The Czech Republic will keep heading the joint purchase of ammunition within the Visegrad Four countries even after Poland assumes its presidency of the group.
The four countries agreed to buy small arms ammunition, said Minister of Defense Lubomír Metnar after talks with his Slovak and Hungarian counterparts, adding that the project could be completed this year. The purchase is to be made through the alliance agency NSPA.
The ministerial meeting yesterday formally closed the Czech presidency of the V4 group, which is alliance between Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, who accompanied President Andrzej Duda on his journey to the United States, was represented by Deputy Prime Minister Pawel Woźny.
Metnar first spoke about the intention of the V4 countries to buy ammunition for their armies together in September after a joint meeting in Ostrava. On Wednesday, the minister said that the countries made significant progress in the project.
“We have found a common interest in purchasing small-caliber ammunition, there is a consensus within the V4. We are currently discussing the amount, meaning how many types of ammunition each country needs,” he said.
“Our ambition is to complete this agreement by the end of the year and also to sign a contract for these purchases,” he added.
According to Slovak Minister Jaroslav Naď, it is also possible to cooperate on other projects, such as the modernization of T-72 tanks. According to him, Slovakia is also communicating with the Czech Republic about a possible joint operation in the EU training mission in Mali where the Czech Republic has recently taken command.
Together, the V4 countries should also move forward in the debate on the distribution of money from the European Defense Fund, Naď added.
The ministers also talked about setting up another battle group of Visegrad Four countries within the EU Battlegroup, which should be able to be on standby in the first half of 2023. For the Czech contribution, 300 to 600 soldiers should join, said Metnar.
The EU Battlegroup is a military unit available to the EU’s leadership. The groupings take turns on standby after six months, and the EU can deploy the soldiers anywhere within 6,000 kilometers of Brussels if the need arises. The European fighting force has existed since 2007.
According to Metnar, there is a discussion about extending the standby duty for a year, but there is no consensus on this issue yet.
Ministers also decided to update the starting points for defense cooperation in a new long-term vision, as the previous document has remained unchanged since 2014. Deputy Polish Minister Woźny considers it an important strategic document and basis for the Polish V4 presidency.
Hungarian Minister Tibor Benko welcomed the idea of expanding cooperation between the V4 countries with other states, such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He also mentioned that the V4 countries should not only focus on defense research and emerging threats but should also maintain their ability to counter conventional threats.
Title image: Czech Defence Minister Lubomir Metnar, left, and his Hungarian counterpart Tibor Benko shake hands at the end of a joint press conference following their talks in Budapest, Hungary, Friday, June 21, 2019. (Zoltan Balogh/MTI via AP)