Speeches

27. 10. 201822:29

Speech by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on the 100th anniversary of the founding of Czechoslovakia

Prime Minister delivered the speech at the gala opening of the National Museum in Prague at 27 october 2018.

Dear Mr President, Dear Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a hundred years since the Czechs and Slovaks established their own independent state.

A hundred years since we threw off the shackles of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and assumed responsibility for our own future.

On this occasion I would like to express my respect for all those who were instrumental in the establishment of the independent state, for all those in the legions and in the resistance during the First World War. 

For our first president, the liberator Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.

For the Resistance workers and our soldiers who fought abroad. For all those who resisted past regimes and occupiers and played their part in winning our freedom. For all of you who are putting your lives at risk for our country right now.

Without you we would not be standing here today.

I will not speak only about our history, but also about the present, and especially about our future. The National Museum, which is being reopened right now, is an institution that represents our national pride. Enormous thanks go especially to Director Lukeš for his incredible efforts and patience. He had a dream and a vision on which he followed through, and it is thanks to him and his team that we are now standing in these beautiful historical premises that anyone who comes to Prague tomorrow to join the celebrations will be able to see. And I think that next year Director Lukeš will be deserving of state honours.

We have always been a nation of hard-working, smart and creative people. Already as part of Austria-Hungary we were the industrial heart of the empire. But it was only the establishment of a separate state that gave our potential the chance for full expression. Our country is not as big as Germany, Italy or Poland, but we know how to get our bearings quickly and how to come up with new, fresh solutions.

During the First Republic, we were among the leading industrial nations in Europe and the world. In the 1920s, we were richer than the Austrians and the Italians! Czechoslovakia was the world's tenth most advanced industrial state, and from 1920 to 1935, it was even the ninth richest country in the world. Economic growth was sometimes in double figures. Higher than China’s today.

Baťa, Škoda, ČKD, Tatra, Koh-i-noor, Jawa, Zbrojovka! These were global brands even in those days. We have been left a beautiful architectural heritage, world-class music and culture, and technical virtuosity. Nor did fifty years of the suppression of freedom and creativity knock out of us the living legacy of people like Baťa: creativity, hard work, and extraordinary skill. And Czech stubbornness! The strength always to rise again.

All this stayed within us despite political, economic and cultural repression. In spite of numerous efforts to eradicate and decimate the Czech intelligentsia, to put the Czech nation on its knees, to force it to abandon its country in order to save its own life. Many people fled before the war. Over 300,000 people did not survive Nazism. The Communist coup drove out tens of thousands of people. The regime murdered hundreds more, destroyed the lives of hundreds of thousands and squandered their talent. And after the occupation, following 1968 and during the so-called normalisation, more than 200,000 people gradually left.

But what happened every time?

Every generation that has followed has recovered its strength and has succeeded in asserting itself in every possible field. In industry, science, medicine, culture, sport ... Often in spite of the tanks and the fat cats above, and thanks to incredible courage and a determination to show that Czechoslovak people, even in conditions that often did not compare with those in the rest of the world, are capable of great achievements.

It is thanks to Professor Wichterle that we have contact lenses. Professor Heyrovský discovered polarography and was awarded the Nobel Prize. Professor Vojta developed the method that helps children with polio all over the world. Our Egyptologists and ethnographers have reaped worldwide recognition. We triumphed at the Brussels Expo in 1958.

Věra Čáslavská brought back seven golds from the Olympic Games and her bravery was applauded on all continents. Martina Navrátilová won Wimbledon so many times that she had nowhere to put the trophies. With his pop music Karel Gott was even a star in what used to be West Germany. Miloš Forman's world-famous films, the books of Milan Kundera, Alfréd Radok's stage productions. All this, and so much more, enriched world art, or simply forced people across the planet to give standing ovations.

But what next?

Following 1990, we made a lot of mistakes. And today we really are not the Switzerland of Central Europe.

After November 1989, at least two hundred thousand more people left us because they saw their opportunities in life elsewhere. Various governments allowed hundreds of businesses to fail, be robbed and stripped of their assets. A lot of money flowed abroad and into tax havens.

But in my view people have now taken a deep breath and now have more confidence.

And they have good reason!

We now have a new generation of extraordinary personalities!

You surely know Bohdan Pomahač the plastic surgeon. Professor Jiří Bartek, the most cited Czech scientist, is conducting research in Copenhagen and Olomouc in the fight against cancer. One of the most powerful computers in Europe is at work in Ostrava. The discoveries of the Egyptologists grouped around Miroslav Bárta are once more changing the textbooks. We have the great Czech Philharmonic orchestra. On Wednesday I had the honour of being at their fantastic concert in London. We have wonderful men and women tennis players. Our hockey player Jaromír Jágr, and footballers Pavel Nedvěd and Petr Čech are known to children all over the globe. But, of course, we are also proud of judo player Lukáš Krpálek and our snowboarders Ester Ledecká and Eva Samková.

And you know we have entrepreneurs in the new technologies. For example Josef Průša, who makes the best 3D printers in the world. In Hollywood, young musician Jaroslav Beck composes music for the best-selling console and mobile games.

All these and many others represent a real world super league!

Great Czech family brands are still alive, such as Koh-i-noor and Petrof the piano maker. And new, extremely successful companies have now grown up. They are not just assembly halls, those will not sustain us in the future, these are high added-value companies. Avast develops anti-virus programs for over 400 million people across the globe. And there will be more and more of these successful companies.

I do believe that even more people would be more active if there were more solidarity and mutual cooperation between us. From the point of view of the state, we definitely still lag behind. Here much was neglected after the revolution. We need to build a first-rate education system, we need to support entrepreneurship and simplify the rules. We need to complete the core motorway network, our high-speed trains ... We need to invest in our national and cultural heritage. And not just for tourists, but mainly for ourselves, for our children and for the generations of Czechs to come. And, above all, we must end the cursing, grumbling, envy and the endless digging of trenches between us. After all, we are excellent!

And what do I wish for our country on its 100th anniversary?

Let us all ask ourselves what positive contribution we can make to our country and to our nation. Let us all, each and every one of us, ask what good thing we might do for the Czech Republic.

And let us believe more in ourselves. We can do it! The Czech Republic is the most beautiful country in the world. I think we all feel this. So let the world know!

Thank you.

Andrej Babiš, Prime Minister