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Czech Republic

A cartoon caption in a leading Czech daily captured what most Czech view as the country's biggest systemic problem: "We have had capitalism, and socialism too. Now we have corruptionism." Since the early 1990s, the Czech Republic has experienced what one academic called a "mind-numbing" number of corruption scandals. In a March 2013 poll, the Czech Republic's Public Opinion Research Center found that around three-quarters of Czechs think most or almost all public officials are entangled in corruption. Czechs said they consider political parties and ministries the most corrupt institutions. Cases of corruption are exposed. But almost without exception, headline grabbing stories quickly die down, or are replaced by the next sensational scandal, and nobody is ever held to account.

The Czech party system is unstable. There are three parties - CSSD [Czech Social Democratic Party], ODS [Civic Democratic Party] and KSCM [Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia] - that are always returned to the lower house. Popular support for both the Social Democrats and Civic Democrats has declined over time, while the KSCM is one of the few largely unreconstructed Communist parties on the political scene in the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Since 1998 there have always been five parties winning seats, but two "other" parties keep changing. Each election brings several new parties to the Parliament, while other parties exit the stage.Many new political parties are formed, but most do not get off the ground. Czech politics are frequently petty, driven by personal feuds, opportunism and populism; the economy is challenged by corruption. Most Czech are satisfied with the quality of life but cynical about domestic politics.

The Czech Republic has good relations with all of its neighbors, and none of its borders are in question. The Czech Republic faces few external threats that can be hypothesized in the near and medium term. Whereas the other former Warsaw Pact states face risks of local conflicts on their borders, even that possibility appears remote in the Czech case. The sense of greater security has allowed the Czechs to be less concerned about military preparedness than the other former Warsaw Pact states. The Czech Republic is a member of the EU, UN, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and will lead a European Union Battle Group (EUBG) in the second half of 2009.

According to the Constitution of the Czech Republic, the President is the supreme commander of Armed Forces, while the Minister of Defence, as a member of the Government, is the immediate superior to his deputies and the Chief of the General Staff, who is the highest military official within the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic.

The name of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic (ACR) is used for the Army of the Czech Republic (ACR) or the Czech military. As the literal translation from Czech into English of the Army of the Czech Republic could imply it contains only ground forces, the formulation of Armed Forces of the Czech Republic has been adopted to describe the whole organisation of the Czech military. The Czech law No. 219/1999 Dig., referred to as the Defence Law, including its amendments, stipulates that the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic consist of the Army, Military Office of President of the Republic, and the Castle Guard. The Castle Guard is a military unit protecting and defending the seat of the President at the Prague Castle.

A major overhaul of the Czechoslovak defense forces began in 1990 and continues in the Czech Republic. Czech forces have been successfully downsized from 200,000 to approximately 35,000, and at the same time reoriented into a more mobile, deployable force. The Czechs have made good progress in reforming the military personnel structure, and a strong commitment to English-language training is paying off. Compulsory military service ended in December 2004. The Czech Government spent about 1.2% of GDP on defense in 2011.

The Czech Armed forces struggled to concurrently complete their defense reform plan (initiated in 2002) and to support deployed operations. The situation was complicated by a polarized and charged domestic political environment, reduced funding, and a lack of transparency in the procurement process. The Army of the Czech Republic (ACR) met its broad end strength reform goals: an all volunteer force of 35,000 military and civilians; two maneuver brigades; 24 subsonic fighter-bombers (Czech produced L-159 Advanced Light Attack Aircraft or ALCA); 14 supersonic fighters (JAS-39 Gripens); one brigade each for artillery, air defense, NBC defense and engineers; and Special Forces Group. The ACR also met its deployment capabilities goal - maintaining approximately 1,000 deployed troops in operations. However, the achievement of full operational capability of two brigade size task forces was put off until 2013.

Since 1989, the Czech Armed Forces have been engaged in many international operations and have participated in stabilising high-risk countries and regions. It was the Czechoslovak Chemical Unit which learned the fi rst combat lessons during the Gulf War I in 1991. Then followed the deployment of the Czech Armed Forces on missions in the Balkans (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia), Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Liberia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Chad), Middle East (Kuwait, Iraq) and Afghanistan. Czech military personnel have achieved a high reputation from allies and partners.

A majority of Czechs opposed the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and in May 1999, the government, in cooperation with Greece, engaged in a controversial failed attempt to suspend the bombing temporarily. Citing cost constraints, the Czechs initially sent only a 175-troop reconnaissance company when KFOR deployed but later augmented it. The Czechs found KFOR conditions more challenging than those of SFOR (where they sustained 515 troops through rotations); internal defense ministry problems delayed not only troop pay but also the issuing of tenders for prefabricated houses, so Czech soldiers had to sleep in tents with winter approaching.

The Czech Republic early on sent an 80-person field hospital and transport plane to Albania Force (AFOR) to deal with Albanian refugees from Kosovo. The Czech Republic sent a nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) weapons decontamination unit of 250 troops to Camp Doha, Kuwait, to Operation Enduring Freedom, as well as its 6th Field Hospital (30 doctors and 120 troops) to Bagram to provide medical support to ISAE The extra costs for both operations were too large for the Czech defense budget, so they were sustained by floating government bonds. At the same time the Czechs maintained 400 troops in KFOR and 23 in SFOR, raising their total deployment to over 800 troops.

The Czech Republic continued to make significant contributions to international allied coalitions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo. In early 2008, the Czech Republic established a 200-person Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Logar Province, Afghanistan. In addition, an Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team (OMLT) was deployed to work alongside the Afghanistan National Air Corps. The deployment of this Czech OMLT complements the donation of 12 excess fully overhauled Czech military helicopters to Afghanistan. This increased commitment of support deployments to Afghanistan has not diminished the Czech Republic's continued commitment to support other coalition efforts, including providing a maneuver battalion to Kosovo in support of the Kosovo Force (KFOR) on a continual rotational basis.

The Czech Republic's involvement in the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) is part of its membership of the EU. During 2008, the Czech Republic actively contributed to the formulation and implementation of the EU's foreign policy at the level of working groups, the EU's Political and Security Committee (PSC/COPS), the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), and meetings of political directors and European correspondents. The Czech Republic took part in meetings of the General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) at the level of ministers of foreign affairs, informal meetings of ministers of foreign affairs (Gymnich), and several EU meetings with third countries.

For the Czech Republic, the North Atlantic Alliance is the cornerstone of the Euro-Atlantic security architecture, and the Czech Republic's membership of this collective defence organisation is of primary importance for ensuring its national security. From the Czech Republic's point of view, the North Atlantic Alliance plays an indispensable role as a transatlantic consultation forum, and through its operations and various forms of partnership cooperation it projects security outside NATO's geographical borders. For those reasons, security cooperation with European and North American countries through NATO membership is one of the Czech Republic's foreign policy priorities, in line with the Czech Republic's Security Strategy from 2003.





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