Speeches

11. 1. 2019 19:59

Remarks by Prime Minister to the Diplomatic Corps

On the occasion of the traditional New Year´s glass of winer, members of the government met with the representatives of the diplomatic missions accredited in the Czech Republic.

Your Excellency, Apostolic Nuncio,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor and pleasure to welcome you together with Foreign Minister Petříček, and I would like to thank him for organizing it jointly, because last year we met separately, so that now you can see how well our coalition government is working. This is just one of the results of excellent cooperation. So, welcome to this traditional New Year´s glass of wine with members of the diplomatic corps.

First of all, let me start by wishing you all a Happy New Year and every success and the best of good fortune both in your diplomatic work and in your personal life.

I am truly pleased to see so many of you here today, including the non-resident ambassadors who have come all the way to Prague for today´s event – I greatly appreciate this.

I hope that today, I will have a chance to speak at least briefly with you and maybe to discuss some specific issues.

We met, as I said, for the first time in my position as the Prime Minister, and over the past year, I have had the chance to get to know many of you personally and to meet you on various occasions, including the celebrations of the 100th anniversary of Czechoslovak independence. 

This year as well, we will be marking several important anniversaries, which will remind us of these values – 30 years since the Velvet Revolution, 20 years of our NATO membership and 15 years since we joined the EU.

The past year was politically not an easy one, but what is important now is that the Czech Republic has a stable government, even though we have a minority government, but I think with solid support in Parliament, a government which is effective in implementing our key priorities and bringing tangible benefits to our citizens. 

I think, and you are aware of this, that the Czech Republic is doing very well. Last year Bloomberg stated that we are the most stable economy in Europe and that we are a real leader on some topics. For example, we have the lowest unemployment rate in Europe, we have one of the lowest public debts, which last year we again decreased from 32% to 30% Also we don´t forget the value of safety. We are the sixth safest country in the world and we are of course proud of this. And I think that it is interesting that many citizens from all over Europe are coming to the Czech Republic, to live in our country.

Concerning the European union, I believe that the European project must return to its roots – that is, first, increasing Europe´s competitiveness via the internal market with an emphasis on removing trade barriers, and, secondly, ensuring internal security as well as promoting the stability and security of our neighbourhood. So we have to come back to our roots, it means to again fight for the freedom to move people, goods and services and capital.

What we need now is a strong, united, effectively functioning and inclusive European Union.

The Czech Republic is a solid part of the EU and a reliable partner to all Member States. As you know, my government is a pro-European one and we want to keep taking an active part in European affairs. You may remember when we started in 2017, the first meeting of the government was on 13th December and the next day, it was my first attendance at the European council, where it is, of course, very important that the Czech Republic plays an active role.

I want a positive EU agenda. A major test of our ability to communicate positively about Europe will be the upcoming European Parliament elections. I personally see the elections as an opportunity to explain again the benefits of our membership to our people, because our citizens are still not so positive about Europe and I think we are doing our very best to explain to them the advantages and also our views on how to change Europe. Because if you speak about Brexit, there will be the vote next week, it is not a positive sign for Europe, but we will see how it will end.

The same goes for NATO. The Czech Republic will remain an active and reliable partner and ally in NATO and will fulfill its commitments to safeguarding peace, security and stability in the world. 

Good cooperation, mutual understanding and open dialogue among individual member states are prerequisites for any strong, stable and well-functioning organization, be it the EU or NATO.

As a presiding country of the V4 from July this year, the Czech Republic will follow up on the current Slovak presidency and focus on strengthening our European profile by offering specific solutions and overcoming dividing lines within the EU. We want the V4 to enhance dialogue with other partners within the EU, both with individual member states and regional cooperation platforms.  

We highly appreciate our strategic partnerships with the USA and Israel and we want to further deepen the dialogue and fill it with tangible content. At the same time, we are interested in deepening existing partnerships and creating new opportunities for cooperation with countries in Asia, Middle East and Africa.

To give just one example: on Sunday, I am leaving for India, Thailand and Singapore with a strong business delegation. We want to create a new export strategy for our companies, because the Czech Republic currently exports 85% of its goods to Europe, and we see a lot of possibilities in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. I participated in a meeting in Vienna, organized by Prime Minister Kurz, on Africa and Europe, and there is great potential to improve our economic relations.

Excellencies, let me conclude by thanking you all for our excellent cooperation over the past year and all the work you have done for strengthening the relations between your countries and the Czech Republic.

I am convinced that we will continue to enjoy our good cooperation in the upcoming year as well, and I am very much looking forward to our future meetings and talks. 

May 2019 is filled for you with joy, happiness, prosperity and success! Thank you very much.

Andrej Babiš, Prime Minister

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