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Statement on Foreign Policy Issues Issued by Senior Officials of the Czech Republic Following Their Meeting on April 4, 2017

 

This year’s first meeting of the Czech Republic’s senior officials took place on April 4. The meeting was attended by the President of the Republic, President of the Senate of the Parliament, Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament, Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of Defence. The senior officials discussed issues related to Brexit and the future of the European Union, the strengthening of European security and defence, the approach to the new US administration, the extraordinary meeting of  NATO Heads of State and/or Government, and the Czech Republic’s chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

The senior officials reaffirmed their agreement that the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union must not be allowed to undermine the European integration project. The Czech Republic supports a uniform approach to be followed by the whole EU 27 in this area. In the negotiations on mutual relations, the key concern will be to secure the rights of the Czech nationals who legally work or study in the UK, and to minimize the impacts of Brexit on the Czech Republic’s job market and competitiveness. An equally important concern will be to reach a fair financial settlement regarding the UK’s financial commitments that have yet to be paid into the EU budget. In addition, the Czech Republic will strive to retain, as far as possible, its existing access to the UK’s goods and services market, and to develop cooperation with the UK in the security and defence area. In the current debate on the future of the EU, the Czech Republic intends to support the EU’s strengthening in areas where the Union offers added value and where it contributes to growing prosperity and security in Europe. The senior officials agreed that none of the EU 27 could be left out of the debate on the future of the Union.

The senior officials noted with appreciation the progress in the implementation of the EU foreign and security policy, namely the ongoing intensive work in the area of external security and defence. In their opinion, the EU’s readiness to respond to external security challenges, including effective protection of the external border of the Union and the fight against illegal migration, is the crucial factor for keeping the European project credible for citizens. The goal is to achieve a stronger defence capability of European countries, and a stronger political will to use it. This, in turn, will strengthen the European pillar of the North Atlantic Alliance which remains the cornerstone of the Czech Republic’s, and Europe’s, territorial defence. Accordingly, the strengthening of the EU’s security and defence must be closely coordinated with NATO activities.

Regarding the new US administration, the senior officials agreed on the vital importance of Czech-US relations. The Czech Republic and the United States have a long history of exceptionally strong relations and the Czech Republic will seek to develop them further with the incoming administration, including the broadening of top-level bilateral contacts and enhancement of the economic and defence dimension of mutual relations.

Regarding the upcoming Meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government to be held in Brussels before the end of May, the senior officials welcome the fact that the US President’s first visit to Europe will take him to NATO Headquarters. They expect that the extraordinary meeting of NATO Heads of State and/or Government will definitely reaffirm the importance of the Alliance and of the transatlantic link. In the light of the upcoming Brussels summit, the senior officials confirmed that the Czech Republic would progressively increase its defence budget. The senior officials appreciate that the summit will consider ways for NATO to play a greater role in the fight against terrorism. The Czech Republic is ready to support the joint action of the Allies in this area and to provide specific military and civil capacities for the fight against terrorism.

The last topic on the agenda was information about the preparations for the upcoming Czech chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (May–November 2017). The senior officials took note of the proposed thematic priorities of the Czech chairmanship and reaffirmed their agreement regarding the proposed participation of the Czech Republic’s senior officials in Council of Europe meetings during the Czech chairmanship.

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