Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Czech politicians reject rise in defence spending to 4%

ČTK |
12 July 2018

Prague, July 11 (CTK) - Czech politicians reject the rise in defence spending to 4 percent of GDP, they told CTK on Wednesday in reaction to U.S. President Donald Trump's demand expressed at the NATO summit.

Trump told the NATO leaders on Wednesday that they should up their defense spending to 4 percent of their countries' economic output, which is higher than the pledged 2 percent. Trump also tweeted that the NATO members should give 2 percent to defence immediately and not only as of 2025.

Deputy PM and Social Democrats (CSSD) chairman Jan Hamacek said he considered 2 percent of GDP an optimal level of defence spending.

"The Czech Republic is prepared to gradually raise defence spending first to 1.4 percent and then up to 2 percent of GDP in harmony with the NATO recommendation. I consider this level optimal," Hamacek said.

Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar (ANO) said he perceived Trump's statement rather as long-term appeal. He reiterated that the Czech goal was to reach 2 percent of GDP by 2024.

"The rise in defence budget must be planned and it must be upped gradually not by fits and starts. Our current goal is to fulfil the Alliance commitment of 2 percent of GDP by 2024," he noted.

The members of the Chamber of Deputies defence committee opposed Trump's demand as well.

Defence committee head Jana Cernochova (opposition Civic Democrats, ODS) wrote to CTK that even if she agreed with the U.S. pressure on spending 2 percent of GDP on defence and proposed a legal change in this respect, the 4-percent demand is beyond reality.

In such a case, the approach to defence would have to be changed completely and the obligatory national service would have to be introduced, among other steps, she said.

She added that the Czech Republic should reach 2 percent of GDP spent on defence by 2024. However, she expressed fears that on the basis of the government policy statement, Prague would not be able to meet this commitment.

Defence committee member Jan Bartosek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) also called the defence spending of 4 percent of GDP unrealistic at present since the Czech Republic can hardly achieve 2 percent.

Another committee member, Jan Rehounek (ANO), called Trump's statement "a cry in the dark."

"The worsening of the security situation is namely caused by the policy of President Trump as well," he pointed out, reminding that the United States spends some 3.5 percent of GDP on defence and only another three NATO countries meet the 2-percent commitment.

The ability to efficiently spend the allocated money also plays an important role, while most countries are nor capable of this, he noted.

The Pirate member of the defence committee, Jan Lipavsky, also stood up against the rise in defence expenditure to 4 percent by 2021. He called this idea "a pure fantasy."

To meet this demand, the Defence Ministry budget would have to rise by some 120 billion crowns, which the Czech Republic cannot afford, he said. He added that the ANO defence ministered had failed to be sufficiently raising defence spending in accordance with their promises.

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