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Zeman praises economic growth, warns against migrant wave

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Lany, Central Bohemia, Dec 26 (CTK) – Czech President Milos Zeman praised the country´s economic growth, rise in wages and a low unemployment rate in his Christmas message broadcast by the media, but he again criticised politicians for playing down the current migrant wave.

Zeman praised the centre-left cabinet for having freed the national economy from the straightjacket of strangling measures imposed by the previous rightist governments.

“The bad mood is over,” Zeman said, using the term that former president Vaclav Havel coined in the late 1990s to express people´s discontentment and frustration amid then economic troubles and political turbulences.

Zeman criticised the politicians who play down the migrant wave. According to him, Europe faces an organised invasion.

The Czech Republic is our country. It is not and even cannot be for all, Zeman said.

“Sometimes I feel like Cassandra who is warning against the Trojan horse being pulled into the town. I am deeply convinced that the phenomenon we face is an organised invasion, not a spontaneous stream of refugees,” Zeman said, referring to the migrant crisis.

He said young men without families prevail among the refugees.

“Why don´t these people take up weapons to fight against Islamic State for the liberty of their homeland?” Zeman asked.

He said the migrant wave is a dark stain on the [Czech] foreign policy.

At the beginning of his message he mentioned the recent relatively massive growth of the Czech economy.

“It is a great success and I´d like to thank for it to our employees, our employers, and I´d also like to appreciate the Czech government for its economic policy,” said Zeman, who was Czech prime minister for the Social Democrats (CSSD) in 1998-2002.

It is good that people´s living standard is rising thanks to the rising wages, Zeman said, adding that pensioners will see their pensions increase more markedly in 2017.

“We can say the bad mood is over. There are reasons for us to espouse cautious and critical optimism and positive expectations,” Zeman said.

He supported a rise in the minimum wage, but said he is against welfare benefits being further increased. The rising gap between the minimum wage and welfare benefits should make people work, he said.

Zeman supported legislation aimed against tax fraud. He mentioned the bill introducing compulsory electronic evidence of sales, which has been submitted by the government but the rightist opposition has launched obstructions to prevent its passage by parliament.

“Those who object that these laws would infringe upon people´s personal freedom, have forgotten that no one has the right to steal and no one has the right to cheat,” Zeman said.

He spoke about his vision of the Czech Republic´s approximation to the Scandinavian model of a social welfare state with quite high taxes and massive public investments.

The fact that the Scandinavian countries repeatedly figure in the first positions in terms of competitiveness proves that the rightist neoliberal theory saying ´the lower the taxes the higher the economic performance is´ is wrong, Zeman said.

Touching on Czech foreign policy, he praised the successes of economic diplomacy. Economic relations with China have improved, investments have streamed in from South Korea, and relations with the Central Asian states have improved, Zeman said.

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