President Pavel tells Czechs: We cannot give up our freedom because of fear

Petr Pavel

In his New Year address to the nation President Petr Pavel underlined the need for strength and unity, saying it had been a difficult year from which he hoped to see the nation emerge stronger.  

Petr Pavel | Photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  Czech Radio

The president spoke of the tragic shooting at the Faculty of Arts and the senseless loss of life, which he said had caused great sadness, but also inner anger. He urged Czechs to overcome their fear, not be intimidated by this show of unspeakable violence and not to let this tragedy rob them of the joy of life. “We need to analyze what happened and why it happened. We can improve our laws, controls and measures, but we cannot give up our freedom because of fear” the president said.

Looking back on the past year, Mr. Pavel said he appreciated the government’s unity in undertaking  unpopular measures to tackle the country's debt, but criticized it for poor communication towards the public, which he said opened the door to populism.

He urged Czechs to go to the polls in this year’s European, regional and Senate elections, saying their voting right was “a great opportunity to influence the future direction of our country and the European Union”. He warned the public against populists and extremists, who offer unrealistic, simple solutions that would only exacerbate the country’s problems.

President Pavel also devoted time to the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the country’s membership in the European Union and NATO, stressing their importance for the country’s security and economic development. He said the anniversaries were an opportunity to recall the commitments Czechia had voluntarily made when it joined the EU and NATO. “I am happy to say that we are once again fulfilling our commitment on defence spending, and it is high time to think about the other big commitment made -the adoption of the single European currency and start taking concrete steps to fulfil this goal,” Mr. Pavel said.

The president likewise spoke of the role of the young generation in bringing about change. He urged young Czechs to take an interest in political and public life and try to change things for the better. He said that he himself would work to highlight the problems of the young generation and propose solutions.

The coming year should be better than the last, Mr. Pavel said. We expect lower inflation, real wage growth for the first time in several years, and modest economic growth. I hope it will mark a turn for the better and give us all reason for greater optimism in the years to come, the president concluded.

Author: Daniela Lazarová | Source: Český rozhlas