Press Conferences

29. 1. 2008 15:54

Press Conference after the Meeting of the Government Held on 19th December 2007

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference after the meeting of the government. Allow me to welcome members of the government: the Prime Minister Mr. Mirek Topolánek, the Minister of Finance Mr. Miroslav Kalousek, the Minister of Interior Mr. Ivan Langer, and the Minister of Justice Mr. Jiří Pospíšil. I ask the Prime Minister for his introductory speech.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: It has become a custom that those last meetings of the government in the end of a year are not very simple; surprisingly they are the most complicated ones. We had on the agenda in total 40 items which were considered in the course of the debate.
Minister Kalousek will present, apart from correction of certain information on the debt in Libya, also the issue which we debated together with the Czech National Bank, which concerned the Assessment of Maastricht Convergence Criteria Implementation and of Progress of the Czech Republic's Harmonization with the Euro Area. I think I can announce now that we will not discuss the Road Act. We postponed it until 9th January, as there is certain space there for harmonization of attitudes. There are some standpoints regarding which we need to have certain studied made on impacts and I suppose the Act to be approved on 9th January. Key legal norm which were approved today concerned the sphere of justice; it will be the Minister Jiří Pospíšil who will present them. They concern the Draft Re-codification of the Substantive Criminal Law and the Bill amending the Civil Procedure Code. The Minister of Interior had number of items on the agenda today, which would be presented by him, himself. As far as items which were submitted by deputies are concerned, perhaps to the only one item there was a neutral stand; the item concerned the Act on Waters and prolongation of deadlines for applicants. So, that was just a formal matter; all the other items would be, based on the proposal of the Legislative Council of the Government, submitted to the Chamber of Deputies with negative stands.
We approved the Bill amending the Act on Electronic Communications and number of Government Orders, which are usually debated in the end of a year; they concerned for example provisions of premiums to pensions to mitigate certain grievances caused by the communist regime, housing contributions from the state social assistance, Government Order on Compensation Arrangement for Loss on Earnings Incurred after Sick Leave, they concerned similar proposals of the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Interior on various compensations for loss on earnings, and such like.
We also approved the Draft Government Order on National Programme of Reducing Emissions from Current Mainly Large Burning Sources. We approved number of items of formal character, which concerned the Statute of the External Development Cooperation, certain changes in the Legislative Council of the Government Council, we expressed our approval to flight over our territory, and such like.
I do not want to bother you with all the items which we debated. I suppose ministers to present them; their information will be by far more interesting and therefore I ask them to express their views on materials submitted.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister and now the Minister of Finance, Mr. Miroslav Kalousek has the floor.
Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: Good afternoon, I will be brief and I will be at your disposal in case of any questions. First of all I would like to inform you on the fact that at the closed session of the government the problem of unblocking of the Libyan debt, which dates back to the time of Czechoslovakia, was debated. I informed the government that at the last intergovernmental negotiation the Libyan side presented a letter of 1997, which doubted existence of this debt; but the letter was likely to be signed by the then Egyptian deblocking agent. With regard to the fact that the above-mentioned letter had no basic cogency, it included errors and typos; it was apparently an attempt to impair interests of the Czech Republic and to mislead the Libyan side. I emphasize again that it was dated in 1997 and that it was presented as late as at the last negotiation. The Ministry of Finance gives rise to initiate proceedings of investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating bodies. The Libyan debt is now registered by national banks of both states and its solution will continue through negotiations with the Ministry of Finance of Libya. That was information on this issue.
Furthermore, let me inform you that I asked the government on the change of the task regarding the Lottery Act. The comment procedure to the legislative proposal has been finished, and it persuades me that to prepare the legislative form of the law would not be quite good step, and that the right step would be to submit a subject-matter of the law, to debate the concept, to make principal political decisions and only then to transform these decisions into legislative form. Therefore, the government assigned me not to continue in the legislative process, but to work out and to submit in the next year the subject-matter of the Lottery Act, which would, be following a debate, transformed into legislative form. There were number of issues on the agenda of the meeting of the government which concerned the Ministry of Finance, but I do not want to detain my colleagues who have more important issues. I will let my issues on your questions and on your interest.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Finance and now the Minister of Justice, Mr. Jiří Pospíšil has the floor.
Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: Thank you. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. This is the draft of the Criminal Code, which was approved by the government today. Thus we fulfilled our promise, which is also included in the Programme Declaration of the Government – that the government would accomplish the new codification of the substantive criminal law. I emphasize that it is not mere amendment to a law; it is quite a new law, new code and it is a historical moment from the point of view of the criminal law.
This draft brings number of changes and I will emphasize only some of them now. Firstly, it brings new classification of criminal offences, where at the first place are criminal offences against life and health, as the most serious ones and also sanctions are more severe; exceptional sentence is more severe now.
Secondly, it strengthens position of prosecuting attorneys ; it means that in case it is apparent that evidence is not sufficient and that a court would decide in favour of an accused person and could not condemn it, he/she will have a right to decide and to discontinue a trial. It means that it will require more responsibility from the side of prosecuting attorneys, more courage and willingness to discontinue a trial and to bring an action only in case he/she will have great probability to succeed.
The third matter I would like to mention is that the new law includes alternative sentences. Nowadays, we have 1 000 people in the Czech Republic who are imprisoned; thus we are at the top of Europe as far as the rate of imprisoned persons to 100 000 inhabitants is concerned. We want to change this rate in the future. For this case we want to introduce the house arrest. It is a very important matter which will help in the future.
And the last matter I will mention is strengthening of the principal of protective medical treatment, so called retaining detention, about which we were already speaking. The government put an emphasise on establishing so called detention facilities in the Czech Republic, in which culprits of serious criminal offences would be placed who would commit criminal offences as a consequence of some mental disease or other disease. Thus, they could not be imprisoned and in particular, it would be danger here that imprisonment would not help in their social inclusion, and there would also a danger of further criminal activities; I mean sexual deviants, aggressors and so on. So, the objective of the government is to protect society against these aggressors. That was brief information on the Criminal Code.
As the Prime Minister has indicated, the second key norm which was adopted today concerned relatively extensive amendment to the Civil Procedure Code, the purpose of which was to protect interests of children's right, to strengthen children's rights in all proceedings that concern children. Apart from other things, we introduce quite special type of trials in case of so called international kidnapping when a child from a marriage of citizens of two different states is taken away in another country against a will of the other parent. There are certain examples in the Czech Republic, for example the "Barao case", when a little girl from Portugal was staying here in the Czech Republic against the will of her father. And we want courts to decide quickly in such cases, to decide within weeks, and we would like the decision to impair interests of children as little as possible. Because there is a problem when a decision is taken after some three years, there always certain development takes place and then a decision may be very painful for a child. To summarize it, the amendment is quite extensive and I will answer your questions if any; nevertheless, the philosophy of the law is strengthening of children's protection. For that matter it is one of priorities of the government in the sphere of justice. Thank you.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Justice and now the Minister of Interior, Mr. Ivan Langer, has the floor.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: Good afternoon. The government took further step today in the implementation of the government's strategy concerning the fight against corruption in 2006-2011. I am convinced that we confirmed the objective of this strategy, I mean well thought out long-term conceptual fight against this negative phenomenon. The government debated today conclusions of anti-corruption audits at the individual ministries and noted the report and its results. Consequently, the government assigned individual representatives to act in accordance with conclusions of these anti-corruption audits. The objective of anti-corruption audits was to hold a mirror up to ourselves and I would like to thank all those who were engaged in this work at the individual ministries for their outspokenness. Our objective was also to map existing processes from the point of view of possible risks of behaviour of corruption, from the point of view of ability to detect, analyse, restrict and eliminate it, of course. Further objective was a recommendation of new effective methods, so that the space for actions of corruption would be minimized.
The government also noted information on the course of a pilot project of anti-corruption line 199. You know that it was put into operation on 19th September of this year and since then the line has registered in total 336 cases of relevant calls. If I say relevant, I mean calls which were possible to be investigated in. From our point of view, it is possible to state now, in spite of the fact that the project is still running and it will be finished as late as in February, it is possible to state that the agreement, the intention and the operation through the Transparency International, was a step in the right direction, and that the anti-corruption line no. 199 has its position, it is in compliance with the strategy of the government in its fight against corruption in 2006-2011 , which is based on three basic pillars – prevention, transparency and punishment.
I remark that a bill was passed by the Chamber of Deputies in the first reading based on which position of so called anti-corruption agent was to be established as a concrete step in the framework of this strategy. That was all from my side.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Interior and all members of the government, and now there is time for your questions. The TV Prima, please.
TV Prima: Good afternoon, I have not few questions today. I would like to ask the Minister of Interior Ivan Langer a question regarding the plan of the government, which concerns switching-off of mobile networks in case of a terrorist attack. I would like to ask in what cases it would be used, how it would be operated, and whether you would pay some compensations to the operators, as they complaint about it. We were shooting a shot about it.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: Well, at the yesterday's session of the National Security Council the Action Plan for Fight against Terrorism was discussed. It represents the principal strategic direction of the government in this sphere and contains information on what will be implemented, what will be reached; now concrete fulfilment of the individual tasks begins. The central motive, which goes through this strategy, through this action plan, is very careful balance of two basic freedoms and two basic values – freedom on the one hand and security on the other hand. This is the principal difference in comparison with the original action plan, which was prepared by the Ministry of Interior in past years; it did not balance these two values at all and we were patiently saying, and we insist the plan must respect these two values. What you are talking of, is just a small fragment of the entire action plan, in which t is stated that in case of jeopardizing of health, lives of persons and great property damage, it is possible to for a definite period of time to switch off these networks. I am the last man who would welcome any breakthrough into freedoms of citizens; nevertheless, I am convinced that the objective, which is defined like this, the objective, which anybody can identify with, whether it concerns a natural person or legal entity, whether it concerns a man whose life is jeopardized in case of a terrorist attack or a legal entity which operates mobile phone network.
Jana Čermáková, Česká televize: Good afternoon. I also have several questions, but not all of them concern today's meeting, today's issues. First of all, I would like to ask about the issue, which you, Prime Minister, mentioned that it had been approved; it concerned premiums to pensions to mitigate grievances caused by the communist regime. Could you inform us briefly about this issue?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: It concerned the Draft Government Order which stipulated remedy of injustice for mourners of people afflicted i that period of time. I do not have material on it with me, I should have taken Petr Nečas with me, I did not regard it as important and therefore I do not know details on beneficiaries. The important thing is that it concerned the tendency to remedy injustice of the third revolt and this was in fact the first part, which was approved. I do not know any details on it. - Ivan.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I also wanted to ask for a contact to Petr Nečas, as he was the submitter of that proposal and he knows concrete figures and rules of payments.
Jana Čermáková, Česká televize: In compliance with our expectation the government did not approved the proposal of social democrats to abolish fees in the health care sphere. How this legal norm will turn out in the Chamber of Deputies, what do you think?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Apart from the only one proposal which I mentioned, no proposal was approved. They were either incorrect in the legislative sense, or they contained mistakes or they were just populist. This proposal was a populist one as its purpose was to support that constitutional complaint. I do not think that it that it could be passed in that form. The government did not approve it unanimously.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I think that the proposal could be characterized by two key words – egoism and populism. Egoism, because the proposal a priori refuse responsibility for other generations than that of ours; in other words responsibility for economy and for what we will leave for our children. Populism, because the proposal is not able to accept necessary changes, which our health care needs, changes which are implemented in order the poorest will have enough money for their treatment. I think, if we translate it in different concrete products, if I am able to abnegate one beer, then tens hundreds and thousands people can abnegate something in favour of those who need it.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I just add that this proposal contains also practical mistakes. Our system is balanced and in case of abolition of those fees, I do not think that this situation will occur, it would not mean improvement of situation for patients; on the contrary, it would mean worsening the situation because for example in case of medicals there would not be any medicine without fee in the system. It means that the situation would be worsen, the system of that maximum amount of 5 000 crowns would be destroyed, and therefore especially for those it is intended, especially for pensioners and seriously ill persons who pay now much more than 5 000 crowns per year it would mean worsening. I regard it as very populist, very danger and I of course regard those calls for non-respecting the law as very dangerous. I think that it is for the first time since 1989 that somebody stoops doing such a dishonourable thing.
Jana Čermáková, Česká televize: Can I ask Minister Pospíšil - in the Criminal Code certain clauses have different numbers; what is the reason of it? And the second question – which criminal offences will be stated first. Why the order of criminal offences is different now?
Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: Well, as I have already said it is a new law, not an amendment therefore those numbers are different. We do not amend the existing code; it is quite a new code and therefore clauses which concern the individual criminal offences, for example theft, have different numbers in comparison with the existing code. As the law is rather extensive, there is different structure of merits of cases and authors also specified more exactly great deal of merits of cases. Thus, the structure is different. Some merits of cases in the economic sphere were omitted, for example non-summoning of a general meeting, and so on. I do not think it should be subjected to the sphere of criminal law, and therefore the new law has a different structure. It has different numbers for the individual merits of cases, their order is also different. And if you want to hear my response to your second question, the different order of chapters, in which the individual merits of cases are classified corresponds to the fact how the legal state perceive seriousness of criminal offences. In short, we are convinced that in a legal state criminal offences against health and life are the most serious form of criminal activities, and therefore they are classified in the first part of the code, and therefore there are also more severe punishments proposed in such cases.
Jana Čermáková, Česká televize: Now, really the last question to the Minister of Finance on the Maastricht. It has been shown, and also the Ministry of Finance has already said that the inflation rate in the Czech Republic in the next year will exceed the set level. So, I would like to ask how the Czech Republic might be discredited as far as the European Union is concerned, and what is possible to do , so that it would not be repated in next years.
Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: I think that he price level will not affect only the Czech Republic, I think that the price increase was caused primarily by the price increase at commodity exchanges and by increase of oil prices, and that it will affect all countries of the European Union., it means that all countries will have higher inflation rate than they had in their medium-term predictions. We do not suppose that it is a long–term trend. So, if you have in your mind whether it will impair the credit of the Czech Republic, I must say that it will not. The credit of the Czech Republic would be impaired in case we would not be able to keep our financial discipline, in case we would not be able to decrease the deficit; it would impair our credit, but this phenomenon would not.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please. Mladá Fronta daily, and then the TV Prima.
Josef Kopecký, MF Dnes: Good afternoon, you said that you had unanimously rejected the proposal of social democrats for abolition of newly introduced fees in the health care sphere; nevertheless, the select organs of the KDU-ČSL issued a statement saying that they wanted to consider, after some time, sense of those fees. Did you make clear these different standpoints of the ODS and the KDU-ČSL at the meeting of the government, or what would be impacts on the coalition in case of different attitude of the KDU-ČSL after certain time period? Thank you.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Unfortunately, I had an opportunity to speak to Jiří Čunek as late as after the press conference of the ODS and as early as at the conference I had a feeling that the question was not posed well. What members of the KDU-ČSL say, the Ministry would do anyway, and it is valid not only for those fees, it is valid for number of other measures, and it is a standard assessment of a situation to find out whether expected phenomena, expected collection of fees take place, whether those matters are implementing correctly, whether collection and administration of taxes, collection of fees payment of fees in various areas are done correctly, as it was expected. It is not anything new that an assessment will be made; it is not important whether it will be made in a half a year or in a year. I think that it will be for the first time that it will be possible to assess something, as for the time being, it was not possible to assess anything. Therefore, the assessment will be made and when I hear it from the side of the KDU-ČSL I do not regard that requirement as aggressive and I am not against it, as such an assessment must be made anyway.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question please. The TV Prima.
TV Prima: Perhaps for the last time – I have a question to the Minister of Finance and to the Minister of Justice. To the Minister of Finance – how the changes of the road tax turned out, and whether the absolute amount will be increased or whether it will be in compliance with your proposal. And then a question to the Minister of Justice – how the standpoint of the government to the law suit of house owners in Strasbourg turned out? What was the standpoint. Thank you.
Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: Well, the discussion on the road tax was suspended by me because of rather formal reasons, as the agreement had been reached. The agreement consists in submission of the proposal of the Ministry of Finance to amend § 3 in such a way that vehicles with a hybrid gear will be added and it also concerns those with an electric gear. The Minister of Environment asks for enlargement of this portfolio, so that it would be in compliance with the primary law. It will be a routine matter and we will approve the law on 9th January.
Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: I will briefly answer the question which was directed to me. The government debated the proposal of the Ministry of Justice which contained the statement of the Czech Republic regarding those complaints. This proposal was approved by all members of the cabinet who were present at the meeting, if I am not mistaken. The debate was quite short in fact, I provided just brief information, as the material was properly commented; it means that everybody commented it and we accepted these comments as early as in the course of the procedure in the final proposal.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Further question, please.
Šindelář, Economic Section of the ČTK: Good afternoon, I have a question regarding the item no.12, it means that social pillow for dismissed railwaymen. For how many years the programme is intended, how much money is there in it and how many people should it concern? And then, I would ask for a substantiation regarding the item no.15, it concerned the Act on Wastes. Thank you.
Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: The programme is intended by 2010 or 2012; I think it is more likely by 2010 but excuse me if you will learn that it is by 2012. The total costs of this programme will be around 600 million crowns and programme concerns of course those who will be dismissed in connection with the restructuring; it concerns about 4 000 people.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I would say that we succeeded in negotiating this compromise with railway trade unions this and the continuation of that programme is within the framework of what we agreed with trade unions. The second matter concerned the item no.15. That law or those proposals as they had been submitted were considered by the Legislative Council of the Government and they could not be adopted. They were aimed at would-be right direction, but it was written so badly, without further consequences that we could not adopt it.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: The Ministry of Environment in the cooperation with the Ministry of Interior is working on different wording of the same issue. The reason of our rejection was that in spite of the fact that it was aimed at the right direction, it was poorly written.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I recalled the matter. Some of issues are already included in certain amendments to some laws, which have been already prepared by the individual ministries, and therefore I will try to persuade deputies that those matter which are useful and which were not include in amendments, will be included in the framework of bills which will be processed in a routine way. So, it was not a strict refusal because of the wrong intention, but rather because most of these matters are being solved in a standard way and proposals are included in bills which have been already prepared. I remember it exactly, excuse me.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please.
Hrdlička, ČTK: Good afternoon, I would like to ask Minister Pospíšil whether the government in the framework of the Criminal Code supported the reduction of the criminal liability age limit from 15 to 14 years of age. Thank you.
Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: This is the only one change which was adopted beyond the framework of the text prepared by the Ministry of Justice and it was adopted by the Legislative Council of the Government. We voted about it, because as I stated both variant were possible. The proposal of the Ministry of Justice reflected the majority opinion of the Chamber of Deputies during the last debate on this matter two years ago. Now the government approved the proposal, in which age limit is 15 years of age.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: The vote was relatively close and it is up to the Chamber of Deputies, to legislators to make the final amendment, because it will be a subject of a discussion, of course. It was not regarded as a controversial at the meeting of the government; we rather found out though the control vote which proposal is a majority one. There are a lot of arguments for 14 years of age and a lot of arguments for 15 years of age, as well as a lot of arguments are against both age limits. There are even proposal for further reduction of the age limit, but these are rather marginal. We will let the Parliament to decide whether it will be 14 or 15 years of age. We proposed 15 years.
Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: I would like to say just one sentence to this issue, 14 or 15 years do not concern quality of the criminal code. We submit the criminal Code because of different reasons, which I tried to outline. So, deputies will decide and we will respect it.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, are there any further questions?
Nora Fridrichová, Česká televize: Good afternoon, with regard to the fact that today's meeting of the government was the last meeting in this year, I have one question. What would you like to find under the Christmas tree? What would you like to wish citizens of this country? What would you like to wish Jiří Paroubek? And I have a question to ministers – what do they wish to find under the Christmas tree?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Owing to the fact that the end of the year is drawing near, I would say that all of us are scraping the bottom of the barrel, and therefore I will not be very witty. I would wish to find under the Christmas tree more time for my family, so as to be able to regain my strengths again, so as I would be able to devote my time to those who are around me. I think that it would please me more than home slippers or a tie; nevertheless, I know that I will not get home slippers or a tie. I wish all people in the year, which will follow that turbulent election year, to take all matters calmly, to be able to take those discouragements, all those alarming new with a pinch of salt, I wish them to look into their purses in February or March and compare money with the previous year, I wish them not to be threatened. So, I wish them to keep common sense, I wish them health to accompany them so that they need not pay those fees, I wish them happiness in the next year and common sense. I wish Jiří Paroubek the same what I wish every other politician; it means to find at least one week of repose, so that he could play his opposition role better than it was in this year.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you and I ask other ministers to answer the question.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I will start. I wish to find a letter under the Christmas tree, in which it would be written – Dear Ivan, since the New Year's Day a day will have 30 hours and week 10 days, so that you could space enough for your work and more time for yourself, for your family and for rest.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: It could be done otherwise. If you want to have more time, you need not be a minister, for example.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I do not expect such a letter.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I am not going to send you it.
Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: Well, those wishes which can be released have been already mentioned, I would only repeat them. Those wishes which are not to be released cannot be released. I wish all of you nice holiday.
Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: I will be very earthbound. I wish couple of books and some time so that I could read them. Therefore I wish all people peaceful Christmas.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: On behalf of all ministers, I think you had quite a complicated year with us, I wish you the next one would be better from the point of view of our cooperation than it was this year. Than you, have a nice day.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, good-bye.

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