Press Conferences

20. 1. 2007 20:07

Extraordinary press conference of the Prime Minister of the CR, Mirek Topolánek concerning request of the U.S.A to place radar station on 17.1.2007

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the extraordinary press conference, which concerns defence policy of the Czech Republic. First, I give the floor to the Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who will inform you on the situation.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Thank you. Good morning once more. The government of the United States of America informed us in late hours last night that it had decided to start negotiation with the CR on potential placement of a unit of antimissile system in our territory. It concerns concretely placement of a radar station. It is an American system of antimissile defence, in which our allies in the framework of the North-Atlantic Alliance – the U.S.A, Denmark, Great Britain and other countries, for example Japan, are engaged. We suppose that, in case a system of antimissile defence of NATO is established, units of the individual member countries, including our unit, will be part of the system. The radar station as it is intended will have no negative impacts on inhabitants of neighbouring communities. Any endanger of people's health, decrease of quality of their lives and quality of environment will take place. About 200 professionals at a maximum, both army members and civilians, are to operate this radar station. We suppose that construction and operation of the radar station will bring significant investments and jobs for number of citizens of neighbouring regions. The government is ready to consider the request of the U.S.A. seriously and to negotiate on terms of placement of the radar station. The final decision has not been made; we suppose that negotiations will last several months. We will convene in following days, I think it will be on Wednesday, the National Security Council, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, constitutional team of experts, which will thoroughly debate security, strategic, technical, political, economical and also legal terms and guaranties. I, as the Prime Minister, can guarantee that in case the CR eventually accesses actively to the project of enlargement of the American system of antimissile defence in the European territory and becomes its important part, we will negotiate such terms, which will be in compliance with interests of the CR and its citizens and our security and security of our allies will be enforced. As to the issue of the statute of American soldiers in the Czech territory, which is very often mentioned, it will be based on the agreement on the statute of forces, which has been concluded between member states of NATO and which explicitly stipulates rights and duties of dispatching and host countries. We will stand up for participation of our companies in the programme of research and development. We regard the address of the Czech Republic from the side of our transatlantic partners as unambiguous sign of trust and respect. We are convinced that potential placement of a radar station in our territory is our own interest, it will strengthen our defendability and it will increase security of the CR and Europe. That is all as an introduction, thank you.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Now I give the floor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg to add information.

Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs: Ladies and gentlemen, I think it is very good that the Prime Minister immediately after receiving the inquiry, informed everybody. Also group of deputies of the Parliament have been informed and all political parties. I think it is great contribution to our security. Through placement of those radars, we are protected against threat of an attack from unexpected sides. The American side will be very helpful and there will be no problems. As to the military aspects, I would rather leave it to my colleague, or to general, nevertheless from the foreign affairs point of view, I welcome that, as it means increase of the security of the CR and it is, of course, also an issue, about which we will intensively debate with our partners in the framework of NATO. Thank you so much.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Now, the Minister of Defence Vlasta Parkanová has the floor.

Vlasta Parkanová, Minister of Defence: Nice morning, ladies and gentlemen. Deputy Minister of Defence of the U.S.A Mr. Eric Edelman contacted me in night hours yesterday. In the name of the United States offered the Czech Republic participation in the allied system of antimissile defence. In case the Czech Republic accepts the offer, part of the system would be placed in its territory, namely special radar. Ministry, which I head, is responsible for ensuring security of Czech citizens against external threats. Among threats of present world, the threat of an attack with ballistic missile carrying weapons of mass destruction is a real threat. And it can be more realistic threat in the near future, and it is even more probable than a convention military attack. It is not possible for any state of the world to secure itself against all possible risks. I am aware of very sensitive character of placing the radar station in our territory for Czech citizens. But we should not consider this matter ideologically, but on the basis of the fact that placement of the radar will increase security of the CR and all its inhabitants. I am convinced that it is like this and therefore I think that we should consider the offer seriously and with all responsibility. Thank you.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Now the Chief of the General Staff Pavel Štefka has the floor.

Pavel Štefka, Chief of the General Staff ACR: Dear Prime Minister, minister, ladies and gentlemen. Allow me to express opinion mainly regarding military aspects and security aspects of placement of this part of the system of antimissile defence in our territory. Each army is responsible for anti-aircraft defence and this is the case of our country, as well. We are able neither at present nor in the future, to respond to an attack with ballistic missile, as systems, which would protect us, are very expensive and sophisticated. The United States are able to produce this system and I believe that in the future, as it is prepared, it will be joint system of both the United States and of all states of NATO. Anti-aircraft defence of the CR is not able to face such an attack and as results from our analyses, this threat is realistic and in the future it will become even more realistic, as carriers will be developed and of course also systems, which will be carried by those carriers. Therefore, we are able neither to protect our country against this threat nor our inhabitants. Implementation of this system will certainly, as it has been mentioned several times, increase defendability of our country. And not only of our country, but also our allies, because we are part of NATO. The Army of the CR is able to prepare adequate area. You know that negotiations are on two areas, Libava and Jince, which are situated out of populated areas. It has not been decided yet. We are able to secure all activities, which are necessary for implementation of this project. Thank you.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Now, ladies and gentlemen, there is time for your questions, please.

Jan Gazdík, MfD: Good morning. It nearly looks as if the government of the U.S.A is waiting until our government gains confidence, and it is just my opinion, of course, my speculation, nevertheless I would like you to comment on it a little, as there is certain space here. The government of the U.S.A. would not probably respond like this in case there would be a political uncertainty, this is one question. The second matter is – do you think, prime Minister and Minister of Defence that time has come for a explanation campaign or broad debate, as those opinion pools are not in favour of this solution. Neither those opinion pools that were done by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in spite of the fact that they were a bit better. We have published those opinion pools and therefore I know well what I am saying, minister. And I allow myself asking the third question. The Prime Minister mentioned high employment rate, economic profitability, briefly said, but experts say that it is the strategic partnership as the highest priority, because the CR perhaps for the first time and for the last time has a chance to influence significant defensive step or some measure. You have spoken about it, but could you add some details?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Thank you. Regarding your first question – the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United States of America Daniel Fried visited the Czech Republic last week and had talks, apart from with me, also with the chairman of the most powerful opposition party Jiří Paroubek and with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and other representatives of the state. And when he was directly asked in what stage the debate on this matter was in the U.S.A the answer was that it was in the last stage, but that he could not estimate, if it was a question of days or weeks. But during the visit of Daniel Fried we knew that a final decision would be made on the American side. The fact that it happened yesterday, when after midday of the American time in early afternoon hours they ¨posted non-paper and all necessary documents it was just a coincidence that just in that time the vote of confidence was in progress. That step was expected and timing resulted from the American side. Regarding the second matter – I think that this is exactly the matter that has already been done but it will have to be done more extensively. I mean not only information and explanatory campaign directed at the public, but also at those, who will decide, I mean lawmakers of both parliamentary chambers. They will certainly be heard and there will be discussion in the relevant committees. I regard it as very important and the explanatory campaign will have to be aimed at general public, as well. I quite disagree with the opinion that the attitude is changing significantly regarding situation of the radar station in our country. Some opinion pools showed up to 65% support, which I regard as very high support regarding such an issue and further campaign might to increase this number. I do not want to assess it; I am not acquainted with the methodology. My personal expectation is that the general public will be identified with this project, which will be in favour of its own security. As to the third question – I myself believe that number of people in this state regard this matter as very prestigious one and regarding those aspects mentioned, those economic ones are perhaps the least significant. Key aspects for us are our prestige, our role in the framework of allied forces, involvement in missions. Our joint responsibility for certain action in the world using forces, which we are able to provide. I think it is very significant. As to its significance, I would compare it with our accession to NATO, because our way, our membership in NATO, our active involvement is appreciated in this way. So, the first word is prestige, the second word is security, of course. I have mentioned in my introductory speech that these elements of American antimissile defence, which are to protect Europe, will be incorporated in the NATO system. If you have information and I expect you have it, certain feasibility study has been prepared in the NATO centre in Brussels. We approved this document at the summit in Riga and I firmly believe that the system of collective defence will be interlinked with a similar system in the framework of NATO. It means that the second word is security and only the third word, which will be mentioned in the framework of the explanatory campaign are those economic advantages that may have influence on employment rate just in those regions, which thanks to underdeveloped infrastructure, thanks to the fact that military training areas have always been situated there, may help to solve some local problems. My personal view is that more significant matter is just support of our science and research, which does not concern only this matter but also our contacts with science and research in the framework of NATO. I am of the opinion that it is still more significant from the point of view of our future and prospects than those immediate effects of creation of jobs for local citizens in localities, or in a locality, where the radar station will be situated.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: I would like to ask, whether somebody of ministers wants to add information concerning this. Yes, minister Parkanová.

Vlasta Parkanová, Minister of Defence: Mr. Gazdík aimed his question at me; I cannot refuse to answer it. I do not think that I disclose any state secret that I do not do a faux-pax, when I say that the first attempts to make phone contacts were done much sooner than the government gained confidence. So, this speculation is just only speculation. On the contrary, we wanted to finish the process of the vote of confidence so that we had time to consider this issue at our leisure. As to the explanatory campaign, I am not going to criticize something at all costs, but I am sorry about the fact that previous governments have not use that relatively long period of time, and perhaps in more peaceable political atmosphere, for general discussion on this issue. They should have influence attitudes of the public regarding aspects of the security of the CR in the European and global context. If we know that the first minister who brought up this issue in the U.S.A was a social democratic minister several years ago, I expected there would be nation-wide debate on this issue as early as several years ago, despite its sensitive character, which would not enable to publish concrete data. Because that what happened last year that information leaked in a very deformed form and various parallels were mentioned regarding presence of foreign armies, I regarded it as very ill-fated development. I believe that we have entered a new way and that, through more intensive explanatory campaign, we will make the Czech public to understand that it is for good of the Czech nation.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I would like to add something and the Chief of the General Staff will probably say more about it. In spite of the fact that it has been mentioned many times, similar radar is possible to see in Nepolisy, and it may be interesting for journalist to visit this locality to get an idea on how a radar looks like and so that they could "de-demonize" this problem, which I regard as very significant from the point of view of world security development; there is no doubt about it.

Pavel Štefka, Chief of the General Staff ACR: The Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence have already taken the wind out of my sails, as they have said everything. I will add just one piece of information; you know that various actions have been done and information leaked in the course of the individual negotiations. General Zbořil, who is sitting in the first raw, attended all these negotiations with our American colleagues and so we are informed. Information that can be released you can find in this bulletin I have with me and which has about 40 pages. You can also find it on our websites, where nearly all possible questions and answers are published. But we would like to invite you to Nepolisy and show you how the radar looks like. It is radar of NATO, of course, there is certain degree of secrecy, but you will see what is possible to show you, you will see how radar operates and you will be given further technical information.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Teodor Marjanovič, please.

Teodor Marjanovič, MfD: Good morning. I have one question for you, Prime Minister and then one for the Minister of Defence. The first is if you have sighed with relief as the offer concerns only radars with regard to the fact that it was shown in the course of those debated that radars are more acceptable from the political point of view. In other words, are you content that it does not concern those missiles?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: First, it has already been known for some time, in spite of the fact it had not been mentioned, the solution, which is perhaps more expensive for the American side but which is more advantageous from the point of view of efficiency of the system. The fact that it was not decided prevented information from being released, as nothing was sure. That is perhaps the first matter. The second one – I am of the opinion that it is rather psychological matter, as I personally would strive for the military base, of course, which would be more significant because of many reasons, because of its extent and because of connected systems; nevertheless, I am pleased that we are participants in this activity, in spite it is "only" a radar station or a radar unit. For me it is not a question if I sighed with relief or not, it is was just given and in every country there is certain atmosphere, certain political situation and in our country a psychological war has been roused against the antimissile unit and everybody thought that the radar station would be more advantageous. I think everything has turned out all right after all, we are participants of the project and I am pleased that it is a radar unit, at least.

Teodor Marjanovič, MfD: And the second question is for you, Mrs. Parkanová. Have Americans informed you on the place where missiles would be situated, whether it would be in Poland? And describe exactly, please, you say that they have been trying to contact you in the morning; does it meant that a mobile phone was ringing? What was the procedure of making those contacts? When exactly did you contact the Deputy Minister of Defence, when did you speak to him? And then, describe, please, you said that all political parties were informed immediately; at what time? And at what time the President was informed?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I suppose that the first contacts were unofficial and a response to them had to be only unofficial. The official dispatch, or the official information arrived late at night, it will be the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who will inform you about it. The President Václav Klaus, the Chairman of CSSD, the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies and the Chairman of the Senate were informed between 21 and 22 o'clock. Unofficial information only indicated that an official dispatch or official non-paper would be sent. Therefore the information was not very interesting and I do not know why you are interested in it. The unofficial information was not important at that moment.

Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs: I can also say something concerning this matter; as we were sitting in the Chamber of Deputies and our mobile phones were switched off, the first information received the Deputy Minister.

Tomáš Pojar, 1st Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs: I received the first telephone call and information that official telephone call would follow and official non-papers will be handed over around half past four in the afternoon. Those phone calls were made around nine o'clock and the ambassador Kolář, I think it was around ten o'clock, received the non-paper at the American State Department and information saying that a note will be sent off in the course of the week. This is rough sequence of what happened; the moment when the first phone calls were made, all constitutional officials and other officials were informed.

Vlasta Parkanová, Minister of Defence: I have a ready answer. I would like to tell you that those phone calls were made, first attempts were made between six and seven o'clock, according to my estimate. And I was talking to Mr. Edelman around 21:20 and 21:30, if this information is enough for you. I can consult mobile phone call register and to find out the exact time, if you regard it as important. Can you repeat you second question please?

Teodor Marjanovič, MfD: Whether your American colleague have informed you where missiles would be placed.

Vlasta Parkanová, Minister of Defence: I will leave it to Mr. Pojar, of course. It was not a telephone call about such details.

Tomáš Pojar, 1st Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs: We have such information, but we are not to publish it.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Ladies and gentlemen, are there any further questions? I just remind you to ask all your questions, because the Prime Minister, ministers an the Chief of the General Staff will not answer your question individually after finish of the press conference. If there are any questions ... Mr. Gazdík.

Jan Gazdík, MfD: Still, I have a question concerning Poland. I will ask in a different way, is it possible to suppose that the Czech side will consult these steps with Poland, I mean those missiles, as they are part of the same system?

Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs: They are part of the same system, of course. The first contacts have already been made; we will be in continual contact with Poland, as it is our neighbour and also an ally of NATO. These contacts are being made and they are very strong regarding this matter.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I will have a telephone call with Mr. Kaczyński; so, we are trying to be in contact from the very beginning.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Ladies and gentlemen, are there any further questions? Yes, one more question.

Journalist, ČTK: I would like to ask - in case the project is approved, when will the military base or that facility start to operate? Do you have information on it?

Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs: I am of the opinion it will still take some time, because first an offer will be sent, then we will have to debate it and then there will be negotiations held and then there will be certain approval process, as it will have pass through the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. If the government approves the project it will be passed to the Chamber of Deputies and to the Senate and only after that the first spade could be dig into the earth. Therefore, I expect it could take some two years, at least.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I have a time schedule with me, so if you are interested in it, it will be specified during those negotiations. A agree with the minister that it will have to pass through the approval procedure, then all preparatory works will have to be done, including assessment of influence on the environment. According to our laws, we suppose to finish the project by 2007 – 2008 and the finish of construction in 2010. Installation of the system will be done in 2011 and in this year we suppose start of operation. So, the project is planned for four years, which is a standard time in case of those projects.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Wait for the microphone, please.

Vlasta Parkanová, Minister of Defence: I would dare to express my hope, in the meantime, that after the proposal arrives in both chambers of the Parliament, it will be debated by all political subjects matter-of-factly and that it will be freed from wrong ideology and that it will not become a subject of banal political struggles and scrambles. It is a serious issue and it would not deserve this.

Journalist, ČTK: I wonder if there is still open the issue of a referendum in case of those radars. And second, you said that negotiations with the American side will last several months; what will be a result of these negotiations? Your decision that you accept the offer and it will be communicated to the Ministry of Defence of the U.S.A.?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I think it must be the government that will make a decision and in case of approval process of such a project, which concerns placement of foreign army units or facilities in the territory of our state, ratification of both chambers of the Parliament is necessary. This is a standard procedure, I suppose. As to the time, I cannot make an exact presumption. Nevertheless, first those experts´ teams will have to specify the locality, specify terms; to prepare the contract and then it will have to be approved by the government and by the Parliament. As to a referendum, I know our opinion concerning this issue – it is not an issue for a referendum of a general character. It is rather a special issue of technical and security character. I do not think that there should be some referendum held in case of security issues. Nevertheless, those debates will only be started and it is a question of the decision of the Parliament; there may some delay occur if somebody brings up such a proposal on a special act on referendum. But I do not expect it and I do not want to form an idea that it is necessary. I do not think so.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Ladies and gentlemen, if there are no further questions, thank you and I finish the press conference.

print article   email   facebook   twitter