probably get his third chance to form a government and seek for support and tolerance in the Chamber of Deputies.

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