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Monday 21 June 2010
Senior Course 116 Summer Field Study; Bratislava and Prague.
Senior Course 116 continued their Summer Field Study with a visit to Bratislava on Tuesday 15 June. They were welcomed to the MOD by Colonel Pavel Neć, Vice-Rector for Science of the Armed Forces Academy of General Milan Rastislav Štefánik and well known to the College, since he worked in the NDC for three years.
The first lecture was delivered by Mrs Diana Štrofová, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who stressed the importance of the Alliance to Slovakia. She mentioned the Transatlantic Link, the upcoming new Strategic Concept and lessons learned from operations, as well as the need for joint economic diplomacy in the light of the comprehensive approach, and the function of the Visegrad Four Group. Referring to the National Security document as the basis for Slovakian security and defence policy, Mrs Štrofová discussed NATO-EU relations and the Slovakian contribution to operations in Afghanistan and the Western Balkans. In the discussion period, information was provided on public support for operations, the Slovak view of task specialisation, Slovakia-Ukraine relations and Kosovo.
The next speaker, Mr J. Demetrian, Director General of the Defence Policy, International Relations and Legislation Department, explored Slovak security policy. He began with a general introduction to security, followed by an account of the Slovak experience since the start of the global financial crisis. Ongoing operations and the Slovak contribution to them were also highlighted. After the lecture, Mr Demetrian answered questions on the Slovak view of the future of the United Nations, Slovakia's energy security, NATO-Russia relations and the future of burden sharing in NATO.
Lieutenant Colonel Peter Babiar, Chief of the Capability Planning Branch of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces, briefed the Course on Model 2020, the basic document for the transformation of the Slovak Armed Forces in the years to come. He gave details of Slovak changes in all fields: armed forces structure, manpower in the broadest sense, training and materiel. The discussion period focused on the links between foreign and domestic policy and transformation, the level of cooperation in the Visegrad Group of Four, and the difficulties of implementing transformation at a time of budget cuts.
Mr Zdenko Krajčír, Director of the Ministry of Finance's Institute of Financial Policy, discussed the economy of the Slovak Republic after the introduction of the euro, in the light of the global economic crisis. He elucidated the causes of the crisis and its consequences for the Slovak economy and financial sector, and explained the anti-crisis measures taken by the government and how they worked out in practice. In the second part of his lecture Mr Krajčír discussed the introduction of the euro in Slovakia, related fiscal discipline, and how in his view the Slovak economy benefited from this. The last part of his lecture dealt with the positive and negative elements of current economic forecasts for Slovakia.
Mr Krajčír's lecture ended this series of lectures in the Slovak Ministry of Defence and a very informative visit to Bratislava.
On the last leg of their Summer Field Study, Senior Course 116 visited Prague on Thursday 17 June. They were welcomed to the MOD by Mr František Padĕlek, Deputy Minister of Defence, who outlined the programme for the day.
The first lecture was delivered by Mr Jiří Kyrian, Deputy Director of the Security Policy Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He explained the Czech Republic's current foreign policy, provided relevant details of history and geography, and informed the Course about the three pillars of Czech security policy: NATO, the EU and the OSCE. The issues addressed in the discussion period included Russia, civilian contributions to military operations, the new NATO Strategic Concept and the benefit of alliances against neutrality.
The next speaker, Mr Josef Procházka, Deputy Director of the MOD Strategic Development Department, analysed the Czech Republic's defence policy, underlining the four cycles in its historical evolution since 1989 (democratisation, integration, reforms and transformation), the challenges that continue to face the Czech Republic, the level of ambition, and the Czech Long Term Vision as the basis for force planning. The Q&A session focused on budget constraints and how they affect capabilities and force structure.
The Head of the Macroeconomics Forecasting Unit of the Ministry of Finance, Mr František Cvengroš, explored the macroeconomic developments of the Czech Republic. Although the Czech Republic, a medium income country with an open economy, was hit by the financial crisis, the impact was relatively low and the GDP remained high compared with the EU average. The questions asked by course members after this lecture centred mainly on Czech plans for euro zone accession.
The First Deputy Chief of the General Staff, Brigadier General Miroslav Žižka, gave a briefing on the Army of the Czech Republic in which he highlighted force structure, General Staff structure, the General Staff mission, major tasks for 2010 and essential transformation goals. These issues, together with the modernisation of materiel, were further explored during the Q&A period.
The last briefing, on the Czech Troops in Foreign Missions, was delivered by Brigadier General Aleš Opata, Director of the Joint Operations Centre. The mission in Afghanistan was the central issue but information was also given on the operations in Kosovo. The session ended with questions on the Czech lessons learned from current operations, future participation in the Afghanistan mission and funding of current operations.
Brigadier General Aleš Opata's briefing concluded this informative series of lectures in the Czech Ministry of Defence. It marked the end of a very successful visit to Prague and a demanding but enlightening Summer Field Study for Senior Course 116, who visited eight countries in 18 days.