A move to substantially boost the Czech army reserve has been passed in the lower house of parliament with the means also earmarked to make signing up for missions at home and now abroad more attractive to recruits.
With an ever increasing workload abroad on foreign missions, exercises, and standby for emergencies at home, the Czech Army has long pointed out what it regards as a growing gap between its capacities and responsibilities.
Since compulsory military service was phased out in 2004, the Czech Army has been overwhelmingly a professional force. But a small reserve of civilians remained. They currently number around 1,200 and could be called up to serve alongside the professional force of around 21,000 in emergencies.
Now lawmakers have decided to dramatically expand the civilian reserve. They voted in the lower house Wednesday for it to grow more than fourfold over the next 10 years to eventually total around 5,000.
Minister of Defence Martin Stropnický said during the debate that he regarded the proposed law as one of the most important he has piloted during his near two years in office. And he pointed out that the Czech Republic is now taking the same path as much bigger countries with much more significant armed forces.
The proposed law counts on substantially increases in the rewards for those who sign up to the reserve. The annual payment for ordinary reservists will be tripled from the current 6,000 crowns a year to 18,000 crowns. For students at university, the payment of an extra 6,000 payment will be offered when they sign up for the reserve.
Employers, who have been sometimes in the past been reluctant to release their workers for the mandatory exercises will be able to reclaim 70 percent of wages during regular training and 100 percent if emergency top up training is required. At least 12 weeks basic training should be undertaken within the first two years. And according to the proposed law, another difference will be that members of the reserve could be for the first time called up to take part in operations abroad as well as in the Czech Republic.
Lower house lawmaker for the centre-right Civic Democrats and member of its defence committee, Jana Černochová, said in a Czech Television interview that she has few doubts that members of the reserve could cope because there would always be a core with more experience.
“Some of them will be former professional soldiers. They have perhaps served in the army for 20 years and then they decided that, for whatever reasons, they had had enough of the Czech army and left. Then they perhaps felt that they were missing something meaningful in their lives and decided to return to the reserve. And these are the sort of people who previously had six missions or so abroad. So I am not worried that these people would have any sort of problems serving abroad.”
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