|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Czech President Vaclav Havel
Remarks at Prague Castle
Prague, Czech Republic, July 14, 1997
As released by the Office of the Spokesman, July 15, 1997
U.S. Department of State
PRESIDENT HAVEL: I am very happy to have been able to welcome Secretary Albright to the Prague Castle for the first time in her new capacity. And I was very happy to welcome her on such an important occasion as the beginning of a process that will lead our country to full membership in NATO.
I have thanked her personally, and through her the United States Government, for the lasting support given not only to the Czech Republic's membership in NATO, but generally to the enlargement and transformation of the Alliance so that it becomes a pan-European instrument of collective defense and security.
Secretary Albright started her brief visit here by meeting with representatives of four parliamentary parties. That's the meeting we have just concluded. Those present included the highest constitutional officers of this country and also the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense. The parties that they represent are parties representing 80% of the voters of this country. We have tried to give Secretary Albright truthful answers to all the questions she asked.
And finally, let me tell you how moved I am that it is a Secretary of Czech origin who has come to us to discuss an issue of such importance after centuries of past history. This country now has a chance to establish firm roots in the European security architecture in a structure that is based on respect for the liberties for the citizens as well as of nations.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you for welcoming me once again to Prague and for all you have done personally to bring about this day when injustice has been undone. This is a moment of special emotion and joy for all of us, but our joy is diminished by the tragedy of the floods that have struck this country. Let me congratulate the Czech Government, the political leaders of the Czech Republic, and most of all the Czech people for coming together to aid the victims. The Czech army has also performed magnificently in this crisis, and it is a sign of its professionalism and dedication. We admire President Havel for having said that he would not ask for help from abroad, but we have offered, and that is what friends are for.
I have come to Prague, of course, in the wake of the Madrid Summit where the Czech Republic was invited to join NATO, and I was very pleased to discuss the importance of this event and its meaning for the future of this country with President Havel and the parliamentary leaders.
In the days before 1989, no one better expressed the moral dimension of the revolution against communism than Vaclav Havel. No one has been more determined to avoid the mistakes of revolutions past by staying true to the ideals of his long struggle after it won, than President Havel. And in the last few years, no one has better articulated the moral dimension of Europe's integration than our host in the castle today. Our meeting was also important because we were joined by Prime Minister Klaus and by Czech leaders from across the political spectrum.
We have seen that support for NATO membership is not only a non-partisan issue in the Czech Republic, but a unifying force among it's disparate political voices. We saw today that every democratic party in the Czech Republic firmly supports joining NATO. The leaders with whom we met understand that first-class membership in NATO requires a first-class contribution from their country. The leaders with whom we met are determined to see that the Czech Republic will do all that it takes to ensure the full integration of its armed forces with NATO. I am confident that the Czech Republic is ready to take the responsibility, as a mature democracy, for the well-being and security of others.
Of the various unbelievable things that have happened in the last ten years, the fact that I am standing here, Czech-born, as Secretary of State of the United States, is a great privilege. I would like to thank President Clinton for the privilege of being able to be a part of this history and I am determined to work very hard to realize its promise.
QUESTION: A question for Secretary Albright: What's the opinion of a referendum that some of the political forces seem to believe to be the instrument that should give the final seal of approval on this country's joining NATO?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think it's very important for each country to decide on its own method of dealing with the question of how the ratification process should go forward. That is the privilege of each of the individual countries. I am very encouraged to have heard from the Parliamentary leaders that there is such widespread support for NATO enlargement here in the Czech Republic.
QUESTION: A question for both of you, perhaps: The Czech Republic has won the preliminary race for NATO; now what specifically is it going to have to do between now and 1999? What kind of investments is it going to have to make? You mentioned that you are going to need a first-class contribution from the Czech Republic. And perhaps for you, Mr. President, how is this going to affect the Czech economy?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say from our perspective, we think it is very important now that the Czech Republic do everything that it must in order to streamline and modernize its military. But I must say that we are already very pleased with the role that the Czechs are playing in SFOR. But there will have to be additional work in terms of trying to get interoperability and a streamlining of the military in other ways. We would also expect that by the year 2000, 2% of the gross domestic product go towards defence spending. And we see already as a good sign that even with some of the cuts in the budget that have just been suggested, that the defence budget has been protected in order to meet a NATO requirement.
Of course it is also important for the Czech Republic to continue its economic reforms and the ever-deepening of its democratic institutions. We would also hope that the Czechs would take even a stricter look at its export control laws so as to make sure that there is not trade with the rogue states.
PRESIDENT HAVEL: I believe there are a number of tasks that are ahead of us. First, much still has to be done in order that our armed forces, that were for decades estranged from the society, should enjoy public confidence and public support. We already see the beginnings of that, but the process needs to be intensified still. Secondly, we have to pass in the foreseeable future several new laws including a constitutional law on the defence of the state. Thirdly, much has to be done inside our military. The key word is interoperability and that expense to command communication, to the structure of the armed forces, to the working methods of the military, but also to the underlying spirit of the armed forces' endeavours, and this should be made comparable with the underlying spirit of the NATO forces so that the Czech army can serve anytime as a partner to or a part of the Allied forces. That which will probably prove to be most expensive - that means modernization of the armament systems - is the item that I would not put higher than place four in this list.
QUESTION: Ms. Albright, have you spoken today in Prague also about Slovakia. Do you see any new development there? You met Prime Minister Meciar in Madrid last week. And also, a general question. Do you expect any of these three invited countries to have any problems in the Senate ratification? Thank you.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say, first of all, that we did in fact discuss Slovakia very briefly, but I have discussed the issue of Slovakia in the other countries that I visited, also. I think that the issue for all of us, NATO members and aspiring NATO members, is to make sure that Slovakia does not isolate itself.
And that it's important that Slovakia understand what it takes to become a NATO member, which is democratization, a market system, and the capability to be an active participant.
And this is what I did discuss with Prime Minister Meciar, also.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you've frequently said that your foreign policy outlook was molded not by Vietnam but by the memory of Munich. I'd like to ask you, how your Czech background has influenced your thinking as Secretary of State. And I would also like to ask President Havel, has the fact of a Czech-born Secretary of State made any difference to the Czech Republic?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First, let me say that the reason that I have said that I am influenced by Munich, or what that means, is that for me the lesson of Munich was that you cannot make decisions over other countries' heads. And second, that often if problems are not dealt with early when there is a potential solution, that they become larger problems. And while I am Czech-born, I am an American, and I believe that for Americans the lessons of Munich are that problems that are not dealt with early, come home to America.
PRESIDENT HAVEL: Being Czech, or of Czech origin alone, does not guarantee anything. It certainly does not, is not, a guarantee for anyone's ability to be a good Secretary of State. The reason why I hold Madeleine Albright in high esteem is not the fact that she is Czech-born, but what I appreciate in her, is her fine feeling for European problems, for European history, and for European security interests. Perhaps this fine feeling is influenced by memories of her youth spent in Central Europe.
And finally, I should like to thank the United States for the sympathy shown for the flood victims in this country and for the offered assistance. We have not refused to accept this assistance, but we have not asked for it.
Thank you very much.
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