Press Conferences

2. 7. 200711:10

Press conference after the meeting of the government held on Monday, 27th June, 2007

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 Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Mrs. Dana Kuchtová and the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Mr. Alexandr Vondra.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Good afternoon everybody. I cannot help, but I have the first opportunity after my arrival from the European Council to remark on the summit; it is rather surprising, but I understand that nobody is interested in it, but still, let me say a few words about the course of the summit. Even though I know we have press briefing with journalists at 15,30, it is right to say a few sentences about it. The first sentence is that negotiators, led by me, fulfilled the mandate of the Czech government nearly entirely, which is great success. The second matter I would like to mention is that it was evident that after the two-year catharsis, after the fail of the Constitutional Treaty, the European countries, the European statesmen came to the conclusion that it was necessary to follow the evolutionary way, not the revolutionary way. The third matter is that on the one hand a generational exchange of European politicians occurs and on the other hand the principal contradiction persists between users of agricultural subsidies and countries, which require more extensive liberalization of the market, achievement of a single internal market in Europe, more openness and flexibility of the EU. This contradiction has been rather deepened at the European summit, but it did not lead to a split, but rather to a compromise, which should be preserved by 2017, by 31st March, when the summit of the EU is to be held; by this date those voting parameters of Nice will be valid. That is all, in fact. What may be interesting for us is the more significant role of national parliaments and the two-way flexibility – competences that may be given to the national level. I felt need to say a few sentences about this issue, as I do not think it was uninteresting for the Czech public. As to today's meeting of the government, we approved number of laws. One of them was the Act on Waste. We received basic information and we debated the bird flue. I recommend contacting minister Gandalovič for information, who will provide you with information of the second incidence of the bird flue. We approved several less significant matters, we approved, including a small amendment, the proposal of deputies which concerned Dana Kuchtová, we approved the Implementation Report on Measures of the National Plan for Support and Integration of People with Physical Disabilities. We proposed the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate for approval to presence of members of foreign military forces. Dana Kuchtová will present the Proposal to establish governmental scholarship posts. We were given principal information of levelling off consequences of mining activities with subsequent measures and proposals. We will continue the debate on this material next week and we will present next week this material, which is a crowning achievement of half-a-year work on reduction of all those medium-term, long-term concepts, visions, strategies, plans and materials that have been dealt with by departments of ministries and which are submitted to the government. We also checked tasks of the government and debated some less significant matters. Existing Director of the State Agricultural Fund was removed and Mr. Reveš was appointed to this position. A member of the State Electoral Commission was removed and appointed, which was a matter of rather formal character. Based on number of findings and based on information on the crime we closed down the central storehouse of the Czech Commercial Inspection. We appointed a member of the Council of the Czech Telecommunication Office. By the way, and it is a point, which Alexandr Vondra will inform you of, we approved the proposal for financial and personnel provision of preparation of the Czech presidency. And in one point you will certainly be interested, in spite of the fact that it is not any news; following the debate at the Committee for the Defence of the Chamber of Deputies, a new Director of Military Intelligence Service was appointed after the period of time when director Adam been deputizing for him. That is all for my part and now I ask Jana to continue.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister. Now the Minister of Education, Mrs. Dana Kuchtová has the floor.
Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: Good afternoon, dear ladies and gentlemen. The government approved today the proposal of deputies Miloslav Souška, Olga Zubová, Ivan Ohlídal, Petr Wolf and Anna Čurdová for promulgation of the Act amending the Education Act regarding the issue of special progress examinations at multi-year grammar schools. The submitted Bill amending the Education Act removes necessity to pass entrance examination for the higher degree for those student who successfully finished the lower degree either six-year or eight-year grammar school; it means it will be without necessity to pass progress examination. We as a government suppose it is a positive measure. I can say that based on my experience, based on contacts with headmasters, teachers, all those or absolute majority of them confirmed, that it was a measure of formal character and that those progress examinations were not necessary, because it was clear from previous study results whether he/she absolved successfully the lower degree. Progress examinations were just a formality and we as the government supported the proposal of deputies, partly coalition and party opposition deputies, for their cancellation. I regard this step as an obliging step and I hope that cancellation of progress examinations, which I had initiated and participated in its preparation as the Minister of Education, will be a trouble-free issue at the Chamber of Deputies as majority of coalition and opposition deputies supports the proposal. I hope it will be greater part, majority of votes. We as the government support it. We rather changed the proposal of deputies or our standpoint is different a bit. They cancelled in their proposal possibility for students of elementary schools to enter multi-year grammar schools; the government opens this chance again. I regard this variant as better one and I will negotiate in this sense with submitters of this proposal; so much for the progress examinations. The government also approved, following the proposal of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and following my proposal to establish governmental scholarship posts at public universities in the Czech Republic for students from developing countries in 2008-2012. It is proposed to establish 130 scholarship posts, 60 posts for study in English language and 70 for study in Czech language. It will be funded from the general treasury administration and I regard this measure or this proposal that was approved as very important, as I think that aid for developing countries is a very important part of our foreign policy and it is necessary for the Czech Republic to act in this sense towards countries, economic and social situation of which is not so good as that of the Czech Republic. Thank you.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Education and I give the floor to Mr. Alexandr Vondra.
Alexand Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Good afternoon. I will focus on the material, which has already been mentioned here. The government approved the proposal for financial and personnel provision of preparation of the Czech presidency over the EU in 2009. The material was directly linked to the decision made by the previous government in September of the last year, when the budgetary framework was determined for 2007, 2008 and 2009. The financial means for this year had been included in the state budget for this year. Today we were deciding on the rest financial means. The rest amounted to 1,7 billion crowns. From the previous decision results that 700 million crowns were earmarked for 2008 and for 2009 1 billion crowns were earmarked for preparation of our presidency. We decided today on binding allocation of financial means for the following year, it means on those 700 million crowns and on the not binding outlook for 2009. And now a brief summary for your information – those 700 million crowns were allocated as follows: 269 million crowns were earmarked for the central, organizational, technical and other part of preparation, including communication, 206 million crowns were earmarked for reinforcement of the permanent mission in Brussels, which will have a key role as we suppose, in particular with regard to persons who will perform the presidency activities. 159 million crowns were earmarked for the general reinforcement, personnel reinforcement of the state administration, it means with the exception of Brussels and with the exception of the Central Coordinator. Within this amount those 70 million crowns are interesting, as they are earmarked for continuing language training of officials, who will manage various working groups and sub-groups. In other words, it concerns both the language training and the professional and institutional education. 46 million crowns were earmarked for the security measures in 2008 and the government decided to debate a special material this year, which will include special measures for 2009, because we are not able to estimate now, in the framework of those 1 billion crowns, the amount for security measures. That was brief information. The preparation follows the time schedule and we expect that we will debate further materials at a meeting of the government, which will concern the programme and other matters connecting with the preparation. Thank you.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Deputy Prime Minister. Now, there is time for your questions, the TV Prima.
Tomáš Drahoňovský, TV Prima: Good afternoon. I would like to ask about the issue of the deliveries of milk to schools. I would like to know whether the government debated this point and what the result was.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: It was withdrawn from the agenda following the proposal of the submitter.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Further question, please.
Jitka Götzová, Právo daily: A question to the Prime Minister – the Bavarian politician Stoiber said that he would like to meet you in summer. What are your expectations regarding the agenda of the meeting, if you meet? Thank you.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Mr. Stoiber is finishing his mission as the Prime Minister of the Bavarian government and as a significant German politician. We met shortly during my visit to Brussels at the Summit of the European People's Party. He expressed his desire to demonstrate in the conclusion of his carrier certain improvement of our relations, similarly like President Putin or President Sarkozy invite him. It has not been decided on this meeting yet, we are trying to find an appropriate term. Part of the agenda on the German-Czech relations would be undoubtedly discussion on enlargement of the Schengen area, because Bavaria and also Austria indicate certain problems of formal character. I hope that part of the meeting would be also presentation of his new successor, Mr. Beckstein. Nevertheless, it has not been decided on the meeting and we do not know now where we will meet and when. So, this information from his side was rather incomplete and we will only be speaking about it.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you. The TV Nova.
Martina Lhotáková, TV Nova: I have two questions to the Prime Minister. Do you think that several billions could be saved in the state budget in case of further decrease of taxes? And further question concerns CzechInvest and removal of its director. What do you think about it? It is a state agency into which financial means flow. Is not performance of this agency jeopardized and is it still valid the statement for, which was published through Jana Bartošová? Thank you.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: First of all regarding your second question. I did not release any statement for the and I do not know anything about it. If Jana Bartošová released a statement, it must have been quite neutral. I have no idea what it was like. As to CzechInvest, as you know the director Hruda was removed. Concurrently, further "x" managers expressed their wish to leave. After the installation of the new management the new director did not act correctly in all the aspects. I think that it is rather under my resolution, as Václav Klaus would say. Removal of a new man occurred and I think that it is a phase of formation of a new management. Activities of the CzechInvest are not jeopardized, at all, because the standard level, the operational part of CzechInvest, which really carried out those activities, rests unchanged, which is a good thing, I suppose. Now the task for the CzechInvest is to be an implementation agency, the new management must respect changes in the government, so that it could absorb those new directions, which must be followed by CzechInvest, and so that we would have guarantee that CzechInvest will be able to meet our requirements, as an implementation agency of structural funds. So, I do not know anything else about it and I must say I am not interested in personnel changes at level of deputy directors and it is not within my competence. It is within competences of my ministers or their deputies. I have no right to interfere into those matters, which are beyond my competence; so much for the second question. The first question concerned ... help me.
Martina Lhotáková, TV Nova: Can you imagine any savings in case of further decrease of taxes?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I must say I do not know how further decrease of taxes came upon on you; I suppose it concerns rather certain leakage from discussions, which have not been finished so far. I am keeping cool regarding those discussions because the result must be fiscal neutrality; it means that the principal objective, to decrease the state budget deficit for the next year down to the level, which was determined by the government, must be reached. By the way, the Minister of Finance negotiated with the European Commissioner for this area and the requirement of the European Commission will be possibly beyond the framework of this plan, which had been presented by the Czech government, I mean 3,2% according to the accrual methodology ESA 95, it means 3% of the state public budget deficit in relation to the GDP for 2009. It means it is a material, which is still open. The material, which was debated by the experts of the group of deputies of the ODS and other experts of the ODS is a material that will only be debated and there is no sense in making comments on it.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, Česká televize.
Daniel Takáč, ČT: Good afternoon. For all that I would revert to the material of the group of deputies of the ODS. That proposal of Mr. Tlustý is clear; it is aimed at tax decrease. Can you say where certain budgetary cuts could occur, in case they are necessary and in particular – if the budgetary framework is given definitely or if you may return to the debate on the budgetary framework or to change the deficit.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I must say that I do not know anything about a proposal of Vlastimil Tlustý. The latest proposal, which he submitted at Žofín Island, that Stulík´s compilation of the income tax, this proposal was not accepted because it could not be implemented in the framework of Czech conditions. And that was the only one proposal, which Vlastimil Tlustý submitted. I do not know exactly about which proposal you are speaking. If you speak about proposals of the expert group of the ODS, member of which is Vlastimil Tlustý, I read the proposal and the material will be debated with the Minister of Finance experts, it means with Minister Kalousek and his deputies, e.g. Mr. Janota, Mr. Fuksa, perhaps Mrs. Trezziová and only after that it will become an object of coalition debate. I cannot see any sense in speaking about the material here, as there is no result here. If we were at a press conference of the ODS, I would expected that question, but as the Prime Minister I have indifferent stand to it.
Daniel Takáč, ČT: If I may add something, I apologize for that personification; I really meant the expert group. The second question was aimed at the possibility of unchangeable character of the deficit, as it is the matter of the government. Can you guarantee that there will be no change in the agreement reached by the government?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: We have never said that; I must say you cannot hear anything like that from us. The unchangeable boards for us are the fiscal neutrality, the result deficit for the next year and I think it is clear that the government will not change anything. And whether there is a space for possible changes in the social sphere or cuts in other spheres, it is rather a question for ministers. I can see more space there in comparison with my ministers.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, Mladá Fronta Dnes.
Josef Kopecký, MfD: Good afternoon. Prime Minister, I would like to ask, whether you support the idea, which is relatively strong in your party, idea of 19% tax rate for firms. Or an idea, which is perhaps less popular, but some people want it, 19% tax rate for natural persons. It means, do you support 15% tax rate of the super-gross salary?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: You know, Mr. Kopecký, this is a similar question. I cannot answer as the Prime Minister anything else than all the tax changes cannot lead to disturbing of the final effect, I mean the deficit of the state budget. If deputies at the Chamber of Deputies are willing to cancel deductible items and tax relief, which are politically sensitive, then it will be possible to decrease corporate tax by one or two percent at a maximum. And if they are willing to accept cuts of mandatory expenditures and cuts of facultative expenditures of ministries, it will be possible to decrease tax of natural persons. Everything else is just hypothetical discussion.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question.
Pavel Otto, Radiožurnál: Good afternoon. I would have a question concerning the reform of public finances and then two questions concerning the army. The opposition at the Budgetary Committee warned that the proposal for reform, which had been approved yesterday by the group of deputies, is harder than the version, which had been approved by the government and that there is certain disproportion regarding your person, as you are the Prime Minister and a member of the group of deputies.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: The Budgetary Committee may respond to motions to amend, which are submitted together with the governmental proposal. I will not make some comments concerning these speculations; it is rather a political level. Do not ask me about it.
Pavel Otto, Radiožurnál: All right, thank you. I would also like to ask, if you can give more detailed information on reasons of your decision to appoint General Páleník as a head of Military Intelligence Service. And the second question concerns the army as well. It was on the agenda just "for information", nevertheless, would the government possibly approve the extension of our military participation in Afghanistan?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Regarding your first question, it was for the first time in the history of the Czech Republic, when all the participants of all political parties of the Committee for Defence agreed on nomination of General Páleník for the position of the Director of the Military Intelligence Service. I think that also this is an answer; nevertheless, the question deserves broader answer. We have been looking for a man, who would have reputation and respect in this sphere, who would be able to stabilize relations in the Military Intelligence Service after those turbulences of previous years, who would be able to fulfil tasks, which we assign to the Military Intelligence Service in connection with number of new security threats, and who would be able to accept all the possible system changes, which are being prepared and who would actively participate in them. General Páleník has all the prerequisites, personnel and professional ones and he is a man who is able to meet our requirements. The future will tell us, whether he will successful; it should mean certain stabilization of that very turbulent atmosphere in the Military Intelligence Service and stabilization of our relations to our partners in NATO and other allies. I have nothing else to say regarding that question. As to our participation in Afghanistan, we have not been able to refuse our participation in those reconstruction teams, so called PRT (Province Reconstruction Team). Of course, there is a small participation in Fajzabad in the framework of the German PRT, which is of course unacceptable from the long-term point of view. After Hungary refused their participation in PRT, we were offered to choose such an area, which would correspond to financial, military and civil interests of the Czech Republic. The fact that certain area has already been chosen does not mean that he decision was made. The material was just "For information". I incline rather to the possibility of cooperation with the American army, which would mean, of course, higher security and military protection of our PRT, in the locality - I will ask the Deputy Minister if it is not under the regime "Secret" - in the locality Loghar, so that we could carry out our activities there. It does not mean any significant increase of our activities in Afghanistan, because our activities in Fajzabad would be restricted and it would not mean dramatic financial increase, as a lot of financial means flow to Afghanistan nowadays in the framework of other headings of the state budget or in the framework of humanitarian developing aid. Is my answer enough for you?
Pavel Otto, Radiožurnál: Just to add information. Was it NATO, which asked for extension of our participation, as it is NATO, which command those operation in Afghanistan, or who was it? Is it purely our activity?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: It is a long-term strategy, when the individual member countries of NATO take over responsibility for the individual areas in Afghanistan and they build so called PRT. Not only the military participation is expected there but in particular those restructuring activities. And we knew that in the medium-term horizon we would fulfil our allied obligations and we were finding possibility either in Fajzabad or in the framework of participation instead of Hungarians, or with Hungarians or a possibility just in the East Afghanistan. From the security point of view, risks in Afghanistan are shifting and the risk is not higher than that in Fajzabad.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question.
Ondřej Černý, Radio Česko: Good afternoon. I have one common question to the Prime Minister and to Minister Kuchtová. The youngest member of the Group of Deputies of the ODS, Mr. Morava said that he would submit bills amending two laws, I mean the flexible mandate, which concerns both of you, as you are deputies and ministers and he would also submit a proposal, based on which participation in the voting would be assessed and remuneration would be reduced in case of absence. So, in case of less than three quarter participation, remuneration would be reduced. I would like to ask you, as it concerns both of you, whether you would support this proposal, because Mr. Morava undertook to submit them by the end of the year.
Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: You have wrong information, I am not a deputy.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: No, Dana Kuchtová is not a deputy, Saša Vondra is not a deputy either; I am a deputy. Regarding the participation in the vote, I would not like my participation in a vote to be assessed. I think it is above-standard in comparison with my predecessors in the function of the Prime Minister. I would even say that it is above-standard from the point of view of participation in that "Thursday Barbecue", I mean interpellations. I have not missed any. Just for your information, Jiří Paroubek missed five times during thirteen months. I have a chance to miss some interpellations, but I do not know if I use it. I am of the opinion that the information may be interesting for voters, that is why I am for openness. Every voter can find at the server of the Chamber of Deputies data on voting. I do not find the idea as very good, because it does not assesses the real performance of deputies, which is often concentrated in committees and involves works on the individual bills and only rarely in the Chamber of Deputies itself. The "exercises" in the chamber of deputies are rather a game for spectators, they are just a local colour, but the main work in the Chamber of Deputies or in the Senate must be done out of the main hall. It means that the assessment of participation of deputies is a populist trick and I am sorry about involvement of Mr. Morava in it. The first matter concerned ... help me, please.
Ondřej Černý, Radio Česko: It was connected with the flexible mandate.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: The flexible mandate is a matter, which is of a different character. I am glad that somebody will propose it, which will make serious debate on it possible. I do not have a definite opinion on it. It has a number of risks, it has advantages, as ministers could concentrate only on their work and they would not have to lose their time in the Chamber of Deputies. On the other hand it destroys the relations and responsibility between the Chamber of deputies and the government. I think that the Anglo-Saxon model, which we sometimes break and in which ministers are also deputies or senators is better than the model to release them from the factual responsibility in the Chamber of Deputies. On the other hand it would give former deputies, ministers with flexible mandate, more time and they would not have to waste so much unproductive time listening to the discussions in the Chamber of Deputies. There is another aspect here. If you transfer the flexible mandate to another person, who substitutes a minister, show me a person who would leave his/her job and take over that flexible mandate in the situation when the government may fall in a week or in a month or in three months, and that person would have to leave the Chamber of Deputies and to give the post to his flexible predecessor. There are a lot of aspects there, I forgot some of them, but it is an issue, which deserves more detailed discussion, not only that populist, shallow discussion as it was in the first case.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, one more question to complete the problem.
Ondřej Černý, Radio Česko: I will not go into details; perhaps that flexibility in case of Jiří Čunek is also obvious. But I wanted to ask Mrs. Kuchtová for a statement on behalf of the Green Party. What is their opinion regarding the two proposals of deputy Morava?
Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: I will express just general opinion for the present. I think that they are proposals for discussion and they are aimed at more efficient work of deputies in the Parliament, so that they could work in committees, so that they could prepare motions, to participate in voting, as the Prime Minister said. But in case of the Green Party, which has only six deputies, it is sometimes insoluble problem to cover the entire agenda. It is sometime really insoluble to participate in a session of a committee and then participate in voting and in other matters. In other words, it is a proposal for discussion, as we are for putting our cards on the table and to show who does not attend sessions of the Chamber of Deputies, but on the other hand the general public cannot learn anything about the real behind-the-scene work and about everything that deputies of the green Party had to manage in such a small number. I do not regard it as quite objective either, but we will not oppose to this measure. As to the flexible mandate, I will mention it here just generally. We, as the Greens, will revert to it later on; I do not have a definite standpoint.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I just add something. I really regard that proposal for punishment of deputies as very populist. I can imagine a deputy and perhaps I could mention him, who has not been absent for four years, who never said anything and who never expressed his/her opinion. This one should have a right to get higher reward than that who works 17 hours a day on those bills and thus those activities do not enable him to participate in voting. I think it is erroneous and I would like to give a message through Radio Česko and media that voting in the Chamber of Deputies cannot be regarded as the main part of work of deputies and senators.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you.
Ondřej Černý, Radio Česko: I will answer, Prime Minister. That was a proposal of your deputy. I did not present my opinion here at all.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you; is there any further question, please? There are no further questions, thank you for your attention and we will be seeing you next time.