Press Conferences

10. 4. 2009 16:00

Press Conference after the Meeting of the Government, Held on Monday 30th March 2009

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference after the meeting of the government and the National Security Council. I welcome the Prime Minister Mr. Mirek Topolánek, and the Minister of Finance Mr. Miroslav Kalousek.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: Today's press conference is held after the session of the EU Committee, after the meeting of the government and also after the session of the National Security Council. As to the European agenda, I do not think that it is necessary to add something particular; several sessions of ministers have been organized and a very successful one was held at the Hluboká castle. We informed of several negotiations which had been concluded between the EU Council and the European Parliament, in particular those which concerned the issue of Solvency 2 and certain other legal rules. We discussed the mandate for the G20 session and we also debated the visit of President Obama. The agenda of the meeting of the government included number of technical legal rules. One of them concerned the Act on Public Health Protection and it concerns issues connected with hygienic rules and such like. This bill was approved. We approved the Government Order on Reimbursement of certain Expenses to Judges Currying out their Function Abroad. We welcomed the efforts of Minister Petr Gandalovič who, after lots of orders which only amended conditions for subsidy drawing, proposed an order which deregulated and simplified the entire procedure of the import and export licences.

Great number of legal rules concerned proposals of deputies. For example the proposal submitted by deputes Krajíček, Ježek and others which concerned the Act on Employment was aimed at relaxation of rules in case of submitting documents on debt forgiveness and such like. We recommended the Chamber of Deputies to adopt this amendment. We also debated the proposal which concerned entries on property rights relating to real estates, which unfortunately had not been adopted by the Chamber of Deputies. Based on an agreement with the opposition we proposed to adopt the amendment which concerns administration cadastre fees, entries in the register including the exact time of submission, update of forms and digitalization. Revenues gained through those fees will be spent on the digitalization of the entire administration. We recommended approving this proposal. We expressed a negative stand to the proposal, which had been submitted by deputies that concerned laws on universities. Perhaps Mr. Minister Liška will say more about this issue. The proposal of left-wing deputies concerned renaming the Agricultural and Forestry University to the Mendel University in Brno. We did not approve with the proposal that concerned participation of policemen in social events as it was not systemic proposal. I am of the opinion that that amendment which was adopted, and the practice, for example the football match of the team Slavia Prague, proves that the amendment enables to increase the responsibility of organizers of those events. On the other hand, it enables to intensify the participation of the Police in case of such event that are supposed to be risky. We also debated the administration responsibility of legal entities and we passed that material to be discussed in the following proceedings and to be compared with the international practice.

One item of mine concerned the summary evaluation of outcomes of research and development programmes concluded in 2007. It was stated there that in spite of the fact that research and development results are not visible in practice, all the programmes had been successfully accomplished. That is why we are glad that the Senate passed the new Act on Support of Research and Development in the last week. This law will markedly influence the practice and it will mean more than only formal rules on use of state subsidies for the support of research and development.

We debated a point that would be presented by Ondřej Liška and which concerned compensation of certain persons who were harmed in early times of the communist regime. The other points will be presented by Mr. Minister Kalousek.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister. I welcome here the Minister of Education Ondřej Liška and now the Minister of Finance Mr. Miroslav Kalousek has the floor.

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: Thank you for the floor. Ladies and gentlemen, as you know the Czech presidency succeeded, after many year's discussion within the EU, in reaching an agreement on VAT rates and I proposed to the government today the reflection of this agreement which enabled countries to transfer certain services with high added values into services with low VAT rate. With regard to the fact that it have immediate impact on employment in all regions, because we can find restaurants, hairdressers and window cleaners in every region, the government decided to approve this proposal and to pass it to the Chamber of Deputies.

What I regard as the most important matter, and what was my priority during negotiations, is the fact that the Czech Republic had an exception negotiated for home care services until 2010. The services concerned children, ill persons, and disabled persons. If it were not that agreement, those services would have to be transferred to the basic VAT rate which is higher by 10%. I would regard it as a great complication in that sphere of services. This agreement and the government's proposal which was passed to the Chamber of Deputies will enable those services to be permanently included in the reduced VAT rate. Similarly, some other services may remain in the reduced VAT rate, for example renovation and repairs of private flats and houses, and the government also proposes to transfer from the basic to the reduced VAT rate also services concerning small repairs, for example bicycles, shoes, leather goods, clothing, carpets, as well as services that concern hairdressers and barbers. The most marked budgetary impact have services of restaurants - the transfer of those services from 19% to 9%. Now I must to disappoint present gentlemen – it does not concern tobacco and alcohol products. It concerns only meals and non-alcoholic beverages.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Finance and now the Minister of Education ha the floor.

Ondřej Liška, Minister of Education: Good afternoon, as another good news from the meeting of the government I would like to mention the fact that I succeeded in fulfilling the task which the government resolved last year – to approve the Government Order on Compensation of University Students. The purpose of this order is to alleviate injuries committed by the communist regime from 25th February 1948 to 31st December 1956 as a result of the political persecution or procedures breaching generally respected human right. The compensation concerns students of universities and a lump-sum settlement will be paid out to them. The ministry in the scope of competences of which those settlements pertain will decide on the compensation. This ministry will also pay out the respective payments amounted to 100000 crowns. This task should have been fulfilled by the end of the last year as the government debated it as early as in October. Nevertheless, we managed to come to the conclusion today because of those inter-ministerial negotiations. That is all on this point. Thank you.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Education. Now there is space for your questions on the agenda of the meeting.

Hospodářské noviny: Does that issue of the administration responsibility of firms mean that the Ministry of Interior submitted several versions and the government now should decide which version to choose so that it would be compatible with other states?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: Exactly so.

Hospodářské noviny: By what time could it be finished? What do you think?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: By 31st December of this year.

Hospodářské noviny: Works on this material were suspended some half a year ago. Why?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: The Ministry informed about the situation. I think that the matter is quite apparent. It is hardly to reach a consensus whether firms can be criminally liable. There are speculations that it might be better to use administration proceedings in such cases. Nevertheless, there is no consensus and therefore we will have materials made which will be prepared by the end of the year for the decision of the government; whatever the decision will be like.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please.

Czech News Agency: The government had allegedly on the agenda also the item concerning the preparation of the legal system after euro introduction in the Czech Republic. What was the decision of the government like? What will be the system like?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: We agreed excellently.

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: There were two materials concerning euro introduction on the agenda. The first one was of a technical character. In spite of the fact that the decision on introduction of euro has not been made, we must have all those technical and organizational steps prepared so that euro could be introduced in the time n+2 years starting from the decision of the government. It is a material which is submitted by the Minister of Finance every year and the government noted it. Also amendments to hundreds of laws are connected with it because nearly in every law there is the word "crown". That is why every law will have to be amended. There are two possible variants here - either a gradual transition during which the individual ministries will propose amendments to laws in the framework of their competences or to use one huge "umbrella amendment". We discussed advantages of both variants. Finally we inclined to the gradual transition, I mean through the individual ministries. One of reasons was that all the countries from which we gain experience, Slovenia, Slovakia, Malta or Cyprus chose this gradual way of transition of their legal systems. We are of the opinion that they had their reasons for that and that is why we chose this variant.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, Mladá fronta.

MfD: Good afternoon. I have a question to the Minister of Education. Does any estimate exist how many people could those compensations concern? And in case they were expelled from a university – how will they prove that they were expelled because of political reasons? Will be certain kind of testimony required? What will be the procedure like? And one more question to the Prime Minister – the Act on Support of the Economic Growth and Social Stability is to be debated in the Parliament tomorrow. Do you think that it should be refused in the first reading or do you incline to further debate so that some its clauses could be pushed through? Thank you.

Ondřej Liška, Minister of Education: It will concern several hundred of persons according to my estimate. We expect this figure. Part of the request which will have to be submitted by applicants must be an original or a certified copy or other document which will prove that an applicant is a rehabilitated student. We expect that as well as in case of other types of compensation various situations may take place and it will be necessary to substantiate the case with other documents.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I would just add that when this matter was assessed for the first time, it was 11 years ago, there were 900 students who were entitled to draw the compensation. Nowadays there are unfortunately only one third of them and it is one of great debt of the Czech society towards people who were affected by ingoing totalitarian power. As to the second question of Mr. Kopecký, our interest is to reach a political agreement. If it is possible the discussion on the solution of that political crisis will be simpler either. Negotiation on it will be held in the evening and therefore I will not disclose information on this issue. I do not regard it as correct.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, RTA.

RTA: I have a question to the Prime Minister; it is similar to that at the last press conference. Did the government debate the appointment of the new Chairman of the Council of ČTÚ (Czech Telecommunication Office)?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: The government did not debate the appointment of the Chairman of the Council of the ČTÚ as it had not been on the agenda of the meeting.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, the TV Nova.

TV Nova: I have a question to the Prime Minister. Mr. President praised today that sign of a possible agreement between the Czech Social Democratic Party (CSSD) and the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) on early elections; nevertheless, he said that it was not still much. Has been any progress made in those negotiations with Jiří Paroubek, or has the phase begun when the whole teams negotiate?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: You know well that I never make comments on vicarious statements. I do not want to comment statements of political players and I have never done it. As to those negotiations, I hope we will have days or even weeks to conclude them. I am afraid that we might have only hours at our disposal. We will certainly make progress because I must leave together with Mr. Minister Kalousek for the G20 session on Wednesday which will be held in London. Therefore we have little time and we will use it for the benefit of people of this country.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question please.

TV Prima: I would like to ask Mr. Minister Kalousek a question concerning the VAT. There is a limit of1 million crowns there. Does it mean that it will not be applied to all tradesmen?

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: I do not understand you now.

TV Prima: Not all tradesmen earn over 1 million crowns and you said that the change of that VAT rate will be only for earnings over 1 million crowns, if I understood well.

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: No. This bill concerns VAT rates. If they charge 19% in restaurants now, they will charge only 9%. If hairdressers charge 19% they will charge 9%. If you are not VAT-payer, you do not charge the VAT. If you allow, I would like to add one more amendment which concerns the VAT. You are certainly informed that the Senate approved the amendment to the Act on VAT according to which it would be possible to deduct the VAT from car prices regardless whether it would be a car or a van. The bill was signed by the President on Friday and I together with the Minister of Interior would do our best to ensure effect of the law starting from 1st April. Give my regards to all those experts who claimed that it would not be possible before the second half of April.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, Právo.

Právo: I would like to ask whether it became evident at the meeting of the government that it was a meeting of the government in demission. And I would also like to use the presence of Mr. Minister Liška and ask you whether you withdrew or will withdraw the Act on Tertiary Education.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I did not notice any change in disposition or diligence of my ministers. On the contrary, the atmosphere was easier in comparison with those hectic meetings when we debated much more essential legal rules.

Ondřej Liška, Minister of Education: As to the Act on Tertiary Education, I did not withdraw any as it was nothing to be withdrawn. We are now in the phase of the preparation of the subject-matter of the law. The first draft will be released for discussion in about two weeks or at the end of April at the latest. I just asked the Prime Minister, after the vote of confidence, to cancel that deadline of submission of the articulated bill. It results from the situation that there is no prospect and I will not be able to fulfil this task. I think, and we agreed on it, that it is necessary to continue an intensive discussion on systemic changes at Czech universities regardless deadlines for submission of a subject-matter of the law or an articulated bill.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, Czech TV.

Czech TV: I have a question to the Prime Minister. An article was published on the server and the deputy Miloš Melčák claimed in it that as early as in January 2007 on the occasion of the vote of confidence the deputy Tlustý ask him not to vote for the government and added that it had been an instruction from the Prague Castle. Did Miloš Melčák inform you of it? Did you know it?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I was not informed by Miloš Melčák but I knew that there was interest not to vote for the government. I knew it, there were several meetings and I know who participated in them. It is not new information for me.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please.

Czech TV: I have one more question concerning negotiations on a new government. Mr. President is in favour of the fastest solution. Do not you afraid that the President would appoint as the prime minister some of his men in case you do not reach any agreement with Jiří Paroubek?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: It would be very inauspicious step. I hope that Mr. President will allow us to negotiate weeks or days at least. The situation after such vote of confidence is absolutely standard here and I do not think that some problem threatens. I regard any hurry-scurry effort to solve a problem which has been here for three years as rather derisory.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, TV Prima.

TV Prima: I have a question concerning computer networks of ministries. Canadian scientists claim that computers at ministries were attacked twice in the last five years. Has any hacker attack taken place here? How do you defend?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: A well-known case of that crypto-terrorism is that of Estonia when the entire public administration was attacked. There exists certain suspicion regarding its background. I have never experienced something like that, nevertheless, it is regarded seriously and in materials of the BIS (Intelligence Service) which were debated by the government the crypto terrorism is regarded as the same threat as the other types of terrorism.

TV Prima: So you have not any signs of such attempts, have you?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I do not know if you are preparing something. We do not have such signs.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Further question, please.

Czech TV: I have a question concerning the agenda of tomorrow's session of the Chamber of Deputies. Legal rules on fees in health care sphere are to be revoked. Do you have support negotiated with your former coalition deputies?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: With regard to the fact that we had support negotiated for that compromise proposal, I do not know what has changed since then. Nevertheless, it is first a practical problem as the atmosphere is not stable and every change cause further instability and chaos. Second, it is a financial problem, as it is quite apparent that in addition to those eight billion crowns, by which the collection of the health insurance will be lower this year, some other money will be added and every government will have to deal with it. I regard it as absolutely inexcusable.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister, members of the government and I thank you for your attention. Good-bye.

print article   email   facebook   twitter