Sunday, 7 October 2018

Defence minister wants to focus on soldiers' gear and salaries

ČTK |
19 December 2017

Prague, Dec 18 (CTK) - The recently appointed Czech Defence Minister Karla Slechtova (ANO) will hold soldiers' gear and the military's technical equipment as priorities, she said after her meeting with the Chief-of-Staff Josef Becvar on Monday.

She wants to focus on recruiting new soldiers and members of the active reserves. She and Becvar also discussed the Czech military's foreign missions and Slechtova said she was not going to send Czech soldiers to Libya, as mentioned by PM Andrej Babis (ANO) last week at a joint press conference after her inauguration.

Upon her meeting with Becvar, she stressed soldiers were the number one priority.

"It is their equipment, it is their arms, it is their gear. I want them to have good shoes and everything they need for their work, to deliver service for the defence of our country," she said.

As the Defence Ministry's new head after Martin Stropnicky (ANO), Slechtova wants to speed up the recruitment of new soldiers and members of active reserves and to increase their number to 5,000 by 2020, five years sooner compared to the current plan.

In line with the goals of the General Staff, Slechtova wants the Czech military to have 30,000 troops. At present, there are 24,000 of them.

While Stropnicky announced in July that this intent would be fulfilled within five to seven years, Slechtova wants to proceed more quickly and draw attention to soldiers' salaries, too.

Prior to taking the post, she said she would check large tenders the ministry was planning or which were close to being finished. She mentioned the planned purchase of multipurpose helicopters.

The ministry will see several organisational changes, as its current six departments are to change their focus, Slechtova said.

Deputy Defence Minister Tomas Kuchta is to leave his post within these changes. According to CTK's information, Kuchta is to be ambassador in Belgrade as of mid-2018.

The government policy statement approved on Monday considers the membership of NATO to be crucial for the country. It plans to reinforce the Czech units deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq and try to make NATO more involved in tackling the migrant crisis. By 2024-25, the defence budget is to reach 2 percent of GDP and the number of troops is to increase to 30,000.

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