President Zeman condemns Russian aggression in his final Christmas speech

The retiring politician also looked back on his long career and pointed out his economic and diplomatic accomplishments.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 27.12.2022 10:38:00 (updated on 27.12.2022) Reading time: 4 minutes

Russian aggression is threatening global and Czech security, President Miloš Zeman said in his Christmas message to the nation yesterday. This was his last Christmas address as president since his second and final term in office comes to an end in March. He also recounted highlights of his term in office and his support of the domestic economy, and said that in retirement he would remember his supporters and forget about his critics.

"I fully support the Czech Republic's help to fighting in Ukraine, believing that the pressure of democratic countries will sooner or later force Russia to leave the territory of Ukraine," Zeman said.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was the most important event of the past year, he said, adding that he had always been a proponent of proper economic relations with Russia, especially due to the delivery of relatively cheap raw materials. "However, there are situations in which economic interests must give way to security interests," he said.

Zeman said Russia had committed a crime against peace and its attack on Ukraine should be thoroughly condemned, even by acts.

Some critics have previously accused Zeman of having a pro-Russian attitude. However, he condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine right after its start on Feb. 24.

Zeman says he tried to defend national interests

Zeman also said that as the president he had mainly struggled to defend national interests, for which the support of exports was crucial. This is connected with economic diplomacy and strong relations with all major countries, Zeman said.

"As the president of the Czech Republic I was above all struggling to defend Czech national interests," Zeman said, adding that they could be defended on the basis of exports making up the predominant part of the GDP.

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For the sake of improving economic performance and living standards, it is a national interest to support export, economic diplomacy, and the insistence on correct relations with all important countries. Zeman reminded people that he took part in a number of foreign trips, accompanied by business delegations.

He also said he had also struggled to preserve Czech sovereignty and warned against decisions made by the majority of members of the European Union.

"This may mean that the Czech Republic will lose a part of its sovereignty as it may be outvoted by bigger countries. I am an opponent of such a solution," he added.

He stressed his cordial relationship with Israel, saying that it went beyond routine relations within international structures.

"This is a small and brave nation that has given a tremendous number of outstanding personalities to mankind. It has gone through horrible tragedy and tremendous suffering," Zeman said.

He said that in July he had received the top Israeli decoration, the Order of Honor, from his Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog in Prague.

Zeman summed up his 32 years in politics

He said under the Communist regime he had been fired several times over his views. Zeman mentioned his election to the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly and service in its budget committee. He also mentioned the rise of the Social Democrats after he was elected its leader in 1993.

"During five years of hard work we managed to rise the support to 32 percent," Zeman said.

He mentioned the creation of regional self-rule bodies, professionalization of the military, and privatization of banks as major achievements of his government between 1998 and 2002.

The state-run banks were often burdened by politically motivated loans that could not be repaid, he added. "They were on the brink of bankruptcy. Now the banking sector is sound, perhaps too much," Zeman said.

He said in 2003 he had not been elected president due to opposition by some senior Social Democrats. At the time, the president was chosen by the parliament and not by direct vote.

"As a result, I found a refuge in the Vysočina region for 10 years. I spent there beautiful years. When the direct presidential election was enacted, I was elected both for the first and second time," Zeman said.

Zeman ends with a quote from a Czech poet

Zeman ended his speech by quoting Czech poet Vítězslav Nezval. "After March 8, I will retire, I will be reading interesting books and I will also be a bit remembering," Zeman said.

He also said he would immediately forget the "envious nobodies suffering from an inferiority complex," which included some political commentators and failed politicians.

"I will forget the nobodies on the first day of my old-age pension. By contrast, I will gratefully and with respect remember all those with whom I had the honor of working for the nation," Zeman said.

He took leave of the public by quoting from a poem by Vítězslav Nezval, a leading Czech poet who lived between 1900 and 1958.

"If we never see again one another, this was wonderful and there was enough of it. Goodbye and a scarf," Zeman said.

At the end of his speech, Zeman raised a toast with an unidentified red liquid. Due to his health, Zeman has been banned from drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco.

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