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Defence minister sees key contracts, recruitment as priorities

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Prague, June 28 (CTK) – New Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar, who replaced Karla Slechtova (both for ANO), sees the completion of the key defence contracts, recruitment of soldiers and the purchase transparency as crucial, he told journalists after his inauguration by PM Andrej Babis (ANO) on Thursday.

Babis highlighted the importance of Metnar continuing the work started by Slechtova, whom he thanked for her work.

“We must make sure that the ministry makes purchases in a transparent way and that there are no influences by lobbyist groups,” Babis said.

Before her departure, Slechtova often pointed out the influence of arms makers on the ministry’s functioning. She denoted her departure from the ministry as a victory of the arms makers, referring to large purchases, which she said were being investigated by the military police.

Slechtova said she would hand Metnar a list of the criminal complaints she had filed.

Metnar confirmed he had received the material along with other documents from her.

Babis noted that “all issues” she brought about needed to be investigated and the public had to be informed about the outcome.

Metnar said he has respect for the ministry and that increasing the number of professional soldiers to about 30,000 was one of his priorities. The Czech military is currently short of some 6,000 soldiers.

Metnar will also support voluntary exercise programmes and increasing of the active reserves.

He reiterated the need for transparency in arms purchases and said they needed to be more effective and sped up. He plans to review the key acquisition projects that are underway.

The sector is going to purchase new helicopters, radars, artillery guns and combat vehicles for hundreds of billions of crowns.

Metnar finds support for the country’s arms industry important, as well as the continuation of cooperation within the UN, EU and NATO.

Babis mentioned the two-day NATO summit in Brussels that is to begin on July 11. President Milos Zeman will represent the country on its first day and the PM or deputy PM Jan Hamacek (Social Democrats, CSSD) the next one, Babis said.

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