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Informal meeting of EU Defence Ministers launched in Prague

On Thursday 12 March 2009 the two-day informal meeting of Defence Ministers of the EU Member States started in Prague. This meeting is the only opportunity for the EU Defence Ministers to meet in the Czech Republic during the Czech Presidency to discuss current issues on the European Security and Defence Policy agendas. The meeting is presided over by Czech Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanová.

In addition to the representatives of all the EU Member States, the informal meeting has brought together Secretary General/High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, Director for Defence Aspects of the General Secretariat of the EU Council Claude France Arnould, representatives of the European Commission and Chief Executive of the European Defence Agency Alexander Weis. The military bodies of the European Union are represented by the Chairman of the European Union Military Committee, General Henri Bentégeat, the Director-General of the European Union Military Staff, Lieutenant General David Leakey, and the commanders of the current military operations of the EU. As the cooperation of the European Union and NATO is an issue discussed and regarded as important by the Czech Presidency, the meeting is also attended by NATO delegates headed by Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.

In her opening speech Defence Minister Parkanová pointed out that this year, in Prague, we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of Czech membership of NATO and that in May we will commemorate, together with nine other countries, five years as Member States of the European Union. “These two historic moments formally marked our return into the family of free, democratic countries, a family that safeguards our defence and security”, said Vlasta Parkanová. According to the Minister, the European Union has positioned itself as a major political player at global level and has assumed new responsibilities. “A tangible proof of this is its growing capacity to carry out military operations and civil missions, of which there have already been as many as 23”, added Minister Parkanová.

The three current EU military operations were the main item on the agenda of the first day of the ministerial meeting. The commanders of the operations, General John McColl of the ALTHEA operation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, General Patrick Nash of the EUFOR TCHAD/RCA operation in Chad and the Central African Republic and Rear-Admiral Philip Jones, who is heading the first EU naval operation in history, ATALANTA, which is aimed at fighting piracy in the waters off the coast of Somalia, gave a presentation of the current state of affairs and the expected development.

In the ensuing discussion the Ministers of Defence agreed that the military objectives of the ALTHEA operation had been fulfilled and that it was time to consider how the operation could be transformed. However, they pointed out that there is a need to continue to closely follow the development of the political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina in order to complete the necessary political reforms in the country.

The Ministers of Defence also stated that the objectives of the EUFOR TCHAD/RCA opeation in Chad and the Central African Republic had been fulfilled succesfully. On 15 March 2009 the tasks of this operations will be handed over to the UN (operation MINURCAT). The Ministers furthermore expressed a very positive evaluation of the fulfilment of the difficult objectives of the ATALANTA operation against piracy.

On the second day the Ministers of Defence will address the development of EU´s military capabilities and the cooperation of the EU with its strategic partners in the area of security, i.e. NATO, the UN and the African Union.

Contact: Vladimír Lukovský, Press Information Service of the MoD, phone: +420 973 200  153, mobile: +420 724 006 780, e-mail: lukovskv@army.cz


Author: Vladimír Lukovský, Press Information Service of the MoD