Press Conferences

12. 1. 2009 14:04

Press Conference after the Meeting of the Government, Held on Monday 12th January 2009

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference after the meeting of the government. I welcome members of the government, the Prime Minister Mr. Mirek Topolánek, the First Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Jiří Čunek, the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Mr. Alexandr Vondra, and the Minister of Interior, Mr. Ivan Langer. I ask the Prime Minister for his introductory speech.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I would like to show clearly today that in spite of the fact that it looks like we were fully engaged in the Czech presidency, it is not true that we are not devoted ourselves to our home policy. On the contrary, we take the home policy as an absolute priority. As a problem number one of the government in this year is to manage the financial crisis and its possible social-economic impacts; the government is continuously trying to find a solution of internal problems and all the connecting issues. That is why I will begin in rather untraditionally way. Before I speak about the agenda of the meeting of the government, I would like to inform the public on measures which have been indicated and which I wanted to take following an agreement with the coalition partners. Changes in ministerial posts are to bring new dynamics into the government activities, to make them more effective, to improve communication with citizens, and to reflect the situation that took place in the last year. These changes need not mean bad performance of those ministers. Every reshuffle is primarily a political decision which reflects general needs so that the government would be a successful team. I agreed on the resignation of four ministers, who would leave the government as of 23rd January when new minister would assume their offices. The date has been set and I think that it reflected my fears, which I expressed yesterday, that it was not possible to transfer tasks to other ministers due to the ministerial sessions in the framework of the Czech presidency that were to be held. That is why new ministers will assume their offices as of 23rd January and I hope I will come to an agreement on it with the President. They are ministers Jiří Čunek, Džamila Stehlíková, Aleš Řebíček and Tomáš Julínek who are leaving the cabinet today. Names of their successors will be disclosed in the right time. I would like to add a few words to this issue and I would like to thank all those who are leaving the cabinet today. In particular, I would like to thank Jiří Čunek as a chairman of the coalition party for whom such a decision were not easy at all; nevertheless, he favoured public interests to his personal ones. I regard it as a historical, unprecedented decision and I hope that this step will lead to improvement of the political culture in the Czech Republic. I would like to thank Džamila Stehlíková who for the first time in the history was in charge of scope of activities connected with human rights. She brought in this sphere human dimension, she fought for prestige in this area with ministries that were regarded as more important, with groups in the society which thought that they were more competent and she did a lot of work in this respect. I would like to thank Aleš Řebíček for his professional and non-ideological approach to the transport sphere. It was after a long time when the ministry was headed by an expert in the area of railway transport, by somebody who knew in detail all the problems. As the first Minister of Transport, he proposed a realistic and elaborate concept of the transport infrastructure not only for a sole election period. Last but not least, I would like to thank Tomáš Julínek who as the first Czech Minister of Health managed to prepare and partly implement necessary and rather unpopular changes in the heath care sphere. Thanks to his work the health care in the Czech Republic is more accessible and more solidary. The system of health insurance is for the first time since its introduction stable and it guarantees our citizens adequate and the most modern health care. His exchange was one of the most difficult personal decisions in my position of the Prime Minister. To avoid possible questions, I would like to say that there are certain intraparty and domestic reasons why these people leave; I would be able to name them in all the cases. On the example of Tomáš Julínek, and I will not express my opinion on all the other ministers, I would like to demonstrate that he became in certain time a scapegoat because of negative emotions. He was affected with certain frustration because of measures that had not been implemented and finally he lost ability to persuade coalition partners and the respective chambers of the Parliament concerning issues which had been prepared by him and by his team. I should say that it is a question whether that change will cause better conditions for enforcement and better communication with the public. That was an introduction. You deserve to get information on the European issues, and then the Deputy Prime Minister will get the floor as the regular Committee for the European Union was held. Ivan Langer will inform you on breakthrough laws in the field of digitalization of the public administration which have been approved by the government today. I have brought Jiří Čunek with me as there would certainly be lots of questions to him; moreover, he submitted to the government relatively very important information on drawing structural funds in 2004-2006 which also concerned our election period, of course. Certain complication which occurred during signing agreements was corrected in Brussels today and these agreements were signed. A negotiation is being held in Brussels today after that session of ministers of energy with representatives of both parties and nothing bar gas to flow through the gas line starting from eight o'clock of the Moscow time, which means from ten o'clock of the Central European Time. I had a telephone call with Vladimír Putin in the course of the meeting of the government and I should say that we managed to overcome that barrier, when both parties had not been able to communicate and to sit at the table, and to reach a solution. Technical, economic and financial complication that are expected concern supplies of so called technological gas which is necessary for operation of the system and for payments; nevertheless, the Russian side guarantees that it will place its monitoring teams by all means including aircrafts, and that it will begin to turn on the gas in the morning tomorrow. I should say that if there is somebody who has a feeling that in that moment or in such a situation it was possible for the EU to speed up those negotiations, I will refer him to statesmen of Ukraine and Russia to explain him if it was possible or not. That was information on topical issues and now I would revert to the meeting of the government. I have already indicated information of Alexandr Vondra and information of Ivan Langer on registers, which would cover 4+1 laws. As to issues which might be interesting for you, we approved the Bond Programme; we did not approved proposals of deputies as they tried to solve important issues by a wrong way. What you should know is that we did not resign to communication on the operation of our forces and means of the Ministry of Defence in foreign missions; we suspended that item until the next week and we still have time to negotiate. We will try to invite relevant parliamentary representatives responsible for the foreign and security policy to take part in the meeting of the government. We are of the opinion that the international disgrace, harm of our reputation, jeopardizing of our soldiers who would rest in those territories without a mandate in case of disapproval of their mission, because they would not be able to withdraw, all the political connotations including a clear signal of the new American administration on strengthening of the international missions in that region, risks resulting from withdrawal of this area, lead me to the attitude that I regard the approach of the Chairman of the Social Democratic Party as very irresponsible and I do not think that this issue may be a subject of any political discussion connected with different things. This issue itself is beyond the mandate of this cabinet; the ODS which was in the opposition during the last election period, always negotiated about this issue and it was willing to support, as the opposition, that proposal and those missions. I think that it is all as an introduction and the remaining matters I will leave to your questions. Now, who will speak as the first one? Will it be in a hierarchical order? Yes, Alexandr Vondra.
Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: My information will be brief. It is Ivan Langer who has a lot of things to present. I have not anything to say in fact as the Prime Minister is in the international politics as in his element and the most important things have already been said. Ministers were mainly interested in the gas supplies, of course. There is nothing to add, I think. Negotiations are being held; now, the extraordinary meeting of ministers of energy affairs, which has been chaired by Martin Říman is to finish and you will be given topical information at the press conference. Then a meeting of members of the ministerial European council for energy affairs with representatives of Russia and Ukraine should be held. Nevertheless, we take that promise which was given both during the telephone call and during negotiations of Martin Říman and Václav Bartůška with the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Setchin on gas flow starting from eight o'clock very seriously. As to the session of the Committee for the European Union, we did not debate any essential material. We approved the mechanism of signing on behalf of the European Union because thanks to our presidency the Czech representatives would be entitled to sign various international treaties, which would be concluded by the EU and third parties. It must be absolutely clear what documents will be signed by ministers, what documents will be signed by ambassadors and such like. Minister Karel Schwarzenberg provided information on the current situation in the Middle East, in the Gaza Strip; we cannot say anything new. We are preparing further important events in the framework of Czech presidency; the most important one will be held in the European Parliament. The Prime Minister will introduce our programme, I will give information on the gas issue and I will take part in interpellations for the first time. Minister Schwarzenberg will provide information on the situation in the Middle East. these are crucial events as far as the next week is concerned; at the end of the next week on 15th and 16th January, a great informal ministerial council of ministers of justice and interior will be held and it will be chaired by Ivan Langer and Jiří Pospíšil. I suppose it is enough as an introduction and I pass the floor to the next speaker. Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs and now the Minister of Interior, Mr. Ivan Langer has the floor.
 Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: That is a pleasure.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I thought that it would be a different order. Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Excuse me; it is the First Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Jiří Čunek who has the floor now.
Jiří Čunek, First Deputy Prime Minister: Thank you for the floor. As to the next week in Brussels I would like to add that I will argue for the so called "housing", together with the lady Commissioner, at the session of a committee of the European Parliament on Monday. It concerns those 13 billion crowns which the Czech Republic will get from the European funds, and which will be used for heat insulation of houses and for energy conservation; I firmly believe that it turn out well. The second issue which will be negotiated is the increase of advance payments of the European Commission which will be given the individual countries for their programmes. The increase is by 2%; now it is 2% of 26,7 billion crowns and it will be 4%. Thus the situation of funding our programmes may be improved. That was also the reason why we agreed that it will be I who will complete the work as I have been working on it for several months. As to the proposal which I submitted today, it concerned mandatory procedures for procurement co-financed from the EU funds not falling within the scope of the Act no. 137/2006 Coll. on Public Procurement. It was an important legal norm and I submitted it because we had been aware of the fact that certain countries, which were drawing funds in the past and which finished the drawing, had to return financial means in case it was found out during controls of the Commission that they had driven funds in a improper way. It concerned billions euro in case of Spain, for example. To avert such a situation in the Czech Republic, we have prepared this binding norm which will be obligatory for all the authorities of the state and public administration which were in charge of operational programmes. Thus we will reduce number of mistakes. This is a task of this Act. And one more matter which is submitted regularly in January concerned drawing of funds in 2004 and 2006. That drawing should be finished in 2008. However, we have been negotiating from autumn so that we could prolong that time. Finally it was accepted for all the European states and therefore we can prolong drawing by half a year. Up to now we have drawn about 92% of the total allocation and it seems that after that half a year it might be nearly 100%, about 99%. Thank you.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the First Deputy Prime Minister and now the Minister of Interior, Mr. Ivan Langer has the floor.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: Good afternoon once more. I will try to be brief, apt and perhaps interesting. The Ministry of Interior had two great tasks, two great reform projects in this election period. The first one was the reform of the Police, the implementation and transformation phase of which began on 1st January 2009. The second task was the reform of the public administration and introduction of information and communication technologies and enhancement of the role of the e-Government. This area was divided in four basic projects. The first one concerned the implementation of all-purpose contact points of the public administration, so called CzechPoints. You know that there are more than 3000 such CzechPoints where more than 1 million extracts from various records have been issued. I suppose that some of you used the opportunity to require actual statement on number of penalty points in the register of drivers. The second project in the framework of the eGON concerned the communication infrastructure of the public administration; thanks to the harmonized approach we reached economies of hundreds million crowns in the entire public administration. The third project concerned the Act on e-Government, in other words implementation of an obligatory form of communication between authorities by means of electronic documents delivered to the so called data boxes. This project and the system of deliveries through data boxes will start as of July 2009. The project of the reform of public administration and the e-Government on the governmental level reached today its final phase as "brains" of the eGON – those four laws on basic registers have been approved. They are the personal register, register of population, register of territorial identification, and the register of right and obligations. These laws will be submitted to the Chamber of Deputies. Our objective is clear – the public administration has all the data about us and in spite of that fact, it is constantly forcing us to submit various pieces of information and to require extracts from various records. Four basic registers collect all the existing data and they force authorities to mutually communicate and not to ask us to document information which they have. This package of laws is undoubtedly the greatest legislative work in this election period not only from the point of view of legislation, but it brings a new philosophy for the public administration. Part of this package is also an amendment which will enable to issue electronic identity cards, which will mean simplification for citizens on the one hand and on the other hand it will ensure higher security as far as misuse of personal data is concerned. I am very pleased that the government supported this work in which nearly all ministries were involved. I believe we will manage not only to reach our objective – to save time, nerves and money, but that we will reach what has already been mentioned by the Prime Minister – that the Czech Republic, as far as implementation of the e-Government is concerned, will improve its position in the table of countries from one of the last positions to the sixth position at the worst. Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Interior and all members of the government, and now there is time for your questions. Holuštík, Lidové noviny: Mr. Prime Minister, you said that you would announce names of successors of ministers later on; nevertheless, would you take into consideration those proposals of your coalition partners, Christian Democrats and the Green Party? Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: The entire process rather overran. It was caused by the fact that it was necessary to debate it in the highest organs of the coalition parties. I will take into consideration these proposals of course, as I think that they were debated. But the final decision must be taken by the Prime Minister and therefore it will be my work. I suppose you will be informed on these names soon. I do not read newspapers, as you know, and that is why I am not informed about speculations; I am a blank sheet of paper in this respect. Jakub Dospiva, Czech News Agency: Just a small question concerning this issue – Christian Democrats as well as the Green Party has debated it in their party organs. Has also the ODS debated it in its party organs? Thank you. Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: We have been debating it in the party committee for quite a long time. It is not my duty to discuss this issue at a high organ of the ODS; I will do so at the session of the executive council on 19th January. I as the Prime Minister have quite simpler position in this respect. Ivana Svobodová, Týden: Mr. Prime Minister, excuse me, you said that you did not read newspapers, that you did not know anything about speculations; may I inform you on them? Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: You can ask any question in this respect; nevertheless, I will not say anything about it, anyway, and you know it well. It is not a question; say that rejoinder of yours and it will be the end. Kateřina Eliášová, Mr. Prime Minister, may I ask you a question? You always say that personnel issues are not as important as priorities of the government. Can you name these priorities that are ahead of you or will you be informing on them later on. Thank you. Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I have said clearly it in my introductory speech and therefore I will just repeat it. I do not think that there is somebody who would be surprised at the fact that the principal priority of the government, without resigning to the elements of the Programme Declaration of the Government, is managing of economic impacts of the world financial crisis and possible impacts on citizens, inhabitants and firms, of course. I constituted the National Economic Council of the Government last week and number of other mechanisms. The first session of the council will be held on the next but one Monday as on the next Monday ministerial councils in the framework of the presidency are organized. At this session we are to discuss concrete proposals concerning the National Crisis Plan. I do not think there is somebody who would expect a greater priority, let alone the Czech presidency which I regard as a standard agenda. This is an absolute priority of the government and the government must show certain competence and ability to respond to the situation which is not completely foreseeable. The government must be prepared for various scenarios and various crisis situations, and it must be able to solve them. This is the priority of the government. Kateřina Eliášová, And how about the reforms? Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I will refer you to words that I said about three minutes ago. Without resigning to the Programme declaration of the Government, the absolute priority is what I have said just now. Škodová, Právo: I would like to ask a question concerning the gas crisis. Certain solution was taking shape yesterday, and then there occurred complications because of some annexes of the Ukraine side. Do you have information on the origin of those annexes and on the current situation? Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: Certainly, I have that information as I took part in those negotiations. I should say that it was artificially created problem, and it is also the opinion of Brussels lawyers. That unilateral declaration had no impact on the agreed text; nevertheless, as there was no legal instrument there, finally quite non-standard and fast solution was reached. You must realize that it was rather a political agreement, you cannot extort gas supplies on the Russian side - you can just extort lawfulness of agreements. I should say that neither the Commission nor the Czech presidency wanted to cause speculations on lawfulness of the agreement. The agreement is valid from the very beginning and I hope that within following 36 hours gas from the transit Ukraine gas line will reach Hungarian, Slovak, Romanian and Polish frontiers. I should say that there was a complication and we can expect another one. I am relatively informed optimists, so rather sceptic; there are lots of technical problems there which cannot be solved by the Czech presidency or by the European Commission. Vladimír Putin assured me that they would not obstruct it at all. It did not concern price agreements, there was a great number of technical aspects; nevertheless, Russians confirmed that in spite of those technological aspects after the placement of the monitoring system, they would begin to supply gas in the system and they would check supplies at the input and output of the Ukraine transit system. I have nothing to add to it; it is the only one possible solution how to reach political agreement at present. Mladá fronta Dnes: I have a question to the Deputy Prime Minister. Mr. Deputy Prime Minister you had not say anything about the step that you took today. Can you make a comment on it? What was the point? Jiří Čunek, First Deputy Prime Minister: I had a great advantage that I decided on it myself; so, it is a great advantage and my colleagues understand it. There was no external reason, because after the external pressure passed off I could concentrate only on internal problems which had occurred in the KDU-ČSL (Christian Democratic Party). I found out that my continuance in the office would even worsen those problems. That is why I decided to take this step; it was because of the KDU-ČSL. Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I would like to add, because I want to avoid speculations, that Jiří Čunek will remain a member of the session of economic ministers in spite of the fact that he will not be a minister. He is the chairman of the coalition party and thus more frequent communication in the framework of K3 and K9 or K100 (meeting of three or none representatives of the coalition parties, or communication of 100 deputies in the Chamber of Deputies) will be necessary. There was an agreement concluded on finishing certain works that could hardly be done by a new minister in this respect. It was necessary and rational step. Šindelář, Czech News Agency: I have questions concerning two, rather marginal issues. First, whether the government approved Eva Anderová as a Czech representative in the International Bank of Economic Cooperation and in the International Investment Bank – that was point no. 22. And the second question – did the government approved the point no. 13? Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: Well, the point no. 13 of the original proposal was based on the agreement of Minister Bursík and Minister Gandalovič was postponed until the end of February. The reason is that we are currently not under great pressure and we know that we will debate it in the European Commission in March and now standard materials on waste water treatment are being worked out at present. It is absolutely rational procedure as we will be able to assess situation in Slovakia. It does not mean that we resign to the objective to reach, without damage, prolongation of the deadline beyond 2010. As to the point no. 22, it was not considered in the course of debate and therefore it was approved in the framework of the general vote; she was appointed. Janeš, Právo: I would like to ask a question on foreign missions. The government suspended the material by one weeks – do you expect some negotiations with the opposition, with Jiří Paroubek? Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I have a feeling again that I have already said it; nevertheless, I will repeat it with pleasure. I said that there were new conditions imposed. Even the original framework was changed because the new material was written in compliance with the requirements that the opposition leaders asked in the Chamber of Deputies. It concerned the average number of soldiers in Afghanistan and termination of our mission Enduring Freedom in 2009. In this respect we want to create space for participation of people who are responsible on the institutional level, in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate; it means chairmen of committees. We will agree on the composition of those officials who will be invited to the meeting of the government, so that we could discuss it in this composition. I do not think it is a party or ideological matter. I think that there are valid treaties here; we have certain commitments to our allies and we have our state interests; not only in the course of the term of this cabinet. That is why we created space for negotiation, whether it would be negotiation of opposition leaders with the government or negotiation with invited officials during the meeting of the government on the next Monday. Ivana Svobodová, Týden: Mr. Prime Minister, the chairman of the Green Party Martin Bursík expressed slight disagreement with the composition of the National Economic Council of the Government. He said he regretted that there was no post for a representative of the Green Party available. I would like to ask whether you have already debated this issue, whether it has already been settled. Simply said, can you say something about it? Thank you. Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: With regard to the fact that it was yesterday and that time passes quickly, I think that there is different situation today. Members of the council are not blue, green or violet. The council is composed absolutely apolitically in this respect. I composed it myself and I do not have a feeling that there is somebody who would be entitled to influence it. I tried to involve in the council various opinion trends, whether I mean macroeconomic or microeconomic ones, various scenes it means bank, finance or academic and business scene. I also regret that no representative of the ODS is a members of the council. I would also like to have some friends of mine there; nevertheless, I regard this council composed of ten experts as a balanced team which represents various views. The fact is that we can invite also other consultants, whether they will be invited by the individual ministries or to the session of economic ministers. We are cooperating with great number of other people, and it is true, of course, that this organ has no executive power; it has just advisory power and I regard it as an erudite body in this respect. I have briefly spoken to Martin Bursík and I will create space for experts which were recommended by him, so that they could communicate with the government independently on this National Economic Council of the Government. Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank you for your answer. I thank all members of the government; I thank you for your attention and good-bye.

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