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Sobotka: EU must focus on missions to stabilise its surroundings

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Prague, June 9 (CTK) – The European Union (EU) should focus on missions to stabilise its surroundings within its joint defence, while territorial defence should still fall under NATO – Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) told reporters at a conference on European security on Friday.

European Commission (EC) President Jean-Claude Juncker said the European Defence Fund (EDF) would be an important tool in support of European defence. The upcoming Brexit does not affect its funding, he added.

The migrant crisis has shown that the EU must care about what is happening in its neighbourhood, Sobotka said.

The main task of European defence cooperation should be to organise civilian, military and training missions to North and Central Africa and to the Middle East that would help stabilise the regions and limit the risk of the conflicts’s impact on the EU, he said.

However, territorial defence should still remain NATO’s task as one of its key functions within collective security, Sobotka said.

The EU should also focus on cooperation in defence industry, efficient military purchases and joint training, Sobotka said, welcoming the establishment of the EDF and other initiatives to strengthen the efficiency of defence spending in Europe.

Juncker pointed out that the creation of the EDF was no reaction to Brexit. He said he has been promising the strengthening of the EU’s defence aspects since his election as EC head.

Brexit will nor affect the further functioning of the fund either, he said.

Apart from the EDF, the European defence is to be based on national sources as well.

Sobotka said at a press conference that he would like to push for the Czech budget for 2018 as well as the expenditure frameworks for the following years to secure the fulfilment of his government’s goal to spend 1.4 of GDP on defence.

According to the Finance Ministry’s draft budget frameworks, the Czech Republic would only spend 1.16 percent of GDP on defence in 2020.

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