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17. 6. 2021 12:23

Speech by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš at the Conference Multiple Challenges for Transatlantic Partnerships

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš at the Conference Multiple Challenges for Transatlantic Partnerships, 17 June 2021.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš at the Conference Multiple Challenges for Transatlantic Partnerships, 17 June 2021.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš gave a speech at the Calls for Transatlantic Relations conference on Thursday 17 June 2021.

Dear Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen!

Thank you for the opportunity to open this annual conference, which is devoted to the European Union and also European-Atlantic ties and issues.
Let me start with Europe and the European Union. The Czech Republic is firmly integrated into the European Union and for me, membership in this union should not be the subject of political discussion. The EU is here to stay and the Czech Republic is staying within the EU.

But to be firmly IN does not mean that we should automatically accept everything developed by eurocrats in Brussels or by progressive political elites in big countries. To be firmly IN means that we are very active members of the EU and if necessary we will have to have the courage to be critical. We should not automatically consent to everything in the interests of big states. We have to continually fight for our national interests in the EU and we should not be naive, because all member countries in this club always fight for their national interests.

We are a mid-sized European country, traditionally very industrial and traditionally very export oriented. To us, the most important achievement of the EU is the common market with its freedoms: free movement of people, goods, services and investments.

As far as GDP is concerned, the EU is the biggest market in the world, but four freedoms have not been fully achieved. Our priority is that instead of inventing newer and newer fields of integration, the EU should focus on achieving all these fundamental freedoms of the single market. Only after the single market operates at full capacity should we think about new areas of integration. If we achieve the full potential of the single market, we will increase the GDP of the European Union by 1.6 % annually, which means 260 billion euro.

We are for less regulation and less bureaucracy. Our natural ally in this respect was the UK, we regret the UK left the club, but we must pursue these policies with or without Britain.

Economic growth within the EU in recent decades has been slower than in the US or Asia. Newer member countries are doing slightly better, but the EU should push for lower taxation, less regulation, less bureaucracy, and more dynamism, creativity and innovation. It seems that the EU is a world champion in regulation, but it does not have enough technological champions.

Our priority is also to unify the outer borders of the Schengen area with the borders of the EU. We fully support integration of Western Balkan countries into the EU. We want tougher border controls on the outer borders of the EU. Migration policies should be fully in the hands of member states and applicants for asylum should be properly processed at EU administered check points located outside the EU.

The EU is economically powerful, but fails to project its power even into areas quite closely related to the European Union. When something happens in the Middle East for instance, then Russia is involved, Turkey is involved, the US is involved and the EU is nowhere to be seen, unfortunately.

The EU has a foreign policy corps and so called outer service, but there is a lack of discussion about their content and about our common policy interest.

Besides the EU, the V4 is also very important for our country. There should be overlapping voluntary groups like this within the EU, it makes the EU more vibrant, lively and colorful. There are some important common interests within the V4. We share a history of communism and therefore we don’t jump enthusiastically at every progressive issue; from openness to migration, to all aspects of political correctness and climate issues. The structure of our economies is similar to an extent. We still accept EU subsidies, but our companies pay huge dividends to their foreign mothers and our financial sector is almost fully controlled by the parent companies in original EU member countries.  

Energy security and diversity of resources is a very important topic for us. It is a national interest of our country to develop our nuclear energy and be able to invest in nuclear resources. We cannot rely on the belief that wind and solar will take care of everything.

And now let me mention a few things about Atlantic issues. The Atlantic space to us is a space of democracy, freedom, liberty, law and order and freedom of enterprise and market economy. These are our values which combined we can call the West: and we can add Asian democracies with market economies like Japan and South Korea and also Israel, Australia and New Zealand. All these countries, full-fledged democracies with market economies, should cooperate more closely in the future.

Europe is not a threat to the US and North America as such and we should be able to have free trade agreements and treaties with all democratic countries. The EU and the US should not only compete, but also cooperate more on technology, research, development and innovation.

That is one area: another is security and defense within NATO. The Czech Republic is a responsible and active member of NATO. We are involved in all of the most important missions and we take the deployment of our military very seriously. By the way, my government was the first in the history of this country to buy significant American equipment: we bought American helicopters. We believe investments like this also strengthen our mutual Atlantic partnership.

We were the first government that had the courage to strictly limit the size of the Russian embassy and send home all known spies and agents. In the future Atlantic security – like all security – will be more about technology, artificial intelligence, cyber security, data protection, etc. The success of Atlantic cooperation in the future also depends on the intensity of cooperation regarding all these crucial technologies of the future.

Thank you, and may this conference be a success! Good luck.

Andrej Babiš, Prime Minister

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