Joint press point
with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Andrej Babiš
Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš,
Welcome to NATO Headquarters, it’s great to see you here and thank you for very good discussions where we addressed a wide range of different issues which are all important for our security. And I also welcome this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Czech Republic for your contributions to NATO missions and operations and for Czech Republic’s commitment to the NATO Alliance. And your contributions to our shared security.
Today we mark the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Brussels. 32 people were killed and dozens of others were wounded.
And today marks one year since the attack at Westminster, in London.
These are reminders of one of the main challenges facing NATO.
We have stepped up our efforts to project stability beyond our borders and to contribute to the fight against terrorism.
NATO is a full member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.
Our AWACS planes have been making the skies safer.
We are also working to strengthen the Iraqi Armed Forces’ ability to fight terrorism.
And I thank the Czech Republic for its contribution to this effort. I visited Iraq recently and there I saw how Czech instructors also play a key role in helping to strengthen the Iraqi army’s capability when it comes to countering improvised explosives.
Our mission in Afghanistan, NATO’s largest, is helping to train Afghan forces.
So that they can fight terrorism and secure their own country.
And again, the Czech Republic is contributing with trainers to this train, assist and advise mission of NATO in Afghanistan and I thank you also for your contributions to our mission in Afghanistan.
Over the past few years, Russia has changed European borders by force. And undertaken a significant military build-up.
In response to Russia’s aggressive actions, NATO has enhanced its presence in the eastern part of our alliance. To prevent a conflict, and preserve peace.
The NATO battlegroups in the Baltic States and Poland are a strong expression of NATO solidarity.
We are grateful for your contribution to our Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania, where the Czech Republic is part of the battle group we have deployed to Lithuania.
We want a meaningful dialogue with Russia. We seek to avoid confrontation, but we cannot ignore Russia breaking international rules. Earlier this month we saw a chemical attack in the United Kingdom. It was the first offensive use of a nerve agent on Alliance territory. NATO Allies are united in condemning this attack.
And they have offered their support to the ongoing investigation. This attack is a sad reminder of the value of the Czech Republic’s leading role in countering chemical, biological and nuclear threats.
The CBRN Centre of Excellence in the Czech Republic is a unique venue to share experience, technology and best practices.
Today we also talked about defence spending and about your country’s efforts to increase defence spending.
In 2014, all NATO Allies decided to stop the cuts, gradually increase defence spending and move towards spending 2% of their GDP on defence. And I welcome the fact that the Czech Republic has stopped the cuts in defence spending, has started to increase defence spending and has a clear plan on how to reach the 2% guideline by 2024. So I commend you for what we see, more defence spending in the Czech Republic is good for the Czech Republic but also for the whole NATO Alliance. And let me also add that we are impressed by the strong economic growth and by the fiscal balance of your country that creates the economic foundation for increased investments in defence also.
So once again, mister Prime Minister, it’s a great honour to have you here and welcome to the NATO Headquarters.
MODERATOR: Ladies and Gentlemen, we have time for a few questions. Yes please, gentleman here.
QUESTION [Czech News Agency]: Have you discussed in detail, the Skripal case, the Salisbury attack and accusation of… by Russia that Czech Republic was involved, might be involved? Thank you.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: We discussed of course the attack in Salisbury and all NATO Allies have strongly condemned the attack and we also have clearly expressed our support to the United Kingdom and we stand in solidarity with the United Kingdom, and NATO Allies have also offered their support to the ongoing investigation. We see this as something that takes place on the backdrop of a pattern of reckless behaviour of Russia. We have seen the illegal annexation of Crimea, we have seen Russia's attempt, or efforts, to destabilise Eastern Ukraine, we have seen Russia's significant military build-up, we have seen cyberattacks, hybrid tactics and so on, and therefore NATO is responding to this by implementing the biggest reinforcement to our collective defence since the end of the Cold War, with battlegroups deployed in the eastern part of the Alliance. The Czech Republic is part of that, with high-readiness armed forces and also now with increased defence investments, as part of our response to a more assertive Russia. The Czech Republic has strongly denied any accusations about that this chemical nerve agent has been produced in the Czech Republic, and we have no reason to doubt the assessment made by the United Kingdom, and also welcome the fact that the United Kingdom has established a very close cooperation with the OPCW, the organisation which is responsible for the treaty that bans chemical weapons. So, we call on Russia to answer all the questions the UK has put forward, and to provide full disclosure of its Novichok programme to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
ANDREJ BABIŠ [Prime Minister of the Czech Republic]: Czech Republic strongly condemn this attack and we of course stay with our Allies, and we have strongly refused the speculation about the production of Novichok in Czech Republic. This is really a lie and we have refused it completely, and of course I think this case will be also discussed during the European Council and, of course, we have a clear position on this issue with NATO, with our Allies.
MODERATOR: Any other questions? Yes, please?
QUESTION: [Czech Television]: I would ask, following this Salisbury case, if you are planning, Mr Babiš, some concrete steps, like expelling diplomats from Prague like London did? Russian diplomats of course.
ANDREJ BABIŠ [Prime Minister of the Czech Republic]: As I said, there was a consultation on Monday, during the meeting of Minister of Foreign Affairs, and we are in touch. I have spoken with the British Ambassador yesterday on the way to the airport, so we will of course discuss it during the European Council and we are of course looking for the unified position of Europe.
MODERATOR: OK, thank you very much, Ladies and Gentlemen.
JENS STOLTENBERG [NATO Secretary General]: Thank you.