PM tells Czechs: We will not let you fall

Petr Fiala

Amid growing speculation about the possibility of a sudden halt in Russian gas supplies to Europe, Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala went on national television on Wednesday night to assure Czechs that the government had a crisis scenario ready and would not let anyone fall. He also outlined the government’s plan to cut the country’s dependence on Russian fuels.

Illustrative photo: Jernej Furman,  Flickr,  CC BY 2.0

In an emotive speech to the nation, Prime Minister Fiala told Czechs to brace for hard times ahead, but assured the public that the government was ready to help people over the worst and would not let anyone fall.

He laid the blame for the present crisis squarely at Russia’s door, saying the country was not just waging a war against Ukraine but a “moral-economic” war against the Western world.

"Russia makes no secret of the fact that it wants to weaken the Western democracies, to undermine people's trust in their government, trigger political unrest and make these countries vulnerable to blackmail. The danger of Russia turning off the taps on gas and oil is real and may cause us serious problems. However, our gas reservoirs are currently two-thirds full. Should a critical scenario occur we will be able to provide gas to all households this winter."

Illustrative photo: Ulrike Leone,  Pixabay,  Pixabay License

Mr. Fiala said the cabinet's goal was to cut the country’s reliance on Russian fuels as fast as possible and it would strive to achieve energy sovereignty within the next five years. Nuclear energy is a top priority, but the state will massively support the construction of photovoltaic power plants. The aim is for the state to control the entire network of key domestic power plants in the near future, and rely on its own electricity production. In addition to solar power plants, the state also wants to promote the use of thermal pumps or substantially increase the production of domestic biogas.

It will take an estimated two to five years for this to happen, Fiala said, a time that will be accompanied by soaring energy prices. He said that while the government would not provide blanket support, it would help the worst affected households and companies selectively, for which it has set aside CZK 66 billion from the budget.

LNG terminal | Illustrative photo: Matthew Smith,  Flickr,  CC BY 2.0

Mr. Fiala said the government had decided to abolish the renewables fee and was working to increase the capacity of gas and oil pipelines from EU countries, gain space in offshore LNG terminals, and support the construction of emission-free energy sources.

The prime minister lamented the country’s exceptionally high dependence on Russian fuels and blamed the previous government for not taking any steps towards energy independence in the past.

His speech met with mixed reactions. While coalition politicians commended the prime minister for laying out the facts honestly and providing reassurances that help would be forthcoming, the opposition parties said Mr. Fiala had not said anything new and the speech was merely an attempt to overshadow the corruption scandal that has hit one of the governing parties in recent days.