Press Conferences

9. 3. 2009 16:04

Press Conference after the Meeting of the Government, Held on Monday 9th March 2009

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference after the meeting of the government. I welcome the Prime Minister Mr. Mirek Topolánek, the Minister of Agriculture Mr. Petr Gandalovič and the Chairman of the Legislative Council of the Government, Mr. Pavel Svoboda. The prime Minister will give his introductory speech as usual.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: As to those items which concerns proposals of deputies and senators, I will ask Mr. Minister Svoboda to provide necessary information on them as I think it would be simpler if he explains the standpoints of the government. Jiří Paroubek required our internal matter, which concerned certain monitoring software of projects which the government had identified in the framework of the Programme Declaration of the Government. We submit that report regularly every month, we assess tasks which were started, which are delayed and tasks which were not started yet. We debated formally this point today. In fact it is possible to state that regarding points of the Programme Declaration which has not been started yet, it concerned only those items which had been were cancelled because they had been useless or because of other agreement. The overwhelming majority was either passed through the legislative process or would be submitted to it. It does not mean that those points will be adopted by the Chamber of Deputies, it is not a matter of the government; nevertheless, this item was noted by the government. We debated certain formal amendments to the Act on Budgetary Stabilization which concerned environmental taxes. We debated the Draft Government Order on international transport of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. We also debated concept measures of the state policy towards people with health disabilities which had been submitted by Mr. Minister Kocáb. Furthermore, we discussed possibilities of involving municipalities into the decision-making process on location of underground dumps and the Minister Říman submitted the identification of the problem areas of elected regulations concerning environment protection related to the production and entrepreneurial spheres; it was the second stage of the update. Minister Gandalovič will inform you of the item which concerned the Supporting Guarantee Agricultural and Forestry Fund. We also approved guarantees on easing past environmental burdens. All of us hope that it was the last material of this type and that we will succeed in transferring the responsibility for the increase of works related to the old environmental burden resulting from the agreement of the National Privatization Fund with privatized firms to the new owners. That is all prom my side. Before I give the floor to my colleagues I would like to answer a question which you would ask anyway. Yesterday I just succinctly responded to the expulsion of two lady deputies of the Green party. I do not think that this matter complicates the activities of the government. This state has been continuing for some time. Neither of those lady-members of the Green Party was a member of the Group of Deputies of the Chamber of Deputies. Those negotiations were very complicated and they were rather simplified in this respect. Both lady deputies who will not be members of a group of deputies are in the negotiating regime a well as any other deputies who are not members of any group. It does not mean any complication for the government in comparison with the previous state. This was information I wanted to provide. Now I give the floor to my colleagues.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I than the Prime Minister and now I ask the Minister of Agriculture for his information.

Petr Gandalovič, Minister of Agriculture: Ladies and gentlemen, the government took further step towards its support of farmers. You know that it transferred to the Supporting Guarantee Agricultural and Forestry Fund (PGRLF) 2,6 billion crowns at the turn of the year. You also know that we succeeded in amending the Act on Agriculture in the Chamber of Deputies based on the initiative of deputies and thus to enlarge possibilities of the PGRLF to provide larger spectrum of supports, in particular guarantees of operational credits; it concerned purchase of debts of food enterprises and the support of credit rates. The government approved all my proposals today. We are just waiting for debating the amendment to the Act on Agriculture in the Senate and the signature of the President. I suppose that those 2,6 billion crowns could be transferred to the agriculture area in April depending on the signature of the President. I would like to say that it is an evidence of our efforts to help farmers in this complicated situation. I think that similar measures are being taken in other countries of the EU, as well. You know that based on the agreement with the Prime Minister we increased direct additional payments to the maximum possible level in fact. We are also preparing further measures, in particular in the milk sector. I have already informed the Agrarian Chamber of those measures. Unfortunately, the approach of farmers, whether it is motivated by desperate situation they are facing or other motives which I do not want to speculate about, I regard this approach as inadequate. A demonstration of farmers, which is to be held on Thursday, has been notified. In fact, it will be the day of the arrival of the lady Commissioner Fischer-Bell who will participate in the conference on food quality that is being organized by us. I regard this as useless and flashily gesture, which will not have any influence on milk prices. It will not enable farmers to increase those programmes; it will only worsen the situation when we, as the presiding country, organize that significant conference in which 11 European commissioners and a great number of foreign experts including the lady Commissioner will be participating. That pouring out of milk in front of the Ministry of Agriculture or something like that can hardly change the situation. If there is something what could change it or help farmers, then they are measures that were approved by the government today.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Agriculture and now I ask Mr. Minister Svoboda for his information.

Pavel Svoboda, Chairman of the Legislative Council of the Government: Thank you. As the Prime minister has already said, there were six proposals of deputies on the agenda. The first one was the proposal of Deputies Čurdová, Lesenský, Paroubek, Vlček and others for promulgation of the Act on Subsistence Minimum and Breadline. They proposed not to include compensations for damage and non-property damage, including those that are awarded by the European Court for Human Right or other international institutions. The government expressed its disapproval to this proposal because based on the current legislation these compensations are not used for the calculation of the subsistence minimum. That is why the proposed amendment was redundant.

The second proposal was the proposal of deputies Bičík, Černý and Koníček for promulgation of the Act on Rules of Procedures of the Chamber of Deputies. The objective of deputies was to strengthen the control function of the Chamber of deputies and to introduce an accelerated procedure for non-legislative materials; such materials would be debated only within the individual committees and the vote in the Chamber of Deputies would be without the debate. Unfortunately, during the analysis of the material it was shown that it did not concern only non-legislative functions but any materials within the competence of the Chamber of Deputies. Thus, the proposed amendment could cause the situations that material which would be debated in committees could not be debated in the session of the Chamber of Deputies. That is why we refused that proposal.

The third proposal was the proposal of deputies Marková, Filip, Kovářík, Bičík, Fialová, Černý, Vostrá a Levá for the promulgation of the Act no. 48/1997 on Public Health Insurance. They proposed a total revocation of fees in the public health care sphere. It is obvious that also this proposal was refused by the government.

Further proposal was the proposal of deputies Levá, Bebarová-Rujbrová, Bičík, marková, Vostrá, Šenfeld and others for promulgation of the Act on Radio and Television Fees. It was proposed to increase the level for freedom from radio and television fees of natural persons with lower income than 2,15 multiple of subsistence minimum up to triple of the subsistence minimum and in case of families with income lower than 2,1 multiple of the subsistence minimum up to 2,5 multiple of the subsistence minimum. Unlike submitters who supposed that such a proposal would have only insignificant impact on funding of the Czech Radio and the Czech Television, our analyses show that such an amendment would concern half a million people, which would mean 800 million crowns in case of television fees and about 245 million crowns in case of radio fees. It was not proved that such a decrease of revenues could be compensated by restructuring measures or by better fee collection. That is why the government expressed its disapproval to this proposal.

The proposal of deputy Dudáčková concerned conditions which were to be met by persons applying for a driving licence. This proposal was refused because according to majority of institutions which gave their comments to it, it contravened the laws of the EU. In compliance with the law of the EU an applicant must apply for the driving licence in the country of so called usual residence; it is a country where a person stay for 185 days a years. The deputy proposed not to apply this rule for Czech citizens even if they would not stay in the Czech Republic for 185 days. Majority of institution that had been asked for their comments were of the opinion that such a proposal contravened the EU rules and therefore the government expressed its disapproval to this proposal.

And finally the last proposal of deputies Filip, Branný, Kovářík and others for promulgation of the Act on Repeal of the Act on Ban of Supplies for the Nuclear Power Plant in Bushehr. The deputies proposed to repeal the Act because of its obsolescence. The institutions which had been asked for their comments pointed out that it was not enough to state that the nuclear power Plant had been constructed; the ban concerned exports of all goods provision of services, intangible rights and it was possible to apply them to the entire existence of that power plant. Therefore the Act is not obsolete and the government expressed its disapproval to the proposal.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Chairman of the Legislative Council of the Government and now there is time for your questions.

TV Nova: I have two questions. Did you debated today the extraordinary subsidy of 20 million crowns for glassblowers, which should help those people who needed it most, as the Minister Nečas and trade unions have mentioned? And the second question – will you confirm or deny words of Mr. Bursík who said that lady deputies Jakubková and Zubová held the government in a vice-like grip? They connected this issue with the vote of confidence.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: As you understood we did not approve lots of proposals, as the proposal concerning health care fees was not very ambitious; I would recommend total revocation – but it was rather an attempt for a joke, of course. I was not present at the large part of the meeting of the government and so I must to ask Petr Gandalovič – no, we did not debate it. The main reason was that Minister Nečas was not present at the meeting as performed some European duties. The second question sounds as if it were asked by a tabloids; it is a question rather to those lady deputies. I do not want to answer it and I am not willing to participate in some intraparty games of the Green Party. Do not expect anything like that of me.

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

Czech TV: Good afternoon. I would like to know whether you debated that anti-crisis package of the health care sphere. What was the result like?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: It was the same problem. We are really pressed by the Czech presidency to postponement certain issues by the time when the respective minister is present. That package has been formally debated at the meeting of economic ministers and it was approved in fact. As it concerns the subject-matter of the law, it will be undoubtedly debated next week. I regard those measures as absolutely necessary and relatively well prepared both at the revenue and expenditure side. I will support it. However, there are certain technical details there which forced me to wait for Petr Nečas. They are rather technical problems. All of us agree with the principal idea, because the drop is quite apparent. Health insurance companies have data on that drop of revenues and that drop must mean certain response of the government. It is not an anti-crisis package; I would not say something like this. They are rather measures aimed at elimination of impacts of the economic recession in the Czech Republic. It will not have any anti-crisis impacts in fact; it will rather respond to the current situation.

Reuters: Good afternoon. There was also the programme of the visit of the Luxembourg government on the agenda of the meeting. It is to be made on 12th March. Did you debate it? Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: As I have never seen you here, I give you just brief information - items of the agenda that are considered without the debate or information are not debated at the meeting of the government; they are just approved. It results from the Rules of Order of the Government. Regarding this item, it is a standard visit planned well ahead. Jean-Claude Junker will arrive as the last one in the framework of that "Tour de Capitale". A standard bilateral agenda will be debated as we are presiding to the EU Council and at the spring summit the economic issues will be debated; moreover, Mr. Junker is the head of the Eurogroup and it is also the Prime Minister and the Minister Finance. All that enlarges those bilateral topics up to European topics; I mean for example the G20 session which will be held in London and other principal issues of the European debate.

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

Czech TV: I have a question concerning the Green party. I will ask my question in a different way. Věra Jakubková and Olga Zubová are ready not to support the government unless you negotiate with them and deny the statement of martin Bursík. I do not ask whether you will deny it or not, but if you are ready to negotiate on this issue.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I suppose you do not expect any answer of me as I have already said all about it.

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

Czech TV: I would like to ask, as Mr. Minister Kalousek is not present, whether you debated the proposal of the Ministry of Finance which should precise clauses concerning the exemption from paying the environmental tax as far as combined heat and energy production is concerned.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: We debated it; rather formally as it was an issue resulting from that one-year experience. It was approved without problems as it rather reflected the current situation in the area of environmental tax.

Czech TV: What will be the particular impacts like?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: You are asking me a question that I am not able to answer as I regarded it as a formal change. I do not think it will have any particular impacts; it was rather a matter of a technical character. I did not have a feeling that it was something serious. I apologize but it is rather a question to Miroslav Kalousek who is in Brussels now at the Ecofin session.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, Good afternoon. I would like to ask whether you knew that the former member of the NERV (National Economic Council of the Government) was, according to files of the StB (State Security Police) a collaborator of that organization and whether you would disengaged him from his position in case he would not resign.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: Owing to the fact that I regard the as a tabloid investigative server, I do not have a feeling that I must answer that question. I did not know it but it does not change anything regarding this matter. I took him as the Chairman of the Bank Association, not like a former collaborator of the StB.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you; are there any further questions, please?

Mediafax: I would like to ask a question – the Chairman of the Social Democratic Party repeated today that you should submit a new form of a realistic state budget as that original one was carried out based on unrealistic figures. What do you say about it? And Mr. Jiří Havel, a member of the Social Democratic party called you to submit all matters concerning the Čunek case. Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I do not know who Mr. Jiří Havel is. Who is it?

Mediafax: He is a leader of the list of social democratic candidates for European Parliament elections.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: I see. Does it have any connection with those elections? I did not quite understand your question. NO. I am not willing to respond to two press conferences of Jiří Paroubek a day. It is really complicated. I do not respond to what I immediately hear, let alone to what you tell me vicariously at my press conference. I am not able to respond to it. I am of the opinion that everyone understood it, in particular economists, which was really very difficult in his case. The state budget that we submitted enabled us to make certain expansion on the expenditure side. It was very hard then to identify problems which could the Czech Republic face in this year. It was a correct and it was proved by those measures that would be implemented by the Czech Republic this year. Among those recommendations of the European Commission approved at the December session of the EU Council in the framework of the economic reconstruction plan were investments to the infrastructure and some others. We would not change the expenditure side of the budget. The revenue side was changed through the measure which you must have noticed. I mean the reduction of reserves and binding 5% of the budget in all the budgetary headings with great number of other measures. Thus the requirement of Jiří Paroubek in not only uneconomical but it is also derisory. As to the second question, I should say that I have said everything about the Čunek´s case and I regard the actions of the Prosecuting Attorney's Office as correct regardless my opinion concerning this case. All people who were engaged in this case breached the law and the respective procedures and the Prosecuting Attorney's Office had no other possibility. I agree that it was not absolutely correct but I regard those efforts to revert that case back to the political scene as rather confusing as it has been shown that they were just people connected with the party of Jiří Paroubek who on various levels of those regional structures infringed into this case and I am of the opinion that it will be proved in the nearest future.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, Radiožurnál and then Czech TV.

Radiořurnál: Good afternoon. I have one question to Minister Gandalovič. There are only three days left to the Thursday demonstration. Tomorrow the Agrarian forum will be organized at the Žofín Island. Will you be trying to persuade farmers to cease those protests? Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: Before an expert standpoint of Minister Gandalovič I would like to say something as it has a political context. I remember those last actions, that starting of tractors relating to the issue of direct payments. It was very complicated to cancel that action then as we satisfied all the requirements of farmers. Those tractors were nearly started up because every organization needed to strike from time to time. I regard this action as coercive, useless and nonsensical and I ask the Agrarian Chamber not only to cease those rather advertising actions as they are useless. It is similar to that action of glassblowers who demonstrated in front of the Office of the Government while they should have demonstrated in front of different company. All steps that are being taken by us are aimed at satisfying those requirements if they are valid. I do not regard actions like that very seriously.

Petr Gandalovič, Minister of Agriculture: I would like to add that one of topics of that demonstration is the requirement for immediate levelling out of direct payments up to EU15 level. It is a requirement that absolutely contravene the Acquis Communautaire of the European Union a all of us know that just the gradual increase of those payments is part of accession treaties. It was approved in the referendum and ratified by all EU15 countries. I am aware of the situation on the milk market which is very complicated at present. We, as the Czech Republic, are not the only one country which is facing such a situation; nevertheless, to demonstrate against accession treaties which were approved in the referendum is absolutely nonsensical and I regard that demonstration as useless. It is just a demonstration of forces during top session in the presence of lady commissioner and the European ministers.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you.

Czech TV: Mr. Prime Minister, I know that Mr. Minister Kalousek is not present; nevertheless, I ask a general question. Mr. Petr Chrenko, the Deputy Minister of Finance, admitted yesterday that you considered revocation of the so called "super-gross salary". Also other models are being considered. Did you debate it at the meeting of the government? Could you say something more about it?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: We did not debate it. I do not regard it as probable. The Ministry of Finance is preparing quite a new model of the income tax. It has been working on it for more than two years. We, at the meeting of the economic ministers are continuing it in spite of rather controversial debate. The fact that it is useful to remove exceptions, including meal tickets, that it is good to simplify all that procedure, may lead to a completely different model. I do not think that the discussion will be short as the principal change which will affect the entire income tax of natural persons and legal entities cannot be solved in a short time. The fact that we debate this issue is a different problem. It is not because the "super-gross wage" is a bad idea. On the contrary, it should show people what is the share of the social and health insurance when we add payments of employers and employees; how much people give to the pension system and to the health care system. I do not think that the system failed; nevertheless, the new construction may be more modern and it may more satisfy both citizens and firms. I know that it is being prepared as a concept. Mr. Deputy Minister Chrenek could not mean it as the only one way of the solution as it was not so. He even, I do not want to say that he breached subordination; it is good that the discussion was open. Nevertheless, the reason for the debate is not because of malfunction of the system. It is not like that.

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

Mladá fronta Dnes: I would like to ask what was the result of the debate on the permanent deposits of nuclear waste like.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: What are we agreed on, Mr. Minister?

Petr Gandalovič, Minister of Agriculture: I do not now.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister: Now you pounced upon both of us with your question. The material has been debating by ministers Bursík and Říman for a long time and was approved.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you. Are there any further questions? Thank you for your attention and do not be angry with us because of your waiting so long. Good-bye.

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