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Experts criticise low rise in Czech defence budget

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Prague, Aug 12 (CTK) – Experts praise the Czech government coalition’s passing of new defence legislation, a successful recruitment of soldiers and development of active reserves, but criticise it for a low increase in the defence budget, they have told CTK.

They are also critical of a bad communication with the opposition and dragged-out purchases.

Defence Minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) dismisses the criticism.

The four-year term of the government coalition of Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) will end after a new government is formed after the October 20-21 general election.

Former chief-of-staff Jiri Sedivy praised the fact that Stropnicky has kept the post throughout the four years, which brought stability to the sector.

He said he does not like the fact that the budget growth does not correspond to defence being spoken about as one of the major priorities.

Sedivy said it will be difficult to fulfill the government’s promise to raise defence spending to 1.4 percent of GDP by 2020.

In this connection, he criticised the government for a bad communication with the opposition that wanted a faster growth in the military budget.

Sedivy praised Stropnicky for care of professional soldiers and a rise in their salaries.

He said, however, the military structure does not correspond to the current threats and added that the government should have pressed on the general staff to make changes.

Sedivy said the concept of building the military until 2025 (KVACR) is obsolete.

Overall, however, Sedivy said the past four years have rather been characterised by positives, and he appreciated stability.

Security expert Frantisek Sulc criticised frequent changes in the post of acquisition deputy minister and the length of preparation of some documents.

On the other hand, he praised the Stropnicky-led ministry for the completion of changes to laws and for recruitments, but he said it is not sure the pace will be kept in the future.

Sulc also praised the development of active reserves.

He criticised the ministry for the dragged-out approving of acquisitions due to which allotted money is not spent in time.

Sulc said the raising of the budget to the planned 1.4 percent of GDP by 2020 should be gradual, which is not reflected in the existing plans.

Another military expert Lukas Visingr expressed “cautious optimism” about Stropnicky’s performance as defence minister.

He said Stropnicky and people around him listen to military as well as civilian experts more than some of their predecessors.

Visingr praised KVACR and the recruitment of soldiers as well as the fact that certain important tenders have been launched.

He said the budget should be higher and the growth should be faster. Some of the acquisitions should have started earlier.

Stropnicky told CTK “we came (to the ministry) at a time when the budget was at the bottom and there were no large upgrading projects prepared because soldiers did not believe that there will be money for them.”

The task of the new team was to start up growth and acquisitions.

“We have succeeded in this. Today, we have one of the highest annual budget increases in NATO, we have signed contracts for more than 40 billion crowns and a number of other purchases have been in an advanced stage of preparation,” he said.

Reacting to the criticism of frequent changes in the posts of deputy ministers, he told CTK that this did not differ from the past practice at the Defence Ministry and at other ministries.

Stropnicky said most of the changes had to be done.

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