Zbyněk Pavlačík: Our security is really not a given
Raising the awareness of the general and professional public about security policy and transatlantic relations - these are the main objectives of Jagello 2000. The chairman of the association, which is the main Czech public diplomacy body in the field of security policy and the Czech Republic's membership in NATO, is Zbyněk Pavlačík. Jagello 2000 is also involved in projects focused on the European Union. Among the most important events organised by this association are undoubtedly the two-day events NATO Days in Ostrava & Air Force Days in the Czech Republic. Another famous event of the association is the international security conference "Our Security is not a given", which took place for the tenth time this year. Not only about the activities of the above-mentioned association we talked with its chairman in the next episode of our discussion programme CZ DIALOGUES.
Video: Interview with Zbyněk Pavlačík, Chairman of Jagello 2000 / CZ DEFENCE
Zbyněk Pavlačík is a journalist by profession, but he has always been close to security issues. "I got into security issues thanks to a lifelong hobby, an interest in military history, hundreds of non-fiction titles and an interest in military aviation. The impetus for Jagello 2000 was the entry of the Czech Republic and Poland into NATO. The founders from the region of North Moravia and Silesia saw this as a unique opportunity to build Czech-Polish relations. Promoting this newly formed alliance was the main goal of the association's existence in the first years," says Zbyněk Pavlačík.
Poland is an important partner for the NATO Days in Ostrava & Air Force Days, the largest security show in Europe. Indeed, the level and diversity of this year's presentation of the Polish army only confirmed this. "We perceive Poland as an absolutely crucial partner in Central Europe, not only because of its very strong drive to modernise its armed forces, but also because of the country's role in the field of energy or in the field of broader foreign security policy coordination. It is not always easy with Poland, but I think it is important that we are aware of its role. But it is also important to treat it as an equal partner. There is great potential for developing mutual cooperation," Pavlačík says, pointing to the fact that despite the polarisation of the country after the recent elections, Polish society is compact in its resistance to external influences.
Experience has shown that right at the beginning of the association there was a demand for public diplomacy in the field of defence and security, which decided to continue and expand the project. We were interested in comparing the first edition of NATO Days with this year's. "Back then it was not days, it was a day or rather an afternoon. The programme lasted several hours. It is incomparable," recalls Zbyněk Pavlačík. Nowadays, the organizing team that prepares only NATO Days consists of about eleven people. The most important thing is the cooperation with the North Atlantic Alliance and the Czech Army. Next year marks twenty-five years since joining NATO and this year we commemorated thirty years since the establishment of the independent Czech Republic and the Czech Army. For the first time in our modern history, we have over three decades of sovereignty, freedom, democracy, with security as the basic paradigm. The fact that we have the highest security guarantees in our history is due to the transatlantic link and NATO membership, there is no alternative to this," says Zbyněk Pavlačík.
However, NATO Days in Ostrava & Air Force Days held at the Leoš Janáček Ostrava Airport are far from being just a spectator event. This event also includes the signing of various memoranda and contracts between the world's leading manufacturers of military equipment and Czech companies. We asked whether these events are one of the main goals of the NATO Days event for the organizing association. "It is not our primary goal, but we are certainly glad for it, because it contributes to the credit and prestige of the event. The fact that companies or ministries themselves are coming up with ideas to sign memoranda or agreements with us is of course pleasing, they are connected elements. In addition to attendance, there must also be interest from those who want to present themselves there. For this we need financial resources, so it is important that there are proper official participations. So one conditions the other," says Pavlačík.
An important milestone of this event was the combination of NATO Day in Ostrava with the Air Force Day of the Czech Army, when the idea was proposed by the then Commander of the Czech Air Force, Major General Jiří Verner. "He came up with the fact that the ground forces have their own Swamps and he came up with the proposal to link this. We think it makes sense that way. There are not many events of this type at civilian airports in Europe. In Finland, for example, there is a similar event at a civilian airport, but you need to have the army firmly embedded in it," adds Zbyněk Pavlačík.
Especially recently, there has been a lot of talk about the need for communication between the Czech Army and the defence industry. And the NATO Days in Ostrava & Air Force Days help to set up this communication. "One of our main goals is to strengthen the link between the security forces and the general public. The security forces are finally undergoing a broad modernisation, which involves the Czech defence industry, so it makes sense to present this to the public. All forces have something new, so they want to show it to the public," says the chairman of Jagello 2000, who welcomes this trend.
The slogan "Our security is not a given" has been firmly anchored in the media space of the Czech Republic for a number of years now and more and more people are well aware of the importance of the security sector. Zbyněk Pavlačík is satisfied that not only the citizens of the Czech Republic have adopted this phrase, but that politicians are also using it and the slogan is living its own life. Let us recall that the first national conference "Our Security is not a given" was held in 2014 on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of the Czech Republic's accession to NATO. At that time, the conference had a clearly positive response and, according to Pavlačík, there was a demand for it. Since then, this event has been held annually and is regularly attended by the President of the Republic and other top politicians, the Chief of the General Staff of the Czech Armed Forces, the entire general staff of our army and representatives of the alliance armies, top managers, military and security experts and representatives of the defence industry. "That's our dramaturgy, and I think we've been able to establish a position in nearly a quarter of a century that we've been a partner for all the governments that have been here. We've been a partner to all the presidents and it's a coherent relationship," says Pavlačík, who notes that the association is preparing celebrations for the 25th anniversary of NATO accession. He says there are certainly no plans for sentimental reminiscing.
The Alliance is about to turn seventy-five and we were interested to know how our guest assesses the role of NATO so far and how he sees the future of this community, perhaps also depending on the current security environment, which is different from the moment the Czech Republic joined NATO and completely different from what it was at the time of the Alliance's creation. According to Zbyněk Pavlačík, the North Atlantic Alliance is the most successful alliance in the history of mankind in terms of global defence and security. "Thanks to it, we have the highest security guarantees ever. The fact that the Alliance is militarily invincible from the outside is something that everyone is probably aware of. However, what is a challenge for any alliance is internal unity," Pavlačík said. When asked how we are perceived as a NATO member by foreign partners, Zbyněk Pavlačík answered as follows.
This was true even when we did not have 2% of GDP for defence spending, because the Czech Republic has always tried to be a valid actor in foreign missions. Today we play this role in the eastern wing of the Alliance." And how does Zbyněk Pavlačík see the future of this pact? "As I said, it is very much in our hands. The Alliance is based on the transatlantic link, which is not only about the United States, but we should also think about Canada, which is unjustly a bit in the shadows. I would also say that previous alliances have not been very much in our hands. As I say, the Alliance will be what its members behave. If we want the Alliance to be in good shape in its 100th year, let's try to make it so," says Zbynek Pavlačík, chairman of Jagello 2000. If you want to learn more, listen to the full interview at the beginning of this article.