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Czech President shakes his fist during Christmas speech, references "inadaptables", rejects early elections

27.12.2017 9:53
Czech President Miloš Zeman during his Christmas speech in 2017. (PHOTO:  Czech Television)
Czech President Miloš Zeman during his Christmas speech in 2017. (PHOTO: Czech Television)

Czech President Miloš Zeman said yesterday that 2017 was a year of good news for the Czech economy and society. In his Christmas message to the nation he expressed appreciation for the security situation in the Czech Republic, for low unemployment, and for high economic growth.

Zeman said he would like to see higher public investments and the valorization of pensions, but on the other hand said less money should be spent on benefits for people whom he referred to in his Christmas speech as "inadaptables". According to the Czech President, such people "refuse" to work - in previous remarks he has stated, without providing substantiation for his claims, that "90 %" of "inadaptables" are Romani people and just 10 % are "white idlers".

The President also proposed trimming the state's own apparatus, saying he believes that letting bureaucrats go would benefit both the private sector and the state budget. In his view, the Czech Republic should be an energetic, self-confident partner who speaks up about what it dislikes inside the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The head of the Czech state reiterated his criticism of the EU quotas for redistribution of asylum-seekers. In his view such quotas contravene the Czech national interest and should end up on the "dustbin of history".

As far as domestic politics go, Zeman said he considers the proposal for the program declaration of the Government of Andrej Babiš (ANO) to be a good starting material for discussions about personnel and program compromises among the political parties. In his view the parties should not wait, but should actively negotiate the post- electoral order with each other.

Zeman said a second attempt to form a Government could be implemented in February. He mentioned that apparently a minority Government could find enough MPs to tolerate it now.

The President also rejected the idea of holding early elections, accompanying that remark by waving his fist. News server Romea.cz is publishing his speech in full translation below.

2017 Christmas Message from the President of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman

Dear and Esteemed Fellow Citizens,

I wish you all a beautiful day. We meet again after the passage of one year to assess together what we have managed to accomplish this year, as well as what failed.

I am glad to be able to tell you that there is much more of the good news to discuss and I would like to thank all who deserve the credit for our successes. What successes are those?

The Czech Republic is the sixth safest country in the world. We are even better than Switzerland in that regard.

We have the lowest level of unemployment in the European Union and also the lowest degree of income disparity, or rather, the lowest poverty rate, in the EU. Our economic growth is one of the highest there is while, on the other hand, our indebtedness is one of the lowest there is.

What do we have to complain about? We should be a proud, self-confident nation who appreciates our own successes.

However, naturally, every source of light casts a shadow, so allow me to say something to you about those shadows. Economic growth is a beautiful thing, but in order for it to be permanent, it must be accompanied by investment growth.

That is where we are deficient. The proportion of public investment into overall expenditures from the state budget is low and trending lower.

That is especially true of the decline in investment into transportation infrastructure. It is to our discredit that, for example, the highway between Brno and Vienna is not ready yet, but there are many such roads, bypasses, and other constructions unfinished.

It is good that we have low unemployment. However, there continues to be a group of people here whom we call the inadaptables.

I recently spoke with the new Minister of Labor and Social Affairs and we agreed that it is necessary to limit social benefits for those who refuse to do the jobs offered to them. The growth of Gross Domestic Product is excellent, but it must be accompanied by a rise in living standards.

I am glad that finally wages are going up as well. That is due to pressure from a lack of labor, which forces employers to increase wages so workers won't leave for better prospects elsewhere.

I have a topic to raise in that context that may seem bizarre to you all. Fifteen years ago we had 80 000 state bureaucrats.

Not state employees, state bureaucrats. Today we have 150 000 state bureaucrats because they are multiplying here according to Parkinson's Law.

If at least some of them could be let go - because those people frequently just invent unnecessary work for themselves - then the private sector, which is suffering from a lack of labor, would be very glad to accept them, the state budget would be unburdened, and the tension on the labor market would be released. The state bureaucrats certainly will not love me for proposing this, but I am thinking of their own good.

So much for the economic situation in the Czech Republic. In conclusion, because I myself am an old-age pensioner, I would like to hope for the old-age pensioners that their pensions will be significantly valorized next year.

Sometimes those people write to me asking what will be left of their pensions if prices keep going up, but I remind them that increasing prices or inflation is included in the valorization for old-age pensions, so they have nothing to be concerned about. I would just hope that the valorization is undertaken by disbursing the same amount to all, because if not, the difference between the new and the old pensions will constantly increase.

Now I would like to talk about foreign policy. I will keep it brief. We are part of the European Union, we are part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and we should behave in both of those organizations like an energetic, self- confident partner who speaks up about what we dislike.

As far as the European Union goes, you know that I am constantly reproaching it for being unable to protect its external border. As far as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization goes, I believe it should be far more active in combating Islamic terrorism.

The most painful problem that we have here is that of immigration quotas, and that must be solved in accordance with Czech national interests. Our national interest, understandably, is preserving the sovereignty of the Czech Republic.

Nobody can dictate to us whom we will place on our territory. I believe the concept of immigration quotas will end up on the dustbin of history and that by this time next year we will not be speaking about it anymore. Now allow me to move on to the domestic political scene.

The scene has literally experienced an earthquake this year. After the elections the two oldest Czech political parties - i.e., the Social Democrats and the People's Party [Christian Democrats] - were brought to the brink and almost were not seated in Parliament.

The leading representatives of those parties should assess for themselves why that happened. I have met with the leading representatives of all nine parliamentary parties and asked them what their ideas are about the post-electoral order.

Do you know what they all said to me? "Mr President, nobody wants to talk with us."

All of them said that to me. This is absurd.

If somebody is actually avoiding such discussion, then you yourself must go after them instead of being a wallflower, the dealing can begin from your initiative. These negotiations should concern both personnel and program compromises, as is customary in politics.

I believe the proposal for the program declaration of the Babiš Government is a rather good beginning material for such a discussion. When I speak about the Babiš Government, I would like to note that I have received some wise advice telling me that I should not appoint it before it gets a vote of confidence in the lower house.

However, that would actually mean that for weeks or maybe even months the outgoing Sobotka Government would govern, and nobody wants that, for God's sake. I don't want to intimidate you all with the example of Belgium, where the negotiations to form a Government lasted two years.

I believe that over the course of the next few months we will manage to form a Government that gets a vote of confidence from the Chamber of Deputies, and if that success does not happen immediately during the first round, then I will make the time for thorough negotiations among the political partners such that a second attempt can be implemented some time during February that can succeed. Do not forget that there are always two extremes in politics.

One extreme is the attempt to constrain the electoral victor by creating a kind of pseudo-coalition of the less successful to isolate the winner. The other extreme is that the victor stomps all of the defeated parties into the dust and governs alone.

I believe that from the standpoint of democratic procedures, it is good to avoid these extremes and for the parties to discuss this together and for those who apparently reach agreement to create a minority Government that will be tolerated. To wind up this point I would like to see the citizens pleased, not the politicians.

Sometimes I hear voices calling on me to announce early elections, which the Constitution allows me to do in certain situations. I would like to state absolutely clearly here that I will never do that, because early elections just a few months after the regular elections would be a mockery of those citizens who participated in the regular elections and cast their ballots.

The citizens dealt the cards and the politicians must know how to play the hand they were dealt. You can't exchange the citizens for different ones, but you can trade in the politicians, why not?

Some of them may end up in opposition and, as Rudolf Bechyně, an old Social Democrat from the First Republic, wrote: the opposition's portion is a dry one. I would add that sometimes that portion isn't just dry, it also lacks salt.

I wouldn't wish ending up in the opposition on anybody, but on the other hand, democracy naturally requires a certain opposition in Parliament, and those involved can decide for themselves whether they want to be that opposition. I believe matters here will not go so far as for us to accuse each other of having allowed the outcome of the parliamentary elections to be manipulated by foreign intelligence services.

That would be embarrassing, offensive and pathetic. The elections were free, and I am glad that the Security Information Services has also issued a declaration stating that no such influence happened here.

We are a free country with free citizens. Today we can also say we are a successful country.

Two years ago, I told you that the "bad mood" had ended here. Today I am telling you that we have nothing to be ashamed of and that there are many matters about which we can be proud.

Let's lift up our heads and be self-confident people who rely on our own common sense and who do not allow ourselves to be manipulated, whether that be by alleged foreign intelligence services or especially by the Czech press, Czech Television, and other media. Rely on your own rationality.

My own slogan is one I've told you all before. I believe that common sense will win over envious stupidity.

Now allow me to drink to the victory of common sense, to the success of the Czech Republic, and to all our success. I wish you a happy and merry New Year.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Miloš Zeman, President, Speech, television



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