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Parties back rising defence spending

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Prague, June 8 (CTK) – The Czech Republic should increase its defence spending, leaders of the biggest parties agreed at a national security conference today, but they disagree on the way the expenditures should be growing.

They also disagree on the role of NATO and the way the EU should implement its joint defence.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) and ANO leader Andrej Babis advocated the government commitment that the Czech defence spending should reach 1.4 percent of GDP by 2020.

However, according to the budget frameworks proposed by the Finance Ministry, the Czech Republic is only to spend 1.16 percent of its GDP on defence in 2020.

Petr Fiala, leader of the opposition Civic Democratic Party (ODS), said the government commitment was not very ambitious.

He called on other parties to support the bill in the Chamber of Deputies under which the government would have to be increasing the defence spending by 0.2 percent of the GDP annually until it reaches the 2 percent the Czech Republic pledged to reach in NATO.

Communist (KSCM) leader Vojtech Filip, too, said he was for the 2 percent target.

Former foreign minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09) said along with raising its defence spending, the Czech Republic should focus on the efficient use of the means.

Sobotka said the military spending should be stable.

He said he hoped other parties, too, would agree on observing the government commitment to spend at least 1.4 percent of GDP on the military by 2020.

Sobotka said it was a good thing that the Czech Republic was taking an active part in the debates on European defence.

Fiala said he believed the EU should not create any defence capacities alongside NATO. Instead, it would be good to reinforce the European pillar of the alliance.

Filip criticised the tension between NATO and Russia.

He said he could hear the views of many Czechs who did not feel threatened by Russia, but by terrorists.

Filip said a conference on security in Europe should be held at which all the countries should guarantee that Europe would not become a battlefield.

Speaking about terrorist attacks, Schwarzenberg said similar incidents had occurred in the past, too.

The security situation is serious, but the countries should not curtail civic freedoms in the name of defence against terrorism, he added.

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