Lubomír Metnar: Revision of strategic documents is needed
The Chairman of the Defence Committee, Lubomír Metnar, has accepted an invitation to our discussion programme CZ DIALOGY. The Defence Committee is a parliamentary body of civilian control of the armed forces. It also participates in the drafting of legal regulations in the field of defence and security and annually discusses the state budget for the defence sector and the state final account. It also has a mandate to deploy members of the armed forces to foreign operations. In addition, it discusses and approves materials relating to the armed forces that are submitted by the Government to the Parliament. These include information on armed forces exercises or on flights and passages of foreign armed forces through the territory of the Czech Republic. Lubomír Metnar served as Minister of Defence from 2018-2021 and now heads the Defence Committee, so he has experience in both positions.
Video: Interview with Lubomír Metnar, Chairman of the Defence Committee of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic / CZ DEFENCE
This year has brought unexpected and in some cases completely new events. These are not just external ones, led by Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The army is undergoing transformations on many levels. At the command level, it is certainly the appointment of a new Chief of General Staff, Maj. Gen. Karel Rehka and the subsequent further renewal of command positions. Furthermore, an increase in the pace of modernisation of the army and its involvement in the current defence structures of the Alliance, such as the participation of Czech soldiers in the NATO Multinational Battlegroup in Slovakia. According to Lubomír Metnar, this is a trend that the current leadership of the ministry has followed in terms of the modernisation of the army. "In the previous period, we concluded contracts for the purchase of military equipment, whether for small arms or for 155 millimetre Caesar cannons," Metnar said. According to him, the current leadership of the ministry has also managed to follow up on the already concluded contract for H-1 helicopters with the United States, when it managed to extend this agreement with the donation of additional machines.
According to Lubomír Metnar, next year is the year of introducing new weapon systems into the army structures and reviewing strategic documents such as the KVAČR (Concept of Build-up of the Czech Army). Recruitment and replenishment of professional soldiers and soldiers in the Active Reserve is also an important part of the work of the ministry and the army.
And what is the difference between the Minister of Defence and the Chairman of the Defence Committee? "As Minister, I had the opportunity to promote the government's programme priorities. On the other hand, as chairman of the committee, you are much closer to the people, citizens and soldiers," Metnar said. The committee's monitoring activities are also important. Metnar sees this as complex, which he explained using the example of the war in Ukraine. "Opposition and coalition MPs asked me what aid was flowing to Ukraine and in what form, because some information was only in classified mode. Therefore, it took quite a long time to get the information in some degree of secrecy," Lubomír Metnar said, referring to the fact that controlling the functioning of such a ministry is not easy. It is not only parliamentarians, but the whole of society that perceives most defence-related issues through the lens of money. According to him, one of the criteria of a successful minister is the amount of money that ends up in the category of "unspent entitlement expenditure" at the end of each fiscal period. A far more important criterion of a successful minister and effective spending of the national budget is the preparation and planning of individual acquisitions. "The situation around acquisitions is not simple, because we live in a very bureaucratic environment where individual processes are complex and lengthy," Metnar points out. Viewed in this light, it is not easy to determine the optimal level of spending on the military, according to Lubomir Metnar. "The two percent of GDP was created at the 2014 summit in Newport, Wales, when the alliance countries agreed to budget two percent for modernising and building the capabilities of individual alliance armies," Metnar recalls. Overall, he said, the question of setting a fixed level of spending is rather debatable. "I recall one such statement that was made in the fifth century BC at the time of the Peloponnesian Wars. One of the commanders of the troops of Sparta at that time said that it was more important to spend resources efficiently than the absolute amount. I agree with this, because from some points of view two percent may not be enough, but sometimes it can also be too much," Metnar points out. The absolute amount of military spending is also certainly influenced by the current situation we are in, he said. "From an international political point of view, this is a number that should be taken seriously and not only I, but also the ANO movement has always supported achieving this goal," says Lubomír Metnar.
In the context of value for money, we asked how the state should proceed in tendering procedures when dealing with direct government-to-government negotiations. "During my work at the ministry, my approach has been to proceed transparently, in accordance with the laws and internal regulations of the ministry, in line with international law and EU legislation," Metnar said. Even in view of the case of former minister Vlasta Parkanová, which has been pending in the courts for 12 years, he said it was necessary to be transparent and behave strictly according to the law. "Yes, it may not be ideal, but on the other hand, from my point of view, it is necessary to be as transparent as possible, to communicate individual projects, because not only the army but also the security forces are financed from public funds. And that control, public control, must be there. And informing the public about individual projects is absolutely appropriate," Metnar added. However, according to him, it is also necessary to perceive projects where technologies are in a certain level of secrecy, and projects are thus dealt with by the law on the protection of classified information.
The chairman of the Defence Committee is not surprised that the public trusts the military more than politicians. The military is much closer to the people than politicians, Metnar said. "They meet them in crisis situations when the soldiers help them," Metnar points out. And there have been many of those emergencies in recent times. As for politicians, he says they often take an authoritarian, bureaucratic approach to solving problems and are unable to explain their positions well to citizens. Therefore, according to Lubomír Metnar, trust in the security forces is much higher. An important moment of communication with citizens is also their preparation for the defence of the state. According to Metnar, awareness and education of citizens in this area are in order. "Preparation of education in this area should be created in close cooperation between the Ministry of Defence, education and other interested institutions, because it is necessary to prepare the new generation on how to behave in crisis situations, how to help in saving life, how to orientate in an unfamiliar environment, how to react in case of some disasters such as a spill of some substances," says the chairman. According to him, it is also about the involvement of interest groups such as shooters, modelers, paratroopers or radio amateurs. All of these, Metnar said, can contribute to raising awareness and strengthening the country's overall defence capability.
In this episode of CZ DIALOGY, you will also find out what place Lubomir Metnar believes politics has in the military, what the current cooperation between the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Committee is, and many other information and views of the Chairman of the Defence Committee.