Speeches

23. 1. 2018 22:38

The speech of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš at the meeting with ambassadors

On Tuesday, 23 January 2018, a traditional New Year meeting of the Prime Minister with the diplomatic corps took place in the Lichtenstein Palace.

Předseda vlády Andrej Babiš se setkal se zástupci diplomatických misí v ČR, 23. ledna 2018.
New Year meeting of the Prime Minister with the diplomatic corps took place, 23 January 2018.

Your Excellency Mr. Apostolic Nuncio,
Excellencies,
Distinguished guests,

It is a great honor and pleasure for me to welcome you at the traditional New Year´s glass of wine with members of diplomatic corps. I am happy to see so many of you here today, and I would especially like to thank the non-resident Ambassadors for coming all the way to Prague for this event.

For me personally, it is the first time I meet you as the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, even though my government will be in demission since tomorrow, and I am looking forward to talking to each one of you after the formal part of this evening is over.  But let me first of all – at the beginning of a new year - wish you all every success in your diplomatic work here in the Czech Republic as well as the best of luck, happiness, good health and prosperity in your personal life.

As the most of you may know, the year 2018 is of a special importance to our country and to many of yours as well. This year the Czech Republic is celebrating the centenary of its modern statehood. We will commemorate not only the establishment of independent Czechoslovakia in 1918, but also a quarter century of the existence of the independent Czech Republic and the 50th anniversary of the events of 1968.

I hope that you will join us in the celebrations which will take place in a number of cities and towns in the Czech Republic as well as outside its borders throughout the year. I am sure that they will provide us with a great opportunity for reflection on the crucial milestones of our history, some of which we have shared with your countries as well. But first and foremost, it will be an opportunity for celebrating what we have achieved and what we have today – democracy, freedom, peace, and also excellent relations with our neighbors and strong cooperation with our partners in the EU and allies in NATO.

Since it is not only start of a new year, but also of a new government term, let me briefly reflect on the main priorities of my government and the current situation in the Czech Republic.

In the last couple of quarters, the Czech economy has been among the strongest in the EU, and the Government wants to further support this positive trend of long-term economic growth. The Government aims to massively increase public investment while preserving balanced state budget, simplify the tax code and introduce an e-taxation system, support the development of digital economy and adopt a pension reform.

Ensuring prosperity – together with strengthening our security and the rule of law – is also the key priority of our foreign policy and EU policy in particular. Today, we see that the EU needs to change to be better equipped to deal with current and future challenges of our continent and the world as a whole.

The Czech Republic is an active participant in the reform efforts which should make the EU more capable of responding to the needs and concerns of its citizens. To be able to maintain the four freedoms, we need to focus on securing the EU´s external border and strengthening our internal security by increasing our capacity to counter terrorism and hybrid threats.

You might have heard in the media that I were a Eurosceptic populist, who opposes European solutions. I would like to take this opportunity here today to ensure you very clearly that this is not the case. These rumors are only stereotypes and have to do with the fight for political power rather than reality in this country. This government does not look for an alternative to our active and constructive EU membership. Of course, we do fight for our national interests and priorities. But so does any other member state of the European Union.

The same goes for NATO. We will stay active and reliable partner in NATO and we will fulfill our commitments. 

Some EU countries have troubles with liberal democracy, but this will never be the case of the Czech Republic. We do not intend to play with fire of nationalism and xenophobia. We will protect independent media and we will never touch independence of the judicial pillar. It is part of our history and of our democracy, which we cherish since 1918. We will follow and safeguard our constitution, protect human rights and flourishing civil society. We see many challenges in Europe, which have to be tackled this year. I wanted to ensure you that we will fight for our interests always with a vision of finding a European solution. If Europe is to succeed in the turbulent times, we need a strong Europe.

Good cooperation and open dialogue among individual member states is a prerequisite for strong, stable and united EU. That´s why our Government aims at fostering strategic partnership with two key players in the EU: Germany and France.

Close relations with our neighbors, both at a bilateral level as well as within the regional cooperation formats as the V4 and Slavkov, are one of the main priorities of our foreign policy.

We also want to maintain our good dialogue with the United Kingdom after Brexit negotiations are completed, particularly in the field of economy and defense, same as we are having with other non-EU members in Europe. I must say, that we regret, that UK is leaving and we consider it very unfortunate. British common sense and liberalism will be missed.

Looking at the EU neighborhood, we will advocate for the EU´s enlargement to the Western Balkans as well as for close cooperation and support to Eastern Partnership countries, in particular Ukraine. Our priority is also to further intensify our strategic dialogue with the U.S. and Israel, but also create new partnerships and strengthen the existing ones with a number of countries in Asia and Africa.

I would like to assure you that the Government will continue to carry out an active and predictable foreign policy based on our firm anchorage in the EU and NATO, long-term tradition for promoting human rights and democracy and an active economic diplomacy.

In conclusion, let me thank you all for the good cooperation and the work you have done to strengthen the relations between our countries in the past year, and I am confident that the new government administration will continue the excellent cooperation with your diplomatic missions as well as with the countries you represent here in the Czech Republic. I personally look very much forward to our meetings and cooperation in the upcoming year 2018. May it be a year full of joy and happiness for all of you!

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