19. 1. 2017 22:39
New Year meeting of Prime Minister Sobotka with diplomats, topics were the global security situation, Brexit and support for exports
The traditional New Year meeting of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the diplomatic corps took place on Thursday 19 January 2017 in the Lichtenstein Palace. At what was their third meeting, the Prime Minister discussed with those present those foreign events which affected Czech diplomacy last year, as well as support for Czech interests abroad. The government was also represented by Michaela Marksová, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs and Miloslav Ludvík, Minister of Health.
The speech of Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka at the meeting with ambassadors
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my great pleasure to meet with you again at the beginning of the New Year. Let me start by welcoming warmly the non-resident ambassadors who honour us by coming to Prague from Berlin and Vienna. On this occasion, I would like to wish to all of you much success in your work of diplomats, happiness and joy in your personal life, and of course good health.
Since it is the beginning of the New Year, let me share with you a brief assessment of the current situation in the Czech Republic. Over the past three years, the Government managed to launch a series of fundamental changes that help our economy and, in particular, the citizens of this country. Last year was again a successful year for Czech economy, with the GDP growth ranking among the best in the EU, the lowest unemployment rate in the EU and a positive trend of wage increase. The 2016 budget registered a surplus of almost 62 billion CZK, and it is for the first time in twenty-one years in the history of the Czech Republic. Our objective now is to sustain the good economic performance of the country. We are an open country, culturally and economically tied to our foreign partners, especially European countries. For the Czech Republic to continue to grow and develop, we need a stable economic and security environment in the EU.
This is the message that my Government has been seeking to convey since the beginning of its tenure, putting emphasis on continuity and predictability. After the extraordinary events which occurred last year, we could not avoid a discussion on trans-national security architecture, and, naturally, on our transatlantic ties. In this context, the fundamentals of our foreign policy are clear: we want to firmly secure the Czech Republic in the European architecture, because it is our national interest, and we consider the transatlantic relation to be the guarantee of our prosperity and security. Furthermore, we also attach great importance to good relations with the neighboring countries and to cooperation within natural regional groups, such as the Visegrad Group, or the Slavkov format. And we also engage in a dialog with the neighboring regions further away from the borders of the Czech Republic.
Last year, the Czech Republic sustained and even accelerated the dynamics of its cooperation with countries in Asia and Africa. Strategic partnerships and dialogue are the key instruments for building bilateral relations and deepening of our cooperation. I also consider economic diplomacy, which we strive to make more efficient, to be of primary importance to help strengthen the export and investment capacities of Czech companies abroad. I want to use this opportunity to thank you for your sustained efforts in this area.
However, 2016 was also a year of major events in international politics that instead of bringing more stability and growth, led to uncertainty and ambiguous expectations. In the EU context, the decision of UK citizens to leave the European Union was such an event. While we respect the sovereign decision of UK citizens, I cannot but express my concern that the outcome of the referendum reveals a new trend that we see across the whole continent. Indeed, we see a pattern of growing doubts concerning the future of European integration. Throughout the year, we have seen populism, nationalism and extremism on the rise, not only in Europe but in the whole world. We have also witnessed an unprecedented increase in social network and media abuse and information manipulation.
In the face of these facts, it is important to remain responsible, rational and pragmatic. The UK should not prolong the vacuum between the referendum and the beginning of the withdrawal process from the Union. But we also have to admit that the EU needs reforms. First and foremost, we need to restore the confidence of citizens in the Union. We have to demonstrate its capacity and ability to deal with specific concerns of our citizens and must not allow new dividing lines to emerge in Europe. Therefore, all the activities of the Czech Republic will aim to strengthen internal and external security of the EU as well as its economic and social prosperity, which foster the feeling of security and safety of our citizens. My Government will seek to strengthen the internal market and preserve its four fundamental freedoms.
European Union's ability to act is and continues to be key. Last year, we witnessed a further rise in international terrorism. Numerous terrorist attacks occurred on several continents. Extremely brutal and cowardly attacks were waged by the so-called "Islamic State" in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. We see immeasurable human suffering brought about by the on-going conflicts in the Middle East. We are faced with a huge challenge posed by the cessation of hostilities and subsequent political stabilization in Syria, or the ongoing fight against the Islamic State in Iraq. That is why we want to continue our efforts to further strengthen internal security, including dealing with the migration crisis and international terrorism.
Let me assure you that the Czech Republic will continue to act as a reliable and responsible partner, promoting transparent and predictable foreign policy. The CR has established itself on the international scene as a democratic country with an open economy and an open mindset and we want to continue to deepen economic, scientific, research and cultural cooperation with our partners abroad and play our part in institutional development and promotion of the rule of law, freedom and democracy in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, in conclusion, I would like to sincerely thank everyone for cooperation in the past year. I very much appreciate all the efforts you made to strengthen the relations between our countries.
I am sure that the New Year will bring many opportunities of professional and personal meetings. Now, let me reiterate: May 2017 be a year full of satisfaction, success and joy for all of you!