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ČR faces a dilemma: More EU and less US?

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Plans to boost the European military cooperation are in the can, well-informed diplomatic sources are saying. The one awaited missing piece is the signing of the Lisbon Treaty. After plans for the construction of a US missile base crumbled, the Czechs will also have to decide whether to focus on the European defense system more than expected. This is, in fact, what the former vice president and ambassador in the US Alexander Vondra proposes.

The Lisbon Treaty will create a “solid core” of EU member states with a sufficient military capacity that look to go a step further than others in defence and security policies. It is much like the sector within the eurozone where common currency — the euro — is employed. The question of whether to join such a military core or become directly involved in its creation will doubtlessly provoke significant discussion in the Czech Republic. “The decision-making will be tough. We’re not even in the eurozone, and, surely, someone will ask whether it’s possible not be a part of this as well,” an source who wishes to remain anonymous told E15.

The Czech Republic’s focus so far has been on NATO. “The support for activities and the development of EU’s common defense and security policies has always built on the assumption that they would not weaken NATO’s role and the transatlantic bond,” Vladimír Bukovský of the Defense Ministry said. It’s becoming apparent, though, that a stronger European defense system doesn’t at all have to clash with US and NATO’s interests—especially now that president Nicolas Sarkozy has fully re-engaged France in the NATO. “Sarkozy involved France in NATO for the very reason of strengthening the European defense,” the diplomatic source points out.

All cues suggest that Sarkozy’s intentions match the politics of US president Barack Obama who wants Europe to assume a greater responsibility. The head of the Centre for European Reform Charles Grant has already in the past written in the Financial Times that it’s the US which could pressure British conservatives—most probably, London’s to-be government, that is—to also back a stronger EU defense system. Subsequently, the Germans wouldn’t want to stay outside the tough core either.

As a participant of military missions abroad, the Czech Republic would be a logical candidate for a membership in the tighter alliance. The country’s economic potential might, however, become a massive barrier — it’s predicted that one of the conditions for a membership in the strong core is an dequately high investment into military. Only five EU members — UK, France, Poland, Greece and Bulgaria — fulfill the current NATO requirement that the defence budget should reach at least 2% of GDP.

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