Czech Parliament Approves U.S. Defence Cooperation Agreement
The lower house ratified the agreement with the support of 115 out of 144 MPs present. Credit: Freepik.
Prague, July 20 (CTK) – The Chamber of Deputies yesterday approved the Czech-American defence cooperation agreement. As the agreement was approved by the Senate last week, President Petr Pavel can now sign it into law, completing the ratification process.
The parliamentary debate lasted about 4.5 hours and was dominated by critical contributions by MPs from the opposition Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD).
Several dozen people protested against the agreement on the Malostranske namesti, near the parliament buildings.
The lower house ratified the agreement with the support of 115 out of 144 MPs present. It was supported by representatives of the five government parties and a majority of lawmakers from ANO.
The 14 SPD MPs present and four from ANO voted against. SPD had previously failed to push for an indefinite adjournment of the agreement.
Defense Minister Jana Cernochova (ODS) said that the defence agreement with the United States gives the Czech Republic an additional security guarantee, adding that in her opinion, it was also valuable because of the current security situation of Russian military aggression against Ukraine.
“In this situation, we cannot do without a strong alliance with other democratic countries,” Cernochova argued. According to ANO, whose opinion was presented by Radek Vondracek, the agreement deepens security and builds on the Czech membership in NATO.
SPD representatives, on the other hand, demanded a national referendum on the agreement or a requirement for the three-fifths majority in parliament needed for a constitutional change, because, according to SPD parliamentary group leader Radim Fiala, it means an infringement of sovereignty. Fiala said the agreement was unequal, and the Czech Republic is a subordinate party.
Other SPD MPs compared the agreement to the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops after 1968. Ondrej Lochman (STAN) said the comparison was illegitimate. “The Americans are not coming here with tanks and they are not going to shoot people here and they are not going to kidnap the Czech government,” he said.
ANO pushed through an accompanying resolution with coalition support, stating that the conclusion of the agreement means a deepening of practical defence cooperation with the United States and contributes to greater security for the Czech Republic.
The lower house also stressed that the agreement does not give the US armed forces the right to build permanent military bases in the Czech Republic or to reside permanently in the country without prior Czech consent, nor does it confer the right to deploy nuclear weapons.
The roughly 40-page document discusses many areas in relation to the possible presence of US troops in the Czech Republic or the cooperation between US and Czech armed forces on Czech territory. It deals, for example, with the legal status of US soldiers, environmental protection, the operation of motor vehicles by US soldiers and their families, and the status of US armed forces contractors. It also provides for the exemption of US soldiers from taxes and customs duties in the Czech Republic. The agreement also includes a list of military installations and premises of the Czech army that will be available for use by the US military.