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The Czech Republic has a new Defense Minister

Published : 29 January 2014
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On 29th January 2014, President Zeman nominated the new Czech government, including Martin Stropnický as Defense Minister. For the first time in its modern history, the Czech Republic had to wait 95 days after the parliamentary elections before having a new government. This simple figure illustrates the challenges that will face Premier Sobotka and his fellow-ministers.

Effectively, this government will have to overcome both the influence of President Zeman - who showed strong reluctance in nominating some ministers (Mr. Stropnický for example) – and the centrifugal tendency of the current political majority, based on three parties that have different interests and points of view (Social-Democrats, populist movement ANO and Christian-Democrats).

Born in December 1956, Mr. Stropnický - elected on the lists of Movement ANO - has already had several careers but none of them directly linked with his new activity. In this way, he was successively actor, writer, diplomat, Culture Minister, and artistic director of theater Na Vinohradech. His only military experience goes back to his military service during the Communist period. He thus brought his military leaflet to President Zeman as a token of his military experience in order to convince him that he was fit enough for the job of Defense minister. But the truth is that Mr. Stropnický will have to work hard to be able to understand the stakes of his new position.

However, being inexperienced doesn’t prevent him to already have some strong ideas about his new job. In an interview just before his appointment, he declared to be convinced that he will be able to find ways to spare more money in the Defense Ministry. That is not a good signal for the Armed Forces who are currently trying to survive with a budget of 42 billion CZK. He also expressed the intention to examine the recently negotiated lease contract of Gripen and the project of law about the professional soldiers that had been drafted by his predecessor.

One can understand that nobody wants to endorse something without being able to get some understanding about the topic. However, the words of the new Minister clearly indicated his intention to reopen the abovementioned files. Is there a hidden agenda fixed by Mr. Stropnický’s party boss - the newly appointed Minister of Finance Andrej Babiš? According to well-informed sources, during a pre-electoral meeting dedicated to drafting the political program of his party, the latter was effectively questioning whether the armed forces were of some use. With such a point of view, we are obviously entitled to wonder if the new Minister will not have only one agenda: to find new ways to cut money from the resort. And to do that, there is no need to be a military expert!!

Fortunately, there will be many people who will monitor Mr. Stropnický’s work: President Zeman in first place in his role of Chief of Armed Forces, General Pavel, the Chief of Defense Staff and some of the potential future vice-ministers coming from ČSSD. Any attempt to downgrade the current Czech military capabilities should be quickly duly publicized.

So we wish all the best to the new Defense Minister and hope that he will have a more durable longevity in his current position than the 6-months term he held as Culture Minister in 1998.