Fiala Warns of Tough Months Ahead On First Anniversary of Cabinet

Fiala argued that the government was striving to make the impact of the crises on people’s lives as mild as possible. Photo credit:

Prague, Dec 19 (CTK) – To mark the first anniversary of his five-party coalition cabinet, PM Petr Fiala (ODS) took to social media on Saturday to acknowledge that the past year was not easy for anyone, and the difficult situation would continue into the next months, though he promised that the government was doing its utmost to cope with the situation.

He summed up some of the successes achieved by his government, and argued that the government was striving to make the impact of the crises on people’s lives as mild as possible.

President Milos Zeman appointed Fiala’s cabinet on 17 December 2021, several weeks after the general election. The 18-member cabinet comprises five parties, three of which form the SPOLU alliance (ODS, KDU-CSL, and TOP 09), and the other two of which are the Pirates/STAN tandem.

“As a consequence of Russia’s aggressive war, our country is facing a number of huge challenges that we could not imagine until recently. Nevertheless, together with you, we are working to make the impacts of the crises on the lives of all of us the lightest possible,” Fiala wrote.

Recalling the last major wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote that the Czech Republic had managed it excellently thanks to the cooperation and responsibility of citizens. However, the COVID pandemic was followed by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the biggest war in Europe since World War II, Fiala wrote, adding that the Czech Republic has since accepted over 460,000 Ukrainian refugees, mainly women and children.

He also mentioned the shortage of energy and the rising prices. “We reacted quickly and have secured enough gas for this winter; we filled the gas storage facilities to a record-high extent and we bought the necessary capacity in a LNG terminal in the Netherlands,” wrote Fiala.

“We have resisted populist pressure for a number of expensive and ineffective interventions in the free market. Thanks also to this, the Czech Republic is maintaining pre-war prices, while other countries see their petrol and diesel prices rising,” Fiala continued.

He praised the results of the Czech Republic’s six-month presidency of the Council of the EU, now in its last two weeks.

“We have succeeded in orchestrating the approval of a number of European solutions to the high prices of energy, which will have a positive effect for all our citizens. We succeeded in negotiating a number of things that analysts had called unfeasible,” he wrote.

Also commenting on the cabinet’s first anniversary, Pirate leader and Deputy PM Ivan Bartos assessed the Pirates’ performance in the cabinet positively.

He mentioned the simplified housing benefit, energy price bonus, facilitation of solar power plant construction and an amendment to the copyright law as examples of legislation the Pirates had pushed through.

“I strongly admire that our government and citizens have clearly stood up for Ukraine and that we have provided Ukraine with political, military, security and humanitarian support. I am also proud of Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky (Pirates), who has proved himself in the crisis and fully met his promise to return to the politics once promoted by Vaclav Havel, and to the protection of human rights,” Bartos wrote.

This year, the Fiala cabinet also succeeded in passing two budget laws, for 2022 and 2023.

After President Zeman vetoed the government-sponsored amendment raising the 2022 budget deficit, the government coalition overrode his veto.

In the Chamber of Deputies, nevertheless, the coalition often faces criticism from the opposition ANO and Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), which criticise the government’s alleged insufficient effort to save money and excessive raising of the Czech Republic’s debts.

Lukas Kovanda, chief economist of the Trinity Bank, also highlighted that the Fiala cabinet faced unexpectedly complex circumstances during its first year in office. However, from the economic point of view, the recent circumstances are incomparable with those in the COVID year 2020. 

“At the time, the economy fell deep, the deepest in the Czech Republic’s history, while it is expected to rise this year. That is why the [current] cabinet should and could, despite all the complex circumstances, fulfil more of its promises as embedded in its policy statement,” Kovanda said.

He said the cabinet had had a big success in organising the Czech presidency of the EU, but criticised the cabinet for implementing costly across-the-board aid to people instead of targeted aid amid the energy crisis and rising inflation.

The cabinet plans to modify its policy statement and release its amended text by the end of March. It says the amendment is necessary due to the impacts of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the energy crisis, which could not have been anticipated when the policy statement was drafted in late 2021 and early 2022.

Reacting to Fiala, ANO deputy chair and shadow finance minister Alena Schillerova admitted that the situation has not been easy, but said that “after [the Fiala cabinet’s] big-mouthed rhetoric about the excessive spending by [the previous cabinet of ANO leader Andrej] Babis, about better communication, political culture and budget responsibility, we have mainly witnessed incompetence, arrogance, excuses and corruption scandals.”

The cabinet’s biggest fault is its sluggish help for people and companies, Schillerova told CTK.

“So I don’t sound only negative, I would commend [the cabinet’s] correct reaction to the Russian aggression, which ANO supported as the largest opposition party, but the subsequent migrant wave was accompanied by chaos, confusion and horrible communication, as a result of which the trenches dividing society have deepened,” Schillerova said.

The migrant wave has been dealt with well mainly thanks to the wonderful reaction of the Czech people, she added.

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