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17. 11. 2019 10:50

Speech of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on the 30th anniversary of 17 November 1989

Speech of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on the 30th anniversary of 17 November 1989
Speech of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on the 30th anniversary of 17 November 1989
On Sunday, November 17, 2019, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš gave a speech as part of a gala program to mark the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution in the historical building of the National Museum.

Dear Mr Lukeš,

The video is fantastic, and the state honours you received from the president, something I proposed exactly one year ago, is clearly deserved. Thank you very much!

Ladies and gentlemen, dear guests and dear citizens of our country, the Czech Republic,

It is November 17, 2019.

It is thirty years from the moment when the Velvet Revolution began.

Thirty years from the moment when the student march set off from Albertov to Národní třída.

Thirty years from the moment when the demonstration was brutally supressed and when the most important event of the modern history of our republic began.

It was not the first demonstration that year. A series of demonstrations had already taken place in January 1989, on the twentieth anniversary of the death of Jan Palach. They were quite aggressively supressed as never before and involved the imprisonment of dissidents. Further demonstrations were held on August 21 and October 28, 1989. And these were attended not only by Czechs and Slovaks, but also by Poles and Hungarians. And many of these demonstrators were arrested, including a Hungarian Television crew. I would like to thank all our friends who are here with us today. I would like to thank the Chairman of the German Federal Assembly, Wolfgang Schäuble, as well as all three prime ministers: Mateusz Morawiecki, Viktor Orbán and Peter Pellegrini.

We have not forgotten that it was the Poles who were the first to win the fight for free elections. We have not forgotten that it was the Hungarians who first cut a hole into the iron curtain. What took Poland ten years took Hungary nine weeks and Czechoslovakia ten days. Just before November 9, German citizens tore down the symbol of the Cold War – the Berlin Wall – thus giving others the courage to fight for their freedom.

Demonstrations had already taken a place a year earlier, in 1988. The fall of the regime was in the air. But 1989 was the breaking point.

17 November 1989.

Albertov. An event in remembrance on the 50th anniversary of the closure of Czech universities by the Nazis. The crowd marched along the embankment to Národní třída. More than 10 000 demonstrators.

We all saw what followed. Each of us. Many times. The riot police at the time brutally attacked the demonstrators, dispersed them and arrested some of them. At least 500 people were injured. We do not know the exact numbers, as many did not seek out medical assistance.

Immediately thereafter, discussions began in Prague theatres with students, who came there directly from Národní třída.

The strike committee was formed at the Theatre Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts. The Most (Bridge) initiative was also formed, and two days later …

Civic Forum.

Václav Havel.

His courage during communism and the Velvet Revolution was remarkable – even though opinions of him differ, as is the case with all strong personalities.

As you surely know, I used to be a member of the Communist Party. I am not proud of this. As I have said many times, I was not as brave or engaged as Havel. Moreover, I was not in Czechoslovakia in November 1989. Today I am here, elected Prime Minister of our country in free, democratic elections, and therefore I would at least like to express retrospectively my thanks and humility.

And that is why I would also like to say the following, here on this spot:

Thanks to those of you who had the courage to set off on 17 November 1989 from Albertov to Národní třída.

Thanks to all of you – students and actors of Prague theatres – who began addressing immediately on the night of November 17th the brutal attack by the Communist riot police on a peaceful demonstration.

Thanks to all of you who founded the Most initiative and who worked in all initiatives, associations and organisations, and to all you who worked in dissent and exile.

And chiefly thanks to all of you who founded Civic Forum.

The outcome?

Within a month and twelve days, we had a new Constitution, new government and new president!

Thanks to all of you who were in the government that brought us the first free elections in 1990.

And thanks to all of you who helped us join NATO in 1999.

And thanks to all of you who helped us join the European Union and the Schengen Area in 2004.

Thanks to all of you who get out and vote. And thanks to all of you who believe elections are so important you go and convince others to get out and vote.

And thanks to all of you who express your opinions and who care what kind of country we live in. To all of you who are not indifferent to the future of our country. Even though we may differ in our political opinions. And we do differ. That is what political opinions are for. That is why political parties exist. Party in the sense of being part of and party to something. No party connects everyone and each fights for its place in the sun, but if the parties are democratic, then I see no problem in this. Although it is true that I would be happy if we could all agree across the political spectrum on the basic course of action for the future of the Czech Republic. Because, as you know, I am working and wish to continue working as the Prime Minister of all the citizens of this land.

Because what is most important is that we are all Czechs. Citizens of a free and democratic Czech Republic. Citizens of a country that has wonderfully hardworking and creative people.

And I bet that we will surpass many other countries not only within Europe, but even around the world. In GDP per capita, we have surpassed Spain. We are closing in on Italy and soon we will catch up even to Israel and New Zealand.

We should be proud of what we have accomplished. Proud of where we are today.

Thanks to all of you who made all this possible by working, by raising your children. Together we have managed to achieve what we are experiencing right now.

The best and freest period that the Czech Republic can ever remember. A period that is unique in the hundred year history of our country. And do you know what is most important? Ensuring that the freedom and democracy gained are there for the next generation to enjoy.

I am sure you know that the Czech Republic is doing well.

Yes, it is.

We have great economic results, the lowest unemployment in the European Union. We are investing into the education of our children, into research and development, raising pensions and salaries, supporting young families and are the seventh safest country in Europe and the twentieth happiest in the world.

Today, a lot of people from Europe are coming here to the Czech Republic to live and work. People from France, Great Britain, Spain and America. The supply of labour is at a high level. There is low unemployment and lots of jobs. We enjoy a high standard of living, and our streets are safe and secure.

And we want to keep going. Our country wants to keep going. And we will keep going!

The Czech Republic is the most beautiful country in the world. Magnificent nature, breath-taking cultural heritage, and the people! Wonderful, tenacious, creative, inventive, incredibly skilful. The best in the world. We all know it and feel it.

It is called patriotism.

A world that is now often ridiculed, misunderstood or considered controversial. Patriotism is being proud of your country, its culture, history, nature and traditions, its successes, heroes, talents and even of the work of ordinary people. And we in the Czech Republic have a lot to be proud of. And the word also means that we all work together and do not mix hate into natural discussions, different opinions, arguments and disputes.

So far, we have not managed much of what people expected in 1989. But we will not give up. We are working on making everyone better off, even those who have been forgotten in recent years.

Let us all wish each other today, the day of our important anniversary, lots of success. And let us all work together on the success of our country. Without unnecessary anger, aggression and hate. We need not always agree with each or share the same opinions. We are, however, a wonderful country full of wonderful people who have what it takes to show the world that in all aspects of life we can compare to the most successful countries in the world. We should all know this, and so should the whole world. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for all of us and our beautiful country!

Thank you for your attention.

Andrej Babiš, Prime Minister

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