Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra hails Czech-US agreement as a big success

Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra, photo: CTK

The United States and the Czech Republic announced at a NATO summit in Bucharest on Thursday they had reached an agreement on building a missile-defense radar on Czech soil. The announcement came after months of complicated negotiations and vehement opposition from Russia, as well as a number of EU member states who did not like the idea of a bilateral defense deal between Prague and Washington. But the Bucharest summit produced a breakthrough, with NATO leaders agreeing to endorse Washington’s missile defense plans after it promised to explore ways of making the radar base an integral part of any future NATO missile defense architecture. Radio Prague’s Alex Rosenzweig was at the summit and spoke to the Czech Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra about the agreement and its chances of winning approval in Parliament.

Prime Minister for European Affairs Alexandr Vondra, photo: CTK
“I think it is a clear success for the Czech Republic because we achieved what we wanted to achieve. There is an agreement with the United States, an agreement which is part of the NATO architecture and which is broadly supported by the NATO allies because the system is here to protect not just us or the United States but to protect all NATO allies in Europe. I like to use an umbrella metaphor. There was already a system in place protecting the US. But NATO is like a marriage and in rainy weather the umbrella should protect not just the husband but also the wife – otherwise you could get a divorce and I do not want to have a Trans-Atlantic divorce so we will extend this larger umbrella to protect not just the United States but also Europe. That is why parts of the system should be deployed in the Czech Republic and Poland.”

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, photo: CTK
How was the discussion between NATO allies? We heard that some of them, including Prime Minister Fico from Slovakia, have problems accepting this agreement between Prague and Washington.

“Well, there was debate, but we reached agreement. On Monday we reached agreement on an ambassadorial level. It is true that Slovakia attempted to complicate things, but they eventually withdrew their reservations and we have now reached full agreement. It is done. We have a deal, we have reached an agreement and we are glad.”

Is the Czech government sure to win support for this deal in Parliament?

“Well, we have just announced that an agreement has been reached so first of all the agreement needs to be signed. That will take a few weeks. Then we need to conclude the Status of Forces -or SOFA - agreement where talks are still ongoing. Only then can we take the complete agreement to Parliament and I hope that deputies and senators will behave in a responsible way. This agreement is about protecting our country, about protecting our citizens.”

How big are its chances of approval?

“You know if we thought it did not have a chance we would not sign it. There is a good chance that at the end of the day those who have the responsibility will behave in a responsible manner.”