Europe opens the door for Czech defence industry

Moving on to international affairs now, and the Czech Republic has just become a member of the West European Armaments Group, the European Union's armaments body. The step opens the way for the Czech defence industry to compete in European markets, and also gives the country access to the latest military technology. Vladimir Tax reports:

The Czech Ministry of Defence says the Czech Republic has joined one of the most important organisations in Europe, a move which the ministry sees as the first real step towards full integration with the European Union. For Czech defence companies, the country's membership of the West European Armaments Group means the chance to cooperate with the most advanced defence industries in the world. Defence Ministry spokesman Milan Repka: The primary goals of the West European Armaments Group include more efficient use of common resources, the opening up of national defence markets to cross-border competition, the strengthening of Europe's defence, technological and industrial base and cooperation in research and development.

Czech companies will now be able to enter international public tenders and participate in multi-national research and development projects. However, they will have to face tough competition on EU markets and will have to meet strict technical and quality criteria.

Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy said after signing the entry protocols that the Czech Republic and the other five countries that are members of NATO but not of the EU, insist on retaining firm transatlantic links and warned against duplicating defence planning in the EU and NATO. Defence Ministry spokesman Milan Repka again: However, Mr Vetchy also stressed that the Czech Republic was determined to take part in determining a common European defence policy from the very beginning. The country was committed, he said, to help build the structure at the core of this new common policy--a European rapid reaction force designed to solve crisis situations in Europe.