Credit: Jan Kriz, official photo gallery of Petr Pavel.

President Pavel Calls For Move Towards Adoption of Euro In New Year Speech

Czech President Petr Pavel used his New Year speech yesterday to call for concrete steps to move the Czech Republic towards meeting its pledge to adopt the euro, after several years of inaction. The president added that the EU single currency is a logical future for the country.

In his first New Year address, delivered outside in the third courtyard of Prague Castle, in a break with tradition, Pavel first spoke about the recent shooting at Charles University in Prague, before focusing on domestic politics. He said the government was not communicating well with the citizens, but he appreciated that the government parties did not have major disputes. He also addressed the younger generation and said it was important for them to seek to make things better.

However, it was the president’s emphasis on the adoption of the euro that most surprised political analysts.

“After all these years, it is time to start taking concrete steps that will lead us to fulfilling this commitment [to adopt the euro],” said Pavel. “Despite the endless discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of the euro for a country with an open and export-oriented economy, located in the centre of Europe, the single currency is the logical future.”

Czech daily Hospodarske noviny reported last November that ministries were in disagreement over whether the government should start taking steps to adopt the euro. A report by the Finance Ministry and the Czech National Bank stated that the Czech Republic is likely to meet some of the so-called Maastricht criteria for euro adoption this year. However, the document also did not recommend taking any steps in this direction, which was criticised by ministers from the Mayors and Independents (STAN) movement.

The current government of the Spolu alliance (comprising the Civic Democrats (ODS), Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and TOP 09), the Pirates and STAN, did not include plans in its coalition policy statement to adopt the euro before the next general election in 2025. However, the government has pledged to meet the Maastricht criteria as soon as possible.

In 2024, the Czech Republic will mark the 20th anniversary of its membership of the European Union, and 25 years since joining NATO. Pavel said in his speech that this is an opportunity to look back to the past, while also looking forward and acknowledging our commitments. He noted that defence spending will reach 2% of GDP this year.

Pavel said the EU gives the Czech Republic a chance to exert its influence and promote its interests. Together with NATO, he said this is a guarantee that the Czech Republic has strong partners which it can rely on, which is invaluable in today’s world.

Speaking to CTK, political analysts described the president’s speech as dynamic and factual. Political analyst Stanislav Balik said Pavel’s speech was very different from the one his predecessor Milos Zeman made at Christmas 2022. 

“The dynamics, the content, the themes that he mentioned, the fact that he was not absorbed in himself and his own struggles and pains, but he was pointing elsewhere,” said Balik. Nothing seemed surprising in the speech, except for the energy and dynamism with which it was presented, he added.

Political analyst Jan Kubacek said it was the best speech that Pavel has made as president so far, but he added that he missed the particular tasks that the president would set for himself as well as for the government and both houses of parliament. He said Pavel has the privilege of being popular, and therefore has the authority to make the government and opposition sit at the same table.

Kubacek said Pavel is the only Czech politician who is not currently dependent on any elections, and so he was surprised that he mentioned the adoption of the euro, but no concrete tasks for the government in fighting inflation or boosting economic growth. He appreciated that the President mentioned the tragic shooting shortly before Christmas and was trying to cultivate the political discussion, but he expected more issues concerning the cost of living, which is very high and causing division in society.

According to analyst Miroslav Mares, the speech covered the expected topics, though the emphasis on the adoption of the EU’s single currency was a surprise.

“The President has been basically accommodating to the government, despite criticism of its communication with the public. He clearly spoke out against how the Presidential Office was managed under his predecessor,” Mares said.

Analyst Josef Mlejnek said Pavel gave a good performance, with regard to his lower rhetorical capabilities. “The speech was positive, without venomous outbursts, as was the case with Milos Zeman. Perhaps too general. The only specific and remarkable thing was the clear support for the adoption of the euro,” he said.

Economic analysts Vit Hradil and Stepan Hajek told CTK that Pavel’s call for the country to finally start taking steps towards the adoption of the euro was correct, although the economic benefits of the euro are questionable.

Political analyst Lubomir Kopecek said the speech corresponded with Pavel’s priorities, for example with the emphasis on the role of NATO and the European Union. He said it was good that Pavel does not use confrontational rhetoric, unlike Zeman. Expressing understanding for the unpopular government of Petr Fiala (ODS), however, will not increase Pavel’s popularity.

In his speech, the President mostly avoided foreign policy and the conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East, on which he had previously commented many times. Balik said that the speech on New Year’s Day should rather deal with domestic social and political affairs.

The full text of the president’s speech is available here.

President Pavel Calls For Move Towards Adoption of Euro In New Year Speech
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