After a secret ballot held by the NATO Military Committee in Vilnius, Lithuania, General Petr Pavel was declared the next chair of the body. The Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic will take over next year from the incumbent, Danish General Knud Bartels.
The election of General Pavel means that for the first time a representative from an Eastern European North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member state will hold this prominent office. Committee members chose General Pavel over candidates from Italy and Greece. Both the Czech President Miloš Zeman and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka hailed Pavel’s appointment as a significant diplomatic success for the country. The prime minister described it as a sign of recognition for the Czech armed forces and their contribution to NATO. Defence Minister Martin Stropnický described General Pavel’s appointment as an expression of NATO allies’ trust in the Czech Republic.
Shortly after the vote, General Pavel expressed his pride in the trust bestowed upon the Czech Republic. “It reflects the reputation built up by hundreds and thousands of Czech soldiers and civilian employees through missions and postings abroad,” he said. General Pavel also added that he felt a growing sense of responsibility for the tasks now ahead of him. “One certainly begins to feel a certain apprehensiveness regarding one’s abilities to embrace and manage all the responsibilities. There is definitely a lot to be done, and it is all quite different from what I have been doing. On the other hand, I am quite fond of a good challenge,” he added.
The Czech cabinet decided to nominate General Pavel for the NATO chairmanship in July. He is expected to assume his NATO post on 26 June next year. The general will continue to work in his capacity as the chief-of-staff of the Czech armed forces until then. Pavel has already compiled a list of several names he may put forward to the president and prime minister in the search for his successor.The home country of the NATO Military Committee chief must pay the costs of both the holder of the office – the second highest NATO office after that of the Secretary General – and his team. They are expected to annually amount to a sum of CZK 90m. The chair of the Military Committee has at his disposal a staff comprising of compatriots as well as team members from other countries.