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Václav Klaus: Notes for the Sunday Evening Ceremony: From Tradition to Innovation

English Pages, 27. 1. 2020

Good evening, it is an honour for me to be the first one who is asked to speak here. Most of us have been here in Vienna, at the Vienna Congress Com.sult before and we all know that this opening dinner is a very good opportunity to say hello to each other, to meet old friends and to get a chance to find new ones.

It is not a moment for serious speeches. I would, nevertheless, use this opportunity and suggest to change the theme of this gathering from From Tradition to Innovation” to From Tradition to Innovation and back to Tradition. Because we do need traditions. Lets not put traditions against innovations. Its well known that all traditions originally started as innovations. We can even say that traditions are innovations which proved beneficial or useful over time – traditions are consequences of successful innovations. 

In the program of our congress, I discovered the following sentence: The quality of location arises from the combination of tradition and innovation. This beautiful city and this beautiful hotel are good examples of such a successful combination. 

For us, for the Czechs, Vienna used to be a symbol of tradition. We spent three centuries in the Austrian empire and for a very long time we expected from Vienna some innovation as regards our position in the empire which – however – never came. That was the reason why we had to create a sovereign, independent state in 1918. It was a real innovation.  

When I use the term innovation, I always add that this concept was invented by Joseph Alois Schumpeter who was born on the Czech territory in a small Moravian town of Třešť (in German Triesch). He came to study to Vienna and became famous here, as an Austrian. 

Lets not misuse this term. It is not good and productive to permanently innovate. We need a solid fundament, a basis, which can – eventually – be innovated. When I look at the current world I have a feeling that what we need is to cultivate traditions, not to destroy them, not to progressivistically” change everything in the name of progress, of political correctness, of the adoration of youth, of things unknown, untried, unproved, but fashionable. 

It is different in the field of business, of technology, of technical processes. Innovations are a necessity there. But again, the innovations must be demand driven, not supply driven. Im afraid that an important part of digitalization is not demand driven these days, that it is not asked for, and that the role of supply side is decisive. Consumers are forced to accept innovations which they dont need, innovations which are not asked for. It is relevant especially in cases where there is not sufficient competition, where monopolies or oligopolies dominate the market – very often with the help of governments. 

My suggestion which David will not be pleased with is the following: lets not only innovate. Lets keep Hotel Imperial as it is, with minimum of innovations.

Václav Klaus, Vienna Congress Com.sult 2020, Vienna, January 27 2020


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