Vehicles of the American military convoy on the territory of the Czech Republic on May 22, 2021.
Prague – The negotiators of the Czech-American defense cooperation agreement (DCA) completed the draft contract at the working level, which is supposed to facilitate the possible stay of American soldiers in the Czech Republic. Jan Jireš, senior director of the defense policy and strategy section of the Ministry of Defense, who led the Czech negotiating team, told ČTK. After the Czech translation is completed, the contract will now be approved by the government and Parliament and signed by the president.
Jireš emphasized that the contract is supposed to set the conditions for possible cooperation with the American armed forces on the territory of the Czech Republic, but it does not address the specific stay of American soldiers or the possible creation of an American base on Czech territory. This would still have to be approved by the government and the Parliament first, so it would be a separate political decision.
“This week we finally resolved the last unclear things, the last detail concerned the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs,” said Jireš . According to him, the contract has approximately 40 pages and covers all relevant thematic areas that may be related to the possible presence of American soldiers in the Czech Republic or cooperation between the American and Czech armed forces on Czech territory.
He emphasized that the treaty itself will not lead, for example, to the establishment of an American military base in the Czech Republic or to another presence of American soldiers. “It only solves the fact that if the two sides agree on the presence of American soldiers on the territory of the Czech Republic at some point in the future, then the DCA agreement will describe exactly what that means and what their legal status will be,” he said.
The contract being prepared deals with, for example, environmental protection, the operation of motor vehicles by American soldiers and their families, or perhaps the status of suppliers of the American armed forces.
It also addresses the question of jurisdiction over American soldiers. Jireš pointed out that this issue is already set by the NATO SOFA multinational agreement. The Czech Republic acceded to it in connection with its admission to the North Atlantic Alliance. It regulates the activities of members of the armed forces in another allied country, so it applies to allied soldiers on Czech territory as well as Czech soldiers in allied countries.
It stipulates that if these soldiers in the host country commit a crime in connection with their service, the sending country retains jurisdiction over them. The DCA contract goes beyond that. If an American soldier in the Czech Republic commits a crime outside the line of duty, the Czech Republic can ask the United States to bring him before the Czech courts. The US will comply with such a request on the basis of the DCA.
The approved treaty also deals with the exemption of American soldiers from taxes and customs duties in the Czech Republic. According to Jireš, this is a standard issue that the US has concluded with all allies.
The draft contract could reach the government around the beginning of March. Subsequently, its text will be published and the document will probably be signed by Defense Minister Jana Černochová (ODS) and her American counterpart Lloyd Austin at an appropriate opportunity. This will be followed by ratification in the Parliament and signature of the President.
Jireš believes that the approval of the contract will not be accompanied by major disputes like a year ago in Slovakia. According to him, the moods of Czech society are more pro-Alliance and pro-Western. At the same time, he is convinced that the Czech version of the contract is well negotiated.
“We very carefully devoted three quarters of the year to discussing every detail with the Americans, what exactly it means and how we will implement it,” he emphasized. The Ministry is also preparing a communication plan. It will be used by government and defense representatives when arguing and answering questions from the public and parliamentarians or senators.
24 of the 29 alliance countries currently have a DCA agreement or its equivalent with the USA. In addition to the Czech Republic, Denmark is also discussing it, Finland and Sweden are also preparing it with their entry into NATO.