Press Conferences

16. 6. 2008 16:10

Press Conference after the Meeting of Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group, Held on 16th June 2008

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, let me welcome you to the press conference after the meeting of Prime Ministers of member countries of the Visegrad Group. Allow me to welcome here the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mr. Mirek Topolánek, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Donald Tusk, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary, Mr. Ferenc Gyurcsányi, and the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Robert Fico. Now I ask the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mr. Mirek Topolánek for his introductory speech.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CzechRepublic: Good afternoon. We met in Prague today to conclude one-year presidency of the Czech Republic over the Visegrad Group and to pass the presidency to the Republic of Poland. The agenda of today's meeting covered the assessment of the Czech presidency, presentation of Polish priorities for the following year, the approval to this programme and number of further issues of common interest. We also had to reflect the result of the Irish referendum before the session of the EU Council, which would begin on Thursday. There were number of short-term and long-term priorities of the Czech Presidency. We are trying to maintain certain tradition in the Framework of the V4, to maintain that continual process, and each country tries to contribute to it by some added value. The main priorities covered the foreign policy, in particular the eastern dimension of European policy and the pressure to the eastern dimension. Regarding this I should say that perhaps the greatest success was reaching an agreement on unilateral measure which concerned reduction of fees for Byelorussians to 35 Euro; it was a result of the common pressure of the V4. That one-year presidency of the Czech Republic was crowned by the agreement on the Visa-Waiver Programme and the implementation of the Schengen´s ACI, and enlargement of the Schengen area to by countries of the Visegrad Group. All the Prime Ministers expressed their support to the Czech presidency of the EU Council. We are aware of the fact that the presidency will be different; it will be more complicated, as we are approaching a period which is going to be rather turbulent after the Irish referendum. We are afraid of the fact that just the problems of the institutional character and problems connecting with the Lisbon Treaty might suppress, at the session of the EU Council, issues which should dominate to the European agenda – issues concerning energy and other issues. We afraid of the pressure to the restriction of further enlargement of the European Union and in this respect we agreed that the EU should find such a solution which would result in continuation of the discussion which we regard as necessary – on the solution of the problem that arose this weekend in Ireland. I would pass the floor to my colleagues and I would like to thank them for coming. There will be still negotiations held with Nicolas Sarkozy, the ingoing Chairman of the EU Council, and in this respect our debate will continue. Thank you.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic and now the Prime Minister of Republic of Poland, Mr. Donald Tusk, has the floor.
Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland: On behalf of me and my colleagues, I would like to thank Mirek Topolánek and all Czechs once more for very effective management of work of the Visegrad Group. It is a great challenge for Poland to maintain the cooperation as effective as it was in the next year. We are convinced that the presidency of the Czech Republic over the EU Council will be a crucial trial of effectiveness of states of our region. All of us undertook to help the Prime Minister Topolánek and the government of the Czech Republic to achieve these ambitious targets. We realize that after the result of the Irish referendum, the term of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council and the Polish presidency over the Visegrad Group will pose great challenges. We said openly that the Visegrad Group had potential and possibilities to be a landmark for the entire region, for new member states of the EU and also for states which aspirated to the accession to the EU. Recent events in Ireland should not discourage leaders of the EU from continuing in the work with partners like Croatia, because we should cooperate with Croatia, and to form European prospects for Serbia and Ukraine. I would also like to thank for the support of the eastern partnership. This ambitious project which will be presented at the oncoming session of the EU Council won support of the V4 and thus became a project of the entire European Union. I would like to thank for that. We would also like to express our support for the opinion which will be presented here by Nicolas Sarkozy, and in few hours I will also be speaking to Mrs. Chancellor Merkel about it; we want the agenda of the EU Council session to be a respected agenda. We must find a good way out, which will be fair for Ireland, so that we would put an end to the crisis. Consequently, we must work on projects that have been started and therefore we would like the EU Council to work in Brussels as we proposed.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland and now the Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary has the floor.
Ferenc Gyurcsány, Prime Minister of Republic of Hungary: Prime Ministers, ladies and gentlemen. I am of the opinion that it was an excellent presidency from the Czech side. After uncertainty of the previous two years, the Visegrad Group achieved higher level of cooperation. It is a good direction and it is necessary to continue in it. He, who rest alone in the European Union, loses. Our concern, our work is not aimed at lobbying for interests of our countries, but to use the regional attitude where it is possible. Therefore I appreciate that some opportunities have been found for cooperation with other groups of countries in the last year. New cooperation is being started with Baltic states, which we are meeting on Friday in Brussels. In the oncoming period they will be especially issues of energy policy which will be on the agenda of our talks. I share the opinion of the Prime Minister Topolánek regarding the enlargement of the Schengen area and the visa issues. The cooperation was successful and the Czech presidency played a significant role in it, and I should say that the cooperation with the European funds is highly valued at the EU level and out of the European Union, especially as far as support of various civil programmes, subsidies and scholarships is concerned. As to the yesterday's event, we are acting like a cat on hot bricks. All of us are trying to say cautious words, but perhaps it would not be good to conceal our disappointment. I am not quite sure if it was a tragedy what happened in Ireland; it will be clear in the future. I agree with my colleagues, by the way with Robert Fico who said during our talks that as far as the agricultural policy and energy policy concerned, a great effort would have to be made on the European level. We will have to discuss the issue of our competitiveness in the sphere of research and development. In the oncoming months and years, we will be talking about institutional issues. Also world events are passing without our participation and we have been unable to adopt decisions for several years. I am of the opinion that certain political innovation will have to take place in this respect. My last remark concerns the fact that the Czech Republic as the first of the Visegrad countries will be a presiding country of the EU Council. If there is a task for us here, then we must support the Czech presidency by all means. If the presidency is successful, it will exceed frontiers of the Czech Republic and thus the entire region will gain respect. That is why we will have to go all out to achieve this common target. I will do that with pleasure from the Hungarian side, and so I wish Mirek Topolánek and the Czech Republic good work. Thank you very much.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary and now the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Robert Fico, has the floor.
Robert Fico, Prime Minister of the SlovakRepublic: Thank you very much. Dear Prime Ministers, ladies and gentlemen. In the introduction I would like to thank the Prime Minister for typical Czech hospitality and excellent atmosphere which was here at the meeting of Prime Ministers of the V4 countries. I am rather sorry about the yesterday's evening as I know that a lot of Slovaks were keeping their fingers crossed for the Czech football team. Nevertheless, that is life and sport; we were jointly sharing this in front of a TV set yesterday evening. Dear ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the government of the Slovak Republic, I should say that we regard the Czech presidency of the V4 as successful and that the Czech Republic has achieved all goals which had been set. Allow me to express my opinion on two issues which were debated at our session. The first topic concerns the fact that we must enhance effectiveness of meetings of V4 Prime Ministers. In this respect I welcome the proposal of the Polish Prime Minister for presentation of the most topical issues of the European and global space, which we face, right in the introduction of the meeting. We also want to set consultation mechanisms, so that we would be able to prepare common proposals, procedures and nominations in the framework of V4. It was not good for the V4 countries that three out of four countries of the Visegrad group submitted their individual candidatures. Finally we can only hope that we will be opportunity to congratulate the Hungarian government and the city of Budapest. Also the Slovak government decided to make a concession during this competition in favour of the Hungarian candidature. If V4 countries want to be operational and if they want to be trustful partners in the international relations, we must pay greater attention to our common procedures and candidatures. The second matter, I asked Prime Ministers for, was the support of the standpoint concerning the fact that the complication, I use this term, in the ratification process of the Lisbon Treaty should not dominate over the most important issues of our time. As you know, the EU Council is going to debate this week, apart from other issues, the unprecedented increase of oil and food prices. It would be bad for the entire European Union if pressures and laments relating to the Lisbon Treaty prevail over those issues. The European public is also interested in the Lisbon Treaty, but this issue is not so important for it as the way how the EU institutions will cope with that serious problem, which we are facing every day. Therefore I would like to ask Prime Ministers to all pull together, to support with our voice those standpoints of the EU Council which will favour serious debate and serious measures relating to the oil and food price increase, as citizens often point these problems out. The question is quite simple, we will either deal with ourselves, and we have been dealing with ourselves for a long time in the framework of the EU, or we will show the general public that the EU is an institution for people. I would also like to say that I agree with the Polish Prime Minister that the complication in the ratification process cannot influence the enlargement of the EU. These are clear standpoints. Croatia should be a member of the EU and it would be bad if procedural issues, the fact that ratification of the Lisbon Treaty does not continue, become a bar to its accession to the EU. The EU is not a sect. The European Union is a modern institution which must find a way how to overcome bars and ensure countries, which meet all the requirements and conditions for accession to the EU, that they can access to it. We regard the accession of Balkan countries to the EU as one of the most stabilizing elements which would ever exist. In this respect, I fully support the attitude of the Polish Prime Minister. Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, thank you once more for your hospitality, I am of the opinion that this session was very significant and I am looking forward to further consultations. Thank you very much.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic. Now, ladies and gentlemen the individual countries will take turns at asking question. It looks like one question from each country. The Czech TV, please.
Miroslav Karas, Czech TV: I would like to ask whether you commented those discussion which are being held in some countries after the Irish referendum, on meaningfulness of further ratification of the Lisbon Treaty in countries which have not ratify it so far. And the second question – whether the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who is heading to Gdansk in the afternoon to a meeting with the German Chancellor, will be speaking about the issue which was mentioned by President Sarkozy in Warsaw few days ago – on the opening of the labour market, on shortening that transition period for our countries; according to the latest signals, Vienna and Berlin do not want to shorten it. Did you debate this issue?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CzechRepublic: I am of the opinion, similarly as Ferenc Gyurcsány, that all of us are very guarded in what we say. We want to debate it at the session of the EU Council and to find a short-term solution of this situation and a way how to continue. The question of Mr. Karas concerns our country; I mean the issue of the ratification process. I do not think there is somebody here who would have clear opinion regarding this issue. It is clear that starting from 1st January 2009 the Lisbon Treaty will not come into effect and because of this reason, whether we like it or not, our role during the presidency will be different. We must immediately respond to it. With regard to the fact that we expected this variant, there will not be any problem about it. We cannot pretend that a few millions of Irishmen have different weight than higher number of Frenchmen for example. That French "NO" which blocked the approval of the Constitutional Treaty has the same weight as the Irish one. We cannot ignore the primary law. We must find a solution which will enable us to bridge that period until possible termination of the ratification process. It all depends on Ireland whether the ratification will continue. It can be solved by various ways, so that we would not bar countries like Croatia to access the EU. Croatia should not become a victim of this process; nevertheless, it is true that the existing arrangement from Nice does not give a chance for any country, except for Bulgaria and Romania, to normally function within that institutional arrangement. Give us time to talk about these issues at the EU Council. I am of the opinion that our duty is to find any solution which would not conceal the existing problems and which will not bring about any principal discussion on the institutional reform in the EU; I do not think it would be good.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Then, there was a question to the Polish Prime Minister.
Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland: The Poland is preparing for further ratification; nevertheless, each state will adopt autonomous decisions. Nobody can derogate the result of the Irish referendum. We agreed in the EU that we would accept any ratification and forms and we would accept their results in the framework of national states. Today the most important matter is to respect the Irish referendum, not to resign, and to find new solution which would satisfy European nations, and which would make the EU, as a political organization, more effective. Is there anybody who knows a good solution? No, it is not a question of the only one day. Therefore it is better to continue in ratification and to gain time for good solutions than to loudly say that it is nonsensical. It has sense but we must find a different way and different means to accomplish the ratification process. I will not speak about the issue of labour market during my negotiations with Chancellor Merkel. There are not great expectations in Poland towards any country, as far as opening of the labour market is concerned. The unemployment rate dropped below 10% in Poland and in any areas we are looking for employees; and a similar situation is in other countries of the Visegrad Group. If Germans adopt such a decision in the future, we will understand it, but it is not our priority.
Jánosz Kokesz, Hungarian Press Agency: Good afternoon, I would like to ask the Prime Minister Topolánek a question concerning the Irish referendum and the continuation of the ratification process. President Klaus claims unambiguously that the ratification process has finished for the Czech Republic. You, as the Prime Minister speak much moderately, a bit differently. I would like to ask, which of these statements is possible to regard as an official standpoint of the Czech Republic. Has the ratification process finished or not? And my second question is to the Prime Minister Gyurcsány and the Prime Minister Fico. There was information on their informal meeting on Slovak-Hungarian relations. Was the meeting held or will it be held this afternoon? Thank you.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CzechRepublic: I think that the Czech journalists know well that I never comment any statements on the political scene. Nevertheless, we, unlike the others, have an advantage that we need not decide whether to suspend the ratification process or not because it is already suspended, in fact. The Senate submitted the Lisbon Treaty to the Constitutional Court, which is to consider it; thus the suspension of the ratification process took place. So, do not force me to say whether we will reopen it or not because it is a question of the debate on the Czech political scene. As to the Czech Republic, the ratification process has been suspended for several weeks and we are not exposed to that pressure whether to suspend it or not. And I think that the primary law of the EU is still in force, and until the attitude of Ireland is clear as to the way of the solution of that situation, we will not accede to those steps of the opt-out type; it will be a different treaty. We have a similar problem as in case of the Constitutional Treaty because we cannot adapt the primary law and the international treaties and to pretend that anything has happened. It does not mean that we are unable to find a solution; I hope we are able to find it. 
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, and now the question from the Slovak side ... oh, excuse me
Ferenc Gyurcsány, Prime Minister of Republic of Hungary: Mirek Topolánek summarized it somehow and he started our negotiations about one year ago with information that we meet in the framework of this platform about ten or twelve times, including various international forums, of course. That gives us an opportunity to debate various issues. No meeting is scheduled for today. We will definitely exchange a few words during our negotiations, during lunch or coffee break, and I think it would be abnormal if it were not like this.  It is referred to my colleague Robert Fico and to other colleagues of mine. Thank you very much.
Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovak Republic: If I may to finish the answer, the government of the Slovak Republic is of great consequence to good relations with the government of the Republic of Hungary and I will welcome with all honours the prime Minister in Slovakia in the term which he will determine, with programme and on a place which will be convenient to him; so, the government of the Slovak Republic is open in this respect. Furthermore, I acknowledge words of the Prime Minister, as just at session of the V4 or at the EU Council sessions we have a lot of opportunities to informally meet each other and we will certainly have such an opportunity today either over a cup of coffee or during lunchtime. I have already spoken about it in connection with that event right here in Prague. I cannot see any special complications which would prevent us from normal friendly discussion.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you.
Martin Maroněk, TV Markíza: Good morning, I will take up the question of my Hungarian colleague. The Slovak Prime Minister declared yesterday on TV that he refused to compare a government political party with fascist guards. So, did you speak about this topic? And a question to the Prime Minister Gyurcsány – do you have an idea when we could expect your visit to Slovakia? Thank you.
Robert Fico, Prime Minister of SlovakRepublic: I am always astonished that you are interested in the least important matters of this world. For me the most important problems of this world are increasing prices of food and oil and not those various wars of words which are quite common in politics. But this meeting is not about a single statement, this meeting is on serious issues which concern energy, the EU Council, and therefore I ask you not to make any attempts to evoke a scandal or sensation.
A Polish journalist: A question to the Prime Minister Tusk – should the President Kaczynski quickly ratify the Lisbon Treaty and with what proposal will you go to Brussels. And the second question – What will be further procedure concerning the Competence Act?
Donald Tusk, Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland: I am of the opinion that it would be good for Poland to demonstrate that we accept the sense of the Lisbon Treaty and it would be good for it to be ratified by the President. According to information available, the President is prepared to sign the Lisbon Treaty independently on the result of the Irish referendum. It is an optimistic sign for me and I think we must respect the Polish public opinion which is positively in favour of the ratification of this Treaty. As to Brussels, the main goal, on which we have been working for several months, is acceptation of the new dimension of the eastern partnership by the entire EU Council. We have been persuading our partners and also thanks to colleagues of mine whom I was talking to today, we are closer to a good result. But I would like to emphasize once more that we unambiguously agree with the idea that the EU cannot turn its back on the crucial issue of food prices. The Prime Minister Fico is right when he points out that for men in the street the ability of the EU council to adopt decisions which would contribute to the restriction of that catastrophic growth of energy, oil and food prices both in a global and European scale will be a real proof of the effectiveness of the EU. We would have worse situation in our states without those decisions. I will certainly support anybody who will start any debate concerning this matter. Thank you.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, as well as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary, the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic and the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic.

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