Tuesday, 4 August 2020

Foreign minister: EU would weaken without defence capability

30 January 2017

Prague, Jan 28 (CTK) - The European Union cannot further rely on doing without a military force if it wants to keep influence on the international scene, Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (Social Democrats, CSSD) has told CTK.

The EU has too long believed that it can do with "soft capabilities" only, but it needs to enhance its defence capability in future, otherwise its influence will decline, Zaoralek said.

A similar effect could be seen in connection with the recent peace talks on Syria in Astana, Kazakhstan, to which the EU was not invited, Zaoralek said.

"A ceasefire is being discussed by those who have weapons and are present in Syria, but we are unwilling to make a military intervention in the country. As a result, we have been ousted from [the negotiations] that concern us immensely. All of us know that the fate of Syria, its peace and reconstruction are crucially tied with the safety and fate of Europe," Zaoralek said.

The EU has not intervened in the Syrian conflict by sending in soldiers, but mainly by providing humanitarian aid to the afflicted regions.

This, however, will not be enough in future, if the EU is to keep influence on the international scene, Zaoralek said.

"Undoubtedly, this is a circumstance that has changed, and we have to step up our efforts accordingly. It is unpleasant, some might dislike it, but our role would weaken and decline in the current world unless we are capable of defending ourselves and continue to enhance our capability," Zaoralek said, referring to the EU.

He said he would welcome it if the EU started to intensively work on forming its own military units and if it agreed on common security and foreign policy.

The debate on forming a European military has been promoted in Brussels by Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (CSSD), and the idea was jointly supported by the Visegrad Group (V4) comprised of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Europe's capability of making a military intervention and acting unitedly is also crucial in relation to the USA, Zaoralek said.

A number of EU countries, many of which are members of NATO, consider their NATO membership a guarantee of their safety.

However, the new U.S. president, Donald Trump, previously said the USA would ponder on whether to help them as a NATO ally, if attacked, if their spending on defence failed to meet their promises.

"This is a little bit brutal, but Trump has actually expressed what the USA has been saying for more than ten years - that we, Europeans, are not so poor as to make the Americans pay for our defence," Zaoralek said.

"It is a mistake that we failed to realise this earlier. It is rather inappropriate to rely on being protected by someone. We are not that poor, indeed," he said.

According to Zaoralek, the peace in Europe and the Czech Republic has not been directly endangered, but people are evidently starting to consider security a key issue.

That is also why the public, including Czechs, accepts far more easily the fact that money must be spent on defence, Zaoralek added.

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