PM: 2023 will be tough – but Czechs will get through it
Things will not be easy this year, but Czechia will handle it. That was a key message from the prime minister’s New Year’s address to the nation on Sunday night. Petr Fiala also praised Czechs’ solidarity with Ukraine and said the Russian invasion intensified the need for defence spending.
Speaking at his official residence, the Kramář Villa in Prague, Petr Fiala began his New Year’s address by referring to Sunday’s 30th anniversary of the foundation of Czechia.
The prime minister said the country could be proud of its achievements in the last three decades, when it went from being poor to economically advanced and joined NATO and the EU.
Mr. Fiala said Czechs had repeatedly helped others in need, including during the huge flooding of 2001.
And in 2022, he said, they had demonstrated incredible solidarity with refugees from Ukraine, following Russia’s attack on their country.
The prime minister said that conflict had direct implications for Czechs.
“Russia’s military attack on Ukraine has shown that our security is not a given.
"It may come under threat if Russia wins in Ukraine and if we don’t give sufficient attention to our defence and security. That didn’t happen in the past…
"Now we are trying to change things quickly. Which is why we are increasing, and will increase further, spending on our defence.
"We are doing it because of our own security.”
Mr. Fiala told viewers he sometimes encountered calls for peace talks but insisted collective defence was the only guarantee of peace.
Another major focus of his address to the nation was energy.
“We can no longer afford to be unilaterally dependent on eastern supplies and to be economically blackmailed through them.
"Our aim must be the complete energy security and sovereignty of the Czech Republic…
"Finding new sources of electricity and increasing the capacity of distribution networks will take several years.
"But we have begun, and the first results are on the table.”
The PM said he was confident the double-digit inflation of 2022 will not be repeated in Czechia this year.
He added that a cap on power prices was intended to prevent prices getting completely out of control again.
He also praised individual Czechs for taking steps to save energy, which was helping the economy at a time of crisis.
Nevertheless, the nation has been through tough times recently – and can expect to face more in 2023, Mr. Fiala said.
“We have two years of fear and restrictions behind us, due to Covid-19.
"When it seemed it was all over, we were hit hard by the impact of war in Europe, the energy crisis and inflation.
"Nevertheless, there is no reason to lose hope and to not look to the future with positive expectations…
"It will not be an easy year, but we will manage it. As we have successfully managed the last 30 years.
"I am completely sure of that.”