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Can a Czech be named head of the CMPD?

The Czech Jiri Sedivy (*) seems likely to take over from Claude France Arnould at the head of the CMPD, the civil-military planning department. If this more than serious “rumor”, since it was the subject of discussions, aside from the COPS, in recent days, turns out to be founded, it would be bad news. Let's not kid ourselves...

The CMPD is, in fact, the laboratory for future defense missions. And we cannot place just any unknown person there, especially from a country that loathes European defense policy. If this were the case, it would, in my opinion, be the first mistake made by Cathy Ashton, the High Representative of the EU, who in all her past or future appointments has so far been able to skillfully balance and combine profiles to build an interesting balance of the future diplomatic service / crisis management bodies. It would also contravene its commitments to Parliament to promote a more active European security and defense policy, and one more committed to conflict prevention.

Being the son of… is it enough?

I have nothing against Jiri Sedivy. A priori even he would be friendly. His father, Jaroslav, is a well-known Czech politician. Despite military service in the 1950s, in the counter-espionage service in State Security (a past which he admitted, feeling forced to “collaborate”), he was ousted from the Institute for Economy and International Affairs in 1970, after standardization, and became a member of the Charter in 1977. Francophile, advisor to Havel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jiri Dienstbier, he was ambassador to France (“an ambassador under the Eiffel Tower” ), then in Belgium (also accredited to NATO), before becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs in 1997 and 1998, then ambassador to Switzerland. But being your father's son isn't enough...

A pro-NATO Minister of Defense

Jiri has certain qualities of his own. He studied at King's College London then at Charles University in Prague, taught international politics before moving into politics. He joined the ODS (the party of Vaclav Klaus and Miroslav Topolanek), and became Minister of Defense from 2006 to 2007 before becoming Deputy Secretary General of NATO in charge of planning, then returning to government Czech as advisor to Vondra at the Ministry of Defense. Is this enough? In my opinion, no! Nothing in his experience highlights a particular knowledge of the structures of European defense policy (which is a primary requirement for anyone working in the field), and even less for leading a structure responsible for planning future defense operations which are very diverse (from observation missions to interposition missions, including advice, training, police or arrest missions on the high seas). Putting in a former Minister of Defense, with a NATO past, is to divert the CMPD from its mixed, military and civilian character.

The Czech Republic, the dunce of European Defense

Furthermore, we cannot say that his nationality and his belonging to a government that is, to say the least, Eurosceptic is an asset. On the contrary. Being Czech, in this case, weighs down your CV in an unalterable way.

The Czech government has not shown particular enthusiasm on the issue in recent years. It would be quite the opposite. Each time it was necessary to defend European defense, he felt that it already existed… in NATO, and that there was no need to build one. And he walked his talk. Czech participation in the EUFOR Chad operation was purely symbolic (2 soldiers!). During their presidency, in the second half of 2009, the Czechs showed no appetite for the subject (1). The Czech ambassador to the COPS who chaired the meetings was sometimes even absent. And it was his Swedish or Belgian counterparts who were to replace him at short notice (2).

This lack of enthusiasm continues today. Even recently, at the last informal council of Defense Ministers, in Ghent, the Minister of Defense, Alexandr Vondra (former Minister of European Affairs) saw no need to develop an autonomous European industry, believing that there were… Americans. And that was just a preview (3). During the national debate on the country's position regarding the renewal of NATO's strategic concept, a spokesperson for the Czech Defense summarized the work resulting from a working group – of which Jiri Sedivy was a member: “ Europe only has a background role in the domain (4).

In short, it's very simple, it is better that an American, a Turk or a Russian be appointed to the CMPD, he will be more positive than a representative of the Czech government. I therefore persist, and I sign: the Czech government is today the dunce of European Defense. And it seems hardly legitimate for one of its representatives to occupy such a position. Otherwise remove the CMPD immediately. Is there no other candidate to take up the gauntlet: a Belgian, an Austrian, a Spaniard…

NB: I would like to point out straight away that I have nothing against the Czechs. These are people that I adore and to whom I can feel close culturally. I appreciated their delicate and subtle way of putting an end to the communist regime through a so-called “velvet” revolution (5). And Vaclav Havel, despite his enthusiasm for the war in Iraq, remains, in my opinion, one of the main European philosophers of the century. But the current government no longer has – far from it – the aura and the European attachment that its illustrious predecessors had.

(*) Not to be confused with a homonym, who is the Chief of Staff of the Czech army.

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Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).