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Lubomír Zaorálek
Photo: Robert Janás (©MZV)
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NATO: A Lasting Guarantee of Our Security


Statement of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Lubomír Zaorálek on the 15th anniversary of the Czech Republic joining NATO

Today, 12 March 2014, it has been 15 years since the Czech Republic joined NATO in the first enlargement wave that included countries of the former Eastern block. On 15 March, we mark another anniversary - 75 years of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Nazi Germany. An event that represented the effective end in the history of Czechoslovakia, a democratic European country betrayed and abandoned by its allies in Europe.

For long fifty years we were a mere object in the international developments in a fatally divided Europe, unable to influence it in any way. Twenty-five years ago, we set on the course of changing the unfortunate historic fate. Then, even for our western partners, it was important to witness our ability and willingness to contribute to the West´s security and defence. For example, our chemical protection unit was deployed in the operation Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991 and Czech troops took part in the UNPROFOR peacekeeping operation during the war in Yugoslavia in 1992 - 1995.

Thus, in a relatively short period of time, we were able to anchor our western identity by joining NATO and five years later the EU. We gained unprecedented security guarantees and an opportunity to prosper.

However, the world has changed dramatically in the meantime. The unambiguous, and to a certain extent, simple bi-polar world has disappeared. New actors and new security challenges and threats for NATO to deal with have appeared on the stage.

Now, with 15 years of experience of active NATO membership, together with other allies we are facing crucial challenges for the Alliance´s future. We will have to prove NATO can deliver and remains a relevant and necessary organization in today´s world. Economic and budgetary conditions in Europe have influenced the ability of many countries, including the Czech Republic, to fulfil their obligations and make their contributions to the alliance´s burden sharing.

The lowest common denominator - the security guarantee for the 28 allies on both sides of the Atlantic - remains. It retains its relevance as we can see in the current crisis in Ukraine and the use of Russian military force against a sovereign nation.

I consider it crucial that we keep on strengthening the European defence pillar of the Transatlantic security. In Europe, we should be able to share greater responsibility for security in our neighbourhood.

Both the anniversaries and the situation in Ukraine clearly prove the grave importance of the shared Transatlantic security.