Christmas Message of the President of the Czech Republic Miloš Zeman
Dear fellow citizens,
Today, we meet for the sixth time on the occasion of the Christmas Message of the President of the Republic. From time to time, somebody asks me why I am delivering a Christmas Message instead of a New Year Speech. It has two reasons.
First, in the era of the First Republic, the presidents traditionally gave a Christmas Message and this tradition had not been broken until the 1st January 1949 when Klement Gottwald delivered his first New Year Speech.
The second reason is absolutely marginal. I assumed that a very small part of our population would not be able to pay their full attention to my speech after their New Year´s Eve parties. Today we share the Christmas ease and many of us are reviewing the past year. Therefore, allow me to join you in your retrospection.
I will start at the beginning, that is, in January when the presidential elections took place. I would like to thank cordially to all the citizens who gave me their vote. There were almost three million of them. I deeply appreciate it and I pledge to strive to defend the national interests of the Czech Republic and its sovereignty in the area of migration as well as other areas. I promise that I will continue to support economic diplomacy, both our export abroad and the inflow of effective foreign investments to our country. Finally, I promise that I will continue meeting citizens face-to-face, and that with utmost pleasure, during my tours into the regions.
I fully respect the vote of those citizens who supported any of my rival candidates in the presidential elections and I appreciate it that they went to the elections. This brings us to the frequently discussed issue of voter turnout. In the presidential elections, it was not bad, almost 70 per cent. However, for example, only 47 per cent of voters participated in the autumn local government elections, which means that more than a half of the inhabitants were completely indifferent to who would manage their towns and municipalities. Democracy does not mean just rights. Democracy also means duties. I have long recommended that we return to the practice of the First Republic and to the idea of a mandatory voter turnout, which is not time consuming. However, it would significantly increase the number of voters and force political parties to increase their activity thereby.
In the middle of this year, talks on a new government came to their conclusion, and in the second attempt, the new government gained confidence of the Chamber of Deputies. I would like to thank the leaders of the three political parties - Andrej Babiš, Jan Hamáček and Vojtěch Filip, who found the courage to create and support such a government. I wish our new government success in its work and I wish the opposition to be not only a constructive critic of governmental proposals, but also a proponent of their own alternatives.
Now we get to the autumn senate and municipal elections. First, I would like to congratulate elected senators, local representatives, mayors, vice-mayors and councillors. I am also fully aware of the fact that while the presidential or senate elections have clear winners, in the case of both municipal and regional elections there is the ensuing stage called a coalition setup. It often happens that the winner is eliminated and a coalition is formed against such a winner. In my opinion, this is not right and I consider it a circumvention of the voters' will. What shall stop us whining about it? I have long been suggesting the introduction of the direct vote of both mayors and regional council presidents, so that the candidate with the largest number of preferential votes on the winning candidate list would be automatically elected to this position. This method combines the support to a candidate’s personality, which has been expressed by preferential votes, with the support of the winning party. It is my argument that the mayor needs backing in the municipal government. And of course, I very much wish that the winner of the elections were generous and were able to propound to its coalition partners - as the Mafia puts it - a proposition which cannot be refused.
Hereby I have exhausted all the election affairs. Now, I would like to focus on the economic situation. Three years ago, I told you that the “bad mood” was over. We were and we still are enjoying a steady economic growth. Today, for the first time, I would like to warn you against a deceleration of the economic growth which might be coming for several reasons. First, it is the emerging trade and customs war between the two world´s largest economies, the USA and China.
The second reason is the Brexit. Third, the shortage of skilled labour force is hindering our economic growth. Whereas we cannot influence the first two factors, I believe that we can do a lot about the third one. I understand that there are the calls for workforce import from abroad – I have nothing against it. However, do not forget that there are still two hundred thousand unemployed in the Czech Republic even though there are three hundred thousand vacancies. You know that I believe that healthy people who refuse to work should lose their right to social benefits. Nevertheless, all this is just a short-term solution.
I see the long-term solution in the increase of work productivity, in particular via robotic automation. We often talk about digital economy, but not all of us can imagine what it is all about. Under the word “robot”, we tend to imagine an android or a monster with tentacles, but a robot is also a computer algorithm which has already been in use in banking and which is significantly reducing the number of bank clerks. I find it pointless to resist this tendency, for example by introducing a tax on robots, which would only slow down the whole process and reduce our chances of becoming one of the most advanced countries.
To conclude the economic part, I would like to highly appreciate the government's 12-year National Investment Plan proposal. I keep saying that consumption expenditure is pleasant and it might even attract some voters, but only investments carry us to the future, even if they have no suffrage. Therefore I believe that this plan will lead to the building of new constructions in every municipality and the more likely in every town and region, and that these structures will beautify the surroundings in towns and villages and improve the life there.
As for foreign policy, we are members of two important international institutions, the NATO and the European Union. You know that within the NATO I have long and fully supported our participation in foreign missions against the international Islamic terrorism, especially in Afghanistan. When people ask me why we do not leave Afghanistan, I answer that if allied troops left, Taliban would undoubtedly regain control and the country would once again become a base for terrorist attacks, as it did in the case of the largest attack ever which hit the New York Twins in September 2001. There is no reason to doubt that in case of Taliban's victory, the terrorist centre would again be formed in Afghanistan to prepare and plan terrorist attacks all over the world. As you can see, we protect the security of Czech citizens in Afghanistan and we act in accordance with our national interests.
As far as the European Union is concerned, I highly appreciate the activities of the Visegrad Group. It managed to achieve the almost impossible. It successfully stopped the discussion about the nonsensical idea of migrant quotas. Having talked about national interests, I would like to recall that one of the national interests and a manifestation of the sovereignty of a given country is that the country itself decides whom it will or will not accept on its territory. I congratulate Visegrad on such a successful action and I believe that other successful actions will follow. Now something that may not be as pleasant. At the end of this year, we experienced two what I call “hysterical waves”. The first one brought about protests mainly on Prague streets requiring the resignation of the government. In my opinion, it is fully justified if you demonstrate to overthrow a government of a totalitarian regime, and I myself took part in two such demonstrations. I think it is understandable if people demonstrate against something specific, for example in France against the rise in fuel prices or in Hungary against the amendment to the Labour Code. Nevertheless, I see the demonstration to overthrow a government created after free elections contemptuous of voters´ will. I would just like to recall two Masaryk’s quotes. First: “We already have democracy; now we need some democrats.” A democrat respects the outcome of free elections, even if they do not like it. The second quote goes: “To be upset is not a political program.” I would like to add my opinion: those who throw flowers into litter bins are, in my opinion, primitive fools.
The second “hysterical wave” took place short after, and I call it “spy-mania”. You know, those who constantly warn us of spies, try to make us incapable beings, easy to manipulate and lacking the capacity to protect ourselves. It brought to my memory the “old bad times” and their potato beetle. Instead of the beetle, the Chinese mobile phones have appeared. Trying to analyse this hysteria, an unnamed state representative caught my attention by saying:, “Miloš, the Chinese do carry out industrial espionage here. They come to the Czech Republic to investigate why our trains are so slow while theirs run at 300 km an hour.” Dear fellow citizens, I am slowly approaching to the conclusion of my today's speech. Public Opinion Research Centre published ranking of institutions in terms of their credibility among citizens. Army and Police took the first place, whereas television, printed media, non-profit organizations, and finally the Church came last with about 25 per cent of credibility. Recently, I have overheard and adopted a beautiful term: “the Better-People”. The Better-People are those who consider themselves better than the rest of us, who keep mentoring us on what to do and who regard their views superior to those of others. However, when we look at the structure of the “Better-People” community, we can see that, for example, media often consist of commentators who write about something else every day whilst understanding nothing. And these people want to advise us. The same applies to unsuccessful politicians, of course.
Therefore I would like to ask you to value people who have achieved something in their lives and to respect their advice. On the contrary, ignore the smart alecks who have yet to prove themselves.
Dear friends, I would like to wish you not only health and happiness as usually. Every single one of us engraves a trace in life. It may be a little something here or a huge issue there; it is not important. What is important is to leave something, something that will improve our lives, the lives of our dearest and, if possible, the lives of other citizens of the Czech Republic.
Thus let me toast to your achieving a respectable piece of work which others will appreciate. To your health, happiness, wellbeing and the joy of life.
I wish you all the best in the New Year 2019.
Miloš Zeman, President of the Czech Republic, Lány, 26th December 2018.