Scilla Elworthy is a lifelong campaigner against warfare and conflict and was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work with the Oxford Research Group, which fostered dialogue between the UK government and nuclear disarmament activists. More recently she has been the author of The Business Plan for Peace: Building a World Without War. We spoke after a talk she gave at the Melting Pot forum at the Colours of Ostrava music festival.
The international watchdog Social Watch has criticised the Czech Republic
for failing to clamp down on arms exports to authoritarian regimes such as
Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
In a press conference Thursday in Prague, the organisation said that the sales helped bolster regimes which oppressed their citizens and did not respect human rights. It also fuelled conflicts which fuelled emigration from such countries. The NGO observed that there are currently around 20 conflicts around the world with easy access to arms one of the fundamental factors in fuelling.
Exports of arms and military material from the Czech Republic reached a record 18.2 billion crowns (around 690 million euros) last year, according to a report that will be debated by the government on Monday. In 2015 that figure stood at 15 billion crowns. Most of the military material, amounting to 1.66 billion crowns, went to Iraq, followed by the United Arab Emirates, Slovakia and Egypt. Last year, some 1,180 licenses were issued for the export of military material.
Countries form around the world signed up in 2015 to a United Nations plan for sustainable global develop. It was greeted as an unprecedented move towards creating a fairer and more sustainable world. The Czech government was due to give an update on its progress in attaining some of the goals at the UN this week. At the same, the Czech branch of the NGO Social Watch prepared to present its findings about progress or the lack of it locally.
Exports of Czech arms companies have almost tripled in value in the last three years. In 2016 the value of exports totalled almost 20 billion crowns compared with 7.6 billion in 2014. Minister of Defence, Martin Stropnický, speaking at the Brno arms fair, IDET, said that part of the increases stemmed from the cooperation between the ministry and arms companies. Ministry purchases of Czech equipment provided a reference point for exports to other countries, he added. Twenty-seven missions taking in 40 foreign countries are planned this year, the minister said.
Although the official numbers will only be released by the Ministry of Industry and Trade in several months’ time, all indications are that 2016 was a very good year for the Czech arms industry. The financial daily E15 reported that exports will now have gone up for four years straight, in part influenced by the sale and lease of Czech L-159 fighter jets. Jan Velinger spoke to Jiří Hynek, the head of the Defense and Security Association of the Czech Republic, asking him about the industry’s export profile.
The association representing local arms producers has criticized the Czech Ministry of Defence for insufficient support for their companies. They say the proportion of ministry arms and equipment orders going to local companies is around a third of the total of spending. That compares with a total of around 90 percent in neighbouring Poland. The local producers say that they can hardly hope to land export orders if they do not first win orders from the ministry.
Czech arms manufacturers and producers of military equipment such as gas masks or filters, last year exported goods worth a record 15 billion crowns, news website iDnes reports. The highest number of exports, 28 percent, was to EU countries and was worth 4.3 billion. Czech arms exports to Bulgaria alone were worth one billion crowns; exports to Slovakia saw similar numbers as did countries outside of the European Union such as the United States and Iraq.
The defence lawyers of former lobbyist Marek Dalík, who was sentenced to four years in prison for corruption, have filed an appeal with the Supreme Court, the news site Neovlivni.cz reported on Thursday. According to the defendants, the lower courts failed to properly assess the evidence against their client. Dalík, who was a close associate of former prime minister Mirek Topolánek, was found guilty of corruption in a case involving the purchase of armoured vehicles for the Czech Army from the Austrian arms manufacturer Steyr. He demanded a bribe of 500 million crowns to ensure that the lucrative order was won by the Austrian firm. Mr Dalík is due to start serving his prison sentence soon.
Czech arms manufacturers increased their exports last year to CZK 15 billion, according to figures released on Tuesday by the head of the Defence and Security Industry Association of the Czech Republic, Jiří Hynek. In 2014 the industry’s exports totalled CZK 11.8 billion. Mr. Hynek attributed the jump to a marked increase in sales to the United States and the European Union. Czech arms makers export 90 percent of their products.