Prague, March 8 (CTK) – The Czech minority cabinet of ANO on Thursday supported Defence Minister Karla Slechtova’s proposal that Lieutenant General Ales Opata replace Josef Becvar as chief-of-staff.
The chief-of-staff is appointed by the president. Slechtova had discussed Opata’s nomination with President Milos Zeman beforehand.
“The cabinet approved Lieutenant General Ales Opata as the new chief-of-staff of the Czech Republic,” Slechtova tweeted.
She wrote she wants to submit Opata’s nomination to the lower house defence committee later this morning. The committee’s position is only advisory, not binding, however.
Slechtova came up with the nomination of Opata last week.
Opata, 53, has been a deputy chief-of-staff so far. He is to replace Becvar as of May 1.
The first task for the new chief-of-staff will be to restructure the Czech military command, Slechtova said last week, adding that she also wants to discuss the military armament with Opata in his new post.
“I am going to meet him to discuss big acquisitions that the military will need,” Slechtova said.
She said she expects Opata to ensure it that the military be united in formulating its demands for new equipment.
She said she had discussed the personnel change with Zeman and also with Andrej Babis, ANO leader and head of the ANO minority cabinet that lost a confidence vote in parliament in January and continues ruling pending the establishment of a new government by the election-winning ANO.
Furthermore, she debated the step with experts and the military. She said Opata enjoys high respect among soldiers, which was important for her decision-making.
Opata’s participation as a commander in Czech military missions in Kosovo and Afghanistan were also an argument in support of his nomination, she said.
The tenure of Becvar, 59, expired last summer, when then defence minister Martin Stropnicky (ANO) extended his mandate.
Slechtova said she has turned down Becvar’s request for further extension of his mandate also because he has reached the retirement age.
Slechtova said she expects Opata’s arrival to be followed by the arrival of younger generations in the military command.
Opata has served with the military for 31 years, gradually holding a variety of commanding posts. In 2014-2017, he was the Czech military representative at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).