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Prague/Ljubljana/Brussels, 5 May 2017 – NATO Parliamentary Assembly President Paolo Alli (Italy) concluded today a week-long visit to the Czech Republic and Slovenia – two members of both NATO and the European Union – where his high-level talks centered around NATO’s response to threats in Europe’s neighbourhood and the necessity to build further synergies between NATO and the European Union’s defence policies and capabilities.
As Allied Heads of State and Government prepare to meet in Brussels at the end of May – the first NATO meeting with United States President Donald J. Trump and with the new French President to be elected in Sunday’s election, Mr Alli’s visit to Prague and Ljubljana highlighted Allies’ concern about the many security challenges in Europe’s Eastern and Southern neighbourhood, from Russia’s ongoing aggression in Ukraine to renewed political tensions in the Western Balkans, the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and persistent divisions in Libya.
In meetings with the President of the Senate and Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic, Milan Stech and Jan Hamacek, Mr Alli saluted the Czech authorities’ commitment to increase the country’s defence budget to 1.4% GDP by 2020, with the goal of reaching the NATO agreed target of 2% by 2024. “With this increased spending effort, the outstanding contribution of Czech armed forces to NATO missions in Afghanistan and Kosovo, and the planned participation in NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania, the Czech Republic demonstrates its clear commitment to take on its fair share of the burden for our common security”, Mr Alli commented. “The multiple and complex threats we face today require us to reinvest in our defence. We have committed to increase defence spending to 2% GDP, but we must also ensure that this increased investment translates into actual increased capabilities and a fair contribution to NATO missions and operations.”
Burdensharing within NATO and the need for closer European defence cooperation were also key themes of Mr Alli’s discussions in Ljubljana. In meetings with Slovenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Karl Erjavec and Minister of Defence Andreja Katic, Mr Alli welcomed the major progress achieved in NATO-EU cooperation in recent years, and called for further initiatives to leverage EU support to member states’ defence investments, including investment in research and development and support to the development of the European defence industrial base.
Slovenian officials also called for a more proactive EU policy in the Western Balkans to address renewed political tensions in the region. In his meeting with Slovenian President Borut Pahor, Mr Alli saluted Slovenia’s contribution to regional stability, and the positive model it set for its neighbours as a strong member of NATO and the European Union. “Europe will not be complete before the full integration of the Western Balkans”, Mr Alli stated.
During his visit to the Czech Republic, Mr Alli also met with members of the NATO PA delegation and of the Committees of Defence and Foreign Affairs of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate, with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Vaclav Kolaja, Deputy Minister of Defence Jakub Landovsky, Chief of the General Staff General Josef Becvar, and toured the 21st Tactical Air Force Base at Caslav.
In Ljubljana, in addition to his meetings with the President of the Republic, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence, Mr Alli also held talks with President of the National Assembly Milan Brglez, members of the NATO PA delegation and of the Defence and Foreign Affairs Committees, and Chief of the General Staff General Andrej Osterman. He concluded his visit at the NATO Centre of Excellence for Mountain Warfare in in Poljce.
The NATO Parliamentary Assembly will meet in Tbilisi, Georgia on 26-29 May to review the outcomes of the Brussels summit of NATO Heads of State and Government and discuss the wide range of security challenges facing Allies and NATO and the EU’s responses.
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