Politicians, MPs, experts on security and defence and foreign guests assembled at a conference on security at Prague Castle on Thursday. The conference addressed not only present-day security threats but the links between security and democracy, or the state of the economy.
In a message to delegates President Miloš Zeman, under whose auspices the conference is being held on the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Czechoslovakia, drew on the lessons of the past in addressing present-day threats. He said Czechs knew only too well the cost of appeasement and stressed that the democratic world must stay firm in the fight against international terrorism. He said he was proud that Czech soldiers were contributing to this by their presence in international missions, such as NATO’s Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš likewise confirmed the country’s commitment in the fight against terrorism, saying the loss of Czech lives in Afghanistan would not undermine its resolve.
“I want to pay homage to those of our soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice, who laid down their lives to defend our security. They will always be remembered as heroes. You may have heard voices calling for us to withdraw our troops. I want to say here and now that we will not do so. We will not give up. Our troops will continue to fight terrorists wherever the need arises. We are there for our allies; we will not betray their trust and will continue to fulfil our commitments.”
The prime minister said that in its policy program his government had pledged to ensure security for Czech citizens and this involved participation in foreign missions as well as more money and better work conditions for the country’s security forces at home. He said the fact that the Czech Republic was ranked the 6th safest country in the world was something to be proud of, but it must not be taken for granted.
Mr. Babiš stressed that Europe now faces a common security threat in the migrant crisis and a different approach than that taken was needed to resolve it.
“We need to define the space where we will defend our continent. We need to speak more about Schengen and less about the euro. We need to get Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria into Schengen fast. We need a clear strategy for the western Balkans –if we don’t, this region will come under the influence of other powers who have different interests from us.”
Europe needs to do more to fight narcotics, arms and people smugglers, who were making enormous profits from the migrant crisis, Babiš said. He reiterated the belief that the way to curb the exodus was to make deals with North African countries, similarly as the one the EU had made with Turkey.
The prime minister concluded his speech by saying said the even if the Czech Republic was a relatively small country it should make its voice heard more strongly than it had in the past and be more active in helping to guarantee not just the security of its own citizens, but that of the whole continent.
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