Czech lower house backs defence treaty with US in initial vote


PRAGUE (Reuters) – The lower house of the Czech parliament gave strong backing to a defence treaty with NATO ally the United States on Wednesday in an initial reading, signalling the agreement would be ratified in the coming weeks or months.

The Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) sets a framework for a potential U.S. military presence in the Czech Republic, dealing with issues from jurisdiction over foreign troops to environmental issues or rules for operating vehicles.

But it does not mean any concrete decision on a U.S. military presence or setting up foreign military bases. This would be subject to a separate agreement and parliamentary approval and is not on the agenda at the moment.

The Czech Republic was the 25th NATO member country to conclude such an agreement.

“At a time when brutal Russian military aggression is still taking place not far from our borders, it is in the security interest of the Czech Republic to deepen defence cooperation with the United States,” Defence Minister Jana Cernochova said when the house opened the debate on Tuesday.

The treaty will go to committees before a final vote which may come in July, as well as ratification in the parliament’s upper house.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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