In his traditional Christmas message to the nation, President Miloš Zeman began as usual on a positive note – highlighting the country’s economic successes – before turning to what he views as problematic areas. In a 16-minute televised address otherwise void of religious symbolism, Zeman also branded himself a “climate heretic” and urged Czechs to think for themselves rather than follow “false prophets”.
President Zeman began his message by relaying what he said he tells new ambassadors to the Czech Republic: “Welcome to a successful country.” A country, he said, with the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union, relatively low government debt, and rising average salaries and pensions.
“All of these are achievements, and although the Czechs are said to be the most sceptical nation in Europe, I think we should rejoice at these achievements together.”
Turning to problematic areas, President Zeman said many could be summed up in a single word: “slowness”. Cases languish in the courts for years, even decades, he said, and the country ranked 162nd worldwide in terms of the time it takes to approve a construction project.
In both regards, President Zeman expressed confidence that the current ministers of regional development and transport would make significant progress.
He also praised the government’s goal to invest some 8 trillion crowns into 20,000 projects through the year 2050, mainly in the transport sector, but also into healthcare, energy, and cyber security.
“I commend the government for submitting a National Investment Programme with a horizon of 30 years, because of course some major projects go beyond the term of office of any government. Some say it’s just a list of projects, but it isn’t true.”
Miloš Zeman devoted the largest part of his Christmas message, delivered on December 26th from the presidential retreat at Lány, to the issue of climate change, noting fluctuations in temperature of millions of years.
“I believe discussion of climate change is becoming a new religion. Allow me, therefore, to be a heretic. (…) I am not sure whether the decisive factor of global warming is human activity and not the laws of nature, the movement of the Earth’s axis and other cosmic influences.”
President Zeman went on to argue that investing tens of billions annually on renewable energy, in particular on solar and wind energy, was a fool’s errand, with subsidies serving only to enrich “solar barons”. Renewables account for just 3 percent of total electricity production in the Czech Republic and are unreliable sources, he said, warning countries outside “green Europe” could become magnates for cheap energy production.
Finally, he also got in subtle digs at two protest groups: ‘Fridays for Future’, the international youth climate change initiative formed by Greta Thunberg of Sweden; and ‘A Million Moments for Democracy’, which seeks Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s ouster over alleged subsidy fraud and conflict of interest.
“Yes, I noticed student demonstrations against climate change. Nothing against it, I would just like to them to demonstrate on Saturday and learn on Friday.
“I also noticed demonstrations in Prague, whose participants demanded the resignation of the prime minister. This can be answered very briefly.
“In a parliamentary democracy, which we are and will remain, prime ministers come and go based on the results of free elections. Full stop.”
President Zeman, known for his contrarian views on a number of topics, further appealed to Czechs to venture outside their own “bubbles of opinion” to consider opposing views.