Since the "Velvet Revolution," the primary foreign policy goal of successive Czech governments has been to integrate into Western security and economic structures, especially North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the EU.
In 1997, the Czech Republic was invited, along with Poland and Hungary, to join NATO. Accession protocols with the Alliance were signed in late 1997, and the Parliament ratified accession in April 1998. Czech troops had already served with NATO in peace keeping operations in Bosnia since the end of 1995. The Czech Republic became a full NATO member on 12 March 1999. The first NATO summit held in a former Warsaw Pact country took place in Prague in November 2002, and dealt with NATO's further enlargement and its cooperation with Russia.
The process of accession into the EU began in March 1998, along with four other central European countries and Cyprus. It was among 10 new EU candidate countries to be formally invited to join the body in December 2002, and the Czech Republic is expected to become a full member in May 2004, pending an EU accession referendum to be held in June 2003.
Spidla traveled to Afghanistan in early October 2002 to meet with Afghan leader Hamid Karzai, and to visit Czech doctors in the field there. In November, the government approved a plan to reform and professionalize the army; the army is to become fully professional by 2007.
In line with former President Vaclav Havel's support for the U.S. position regarding the disarmament of Iraq in late 2002, Spidla in February 2003 adamantly voiced his disagreement with French President Jacques Chirac's statements that the Czech Republic and other EU candidate countries had engaged in "childish and irresponsible behavior" in supporting the position of the United States on disarming Iraq, by force if need be. Chirac said those EU candidate countries missed a good opportunity to "keep quiet," and implicitly warned the candidates that their position could be dangerous because EU enlargement had not yet been ratified by the member countries. Spidla labeled Chirac's comments as "neither balanced nor correct." The Czech Republic sent its elite anti-chemical weapons unit to Kuwait prior to the start of the war in Iraq on 19 March 2003.