Press Conferences

17. 3. 2008 9:16

Press Conference after the Meeting of the Government, Held on Monday 17th March 2008

Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference after the meeting of the government. I am not going to keep you long as you have been waiting for a long time. The meeting was really very long but very interesting. First of all, I will give the floor to the Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Good afternoon. With regard to the agenda, the meeting of the government was not very long. It was much shorter than meetings of previous cabinets. In spite of this fact, before I start to comment the individual items of the agenda, I have one sad duty, one declaration of the government and one piece of information to announce. That sad duty is, as you certainly expect, to announce that an extraordinary event took place while discharging tasks in the Afghani province Hilmand on 17th March in the morning. Our soldiers were attacked by a self-destructive assailant. One of our soldiers succumbed to his injuries; the other two soldiers were injured. One of them is very seriously injured, the other one is seriously injured and both are in hospital now. Members of their families were informed and a psychologist was attending to them. The event is being investigated by the international military police. Further sensitive information is not released. I would like to express my sympathy to bereaved family of our soldier. That was the first thing, which was sad and your questions, if any, will be answered by the Minister of Defence. The second matter concerns an event which is not less important; I would say it has more importance from the point of view of possible impacts. The Czech government respond to the situation in Tibet. The government of the Czech Republic and the Czech public traditionally place great emphasise on human rights and basic freedoms protection, and on protection of the cultural and religious heritage all over the world. The government of the Czech Republic is attentively monitoring with deep concern the events in Tibet, which have claimed number of victims and injured persons. The government condemns violence against demonstrators who came to express their own opinions and it request immediate cessation of violence. The government of the Czech Republic ask the government of the People's Republic of China to enable free access to objective information on what is happening in Tibet. Indispensable step which would make fulfilling of this objective possible is to allow access of independent media to the area and to abolish censorship. The government of the Czech Republic appeals to the government of the People's Republic of China not to allow violent solution of the situation after the ultimatum expires and to solve the situation through a dialogue, in which presence of His Holiness Dalai Lama would be desirable. That was the statement of the Czech government which has already been handed out to you, as I hope. Now I will proceed to an issue which I announced in the TV yesterday, and which preceded the meeting of the government. In cooperation with ministers and the Office of the Government, I had an Annual Report for 2007 worked out, in which the individual government priorities were contained, as well as concrete changes within the individual ministries. I try to inform you briefly of this material. Those five priorities, which you certainly accustomed to, those five Prime Minister's priorities, were topical issues, according to which successfulness or unsuccessfulness of the individual ministries was assessed. The first priority concerns sound pubic finances. There are risks described there which would undoubtedly take place if the well-known government package or that stabilization reform are not introduced. It means that there would be such an increase of mandatory expenditure that state budget revenue would be exceeded. There is a system of taxes described there through which taxes will be below the level of 34% in 2010. The unemployment rate curve is shown there. Similarly illustrative would be employment rate curve and other parameters connecting with it. The second priority involves the individual projects like the e-Government or the Czech Point, their performance, number of outputs of the Czech Point project in the individual months after start of implementation. Priority number three is the Project 199 – that blue four-leaf is a symbol of the project, which will be presented on 31st March and which concerns problems connecting with transport, the Ministry of Interior and with security on our roads. Priority number four concerns removal of barriers and I suppose that it is possible to assess positively our initiative "Free Way through Europe". Together with the Minister of Industry and Trade, and not only with him, we are working on de-bureaucratization of number of processes. The VIVAT Project, which I presented recently, is a project concerning support of science, innovations, research, applications and technologies. It exactly correlates with the Lisbon agenda and with Lisbon priorities of the EU. It is good to read about meeting of the Programme Declaration of the Government because the individual reports that appears every day concern usually only details and partial outputs; nevertheless we, as a government, assess our performance according to fulfilment of tasks contained in the Programme Declaration through which we get confidence; that is why it is an absolutely binding document for us. I think you can see clearly on the picture that we have already cut off a big slice in the first year of our activity – this is the red part of accomplished or approved projects. Part of projects is not still started – this is the small part, and the big part shows projects in progress, which we will undoubtedly accomplish in case we have our mandate until the finish of our term. The statistic shows the approval procedure in the Chamber of Deputies. I think it is evident that the only one law has not been passed; it was the Act on Budgetary Allocation of Taxes to Regions. The successfulness is really very high. I do not want to speak about the material in detail. There are the individual tasks of ministries assessed there. Here is the specification of the main tasks, which have already been fulfilled in the framework of the Programme Declaration of the Government. Our objective was to reach similar structure as that of annual report of a great company; therefore we tried to condense information, so that the report would not be so voluminous. Nevertheless, it should be your guide when you assess fulfilment of the Programme Declaration of the Government in the broad context. I think it is all from my side and now I will try to guide you through the agenda of the meeting of the government. It is obvious that Tomáš Julínek will inform you of the situation concerning those seven laws on health care reform. As an introduction, I would like to say that following extensive discussion, we put off the definite decision, because we tried to settle all suggestions. We expect the Ministry of Health to submit the main theses of the transformation procedure by 2nd April, so that we could respond to those remarks which expressed opinion that it was just the non-existence of these basic transformation procedures which lead to problems in the individual institutions. I do not think that we will not approve these materials; on the contrary – the debate was very pragmatic and Tomáš Julínek would inform you of it. We approved the Bill amending the Commercial Code. We postponed the debate on state citizenship of the Czech Republic. We did not agree to the proposal of deputies concerning the Act on Substantial Market Power and its Misuse, because we were of the opinion that the material was not written in such a form to be able to force store chains to normal performance. We approved the material on economic diplomacy, which had been a long-term task of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other ministries. We approved transformation of the Land Fund. Following a long debate and amendments, we approved the Analysis of cancellation of the Nuclear Reactor Operators Limited Liability. We reached a consensus that lead to unanimous approval. We suspended for several months the debate on involving municipalities into decision—making process on location of underground dump. We assigned the Ministry of Industry and Trade with a task to communicate with number of ministries and to set such parameters which would lead to solution of that problem and which would not restrict right of municipalities regarding that matter. We approved the Report on Principles of Integration of Aliens and further details. We approved all the items which were considered without debate. Now, I ask Vlasta Parkanová to inform you on the tragedy in Afghanistan and then it will be Tomáš Julínek who will inform you on those seven laws. You have the floor, Vlasta.
Vlasta Parkanová, Minister of Defence: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It is my duty to express my opinion concerning that sad event. I will not inform you in such a detailed way. The individual pieces of information are being gleaned at present and a press conference is to be held at the General Staff at about 5 o'clock in the afternoon. Generals Picek and Kubát will give you detailed information there. In compliance with words of the Prime Minister, I am of the opinion that what had happened was of great importance, in spite of the fact that it was a matter which caused us sorrow. I want to express my sympathy to bereaved families; I share their sorrow and their grief. As a ministry, we are ready to provide maximal aid and support in all possible areas. This event, that loss which took place, memorializes bravery and courage of our solders in fulfilment their tasks in missions abroad. I would like us to realize it. I highly value their bravery and resolution – that resolution to fight against terrorism, because they bear high risk, which inevitably accompanies the fight against terrorism. As I have already said, each lost life means pain; this is the fight against terrorism and that lost life has its significance, because terrorist are active in collapsed states. These collapsed states are used as bases for their fight. The fight is then transferred to our civilization, to Europe, and this is a sacrifice of it. It is a sacrifice, which in spite of the fact that it was made in distant Afghanistan, is made for us. The Prime Minister said that families had been informed, but only part of families. I should say that the wife of that soldier bears her destiny bravely. Thank you.
Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: Mr. Minister Julínek has the floor.
Tomáš Julínek, Minister of Health: As you certainly know, part of today's meeting of the government formed those seven laws which the Prime Minister was speaking about. I will just recapitulate those laws. The debate concerned the Act on Public Health Insurance, the Act on Public Health Insurance Companies, the Act on Public Health Insurance Supervisory Authorities, the Act on Health Services and Conditions of their Provision the Act on Specific Health Services, the Act on Medical Emergency Service, and the Act on University Hospitals and University Medical Sites. It concerned the complex and new legislation for the Czech Republic, which reflected the situation which had taken place after 1990´, when quite accidentally the respective laws had been passed. In particular, the position of patients is stipulated in these laws, as we are convinced that patients were often forgotten and that the respective institutions, I mean hospitals, health insurance companies, which settle matters regardless interests of patients. If you analyse the existing laws, you will find out that the health insurance companies have no duty defined to provide from financial means collected and administered an adequate health care for patients. There are number of imperfections there. You know that I have been criticizing wastage in the Czech health care sphere from the very beginning. The new legal amendment should restrict that wastage. We estimate that the wastage is about twenty percent and we need to find those reserves. Laws are being amended; I would just mention certain areas - waiting time of patients, guaranteed waiting time for operations, enhancement of accessibility and guaranty of accessibility of the individual types of health care, possibility to pay extra charges for better care, to possibility to be insured, which is forbidden nowadays. Furthermore, needs of the individual clients should be taken more into consideration and clients should have possibility to express their opinions in the course of choosing the health care plan of a health insurance company. I want to emphasize that in the framework of the Act on Medical Emergency Service a significant change concerning coverage of the Czech Republic by this service will take place. I will show you the map, which will demonstrate better this issue. This is the existing coverage by the emergency service and that is the new coverage plan according to the methodology which will be included in the law. The white parts show areas which cannot be currently accessible in time required by the law. The time is 15 minutes according to the respective regulation. This is the situation after the law comes into force – the time of accession will be differentiated for the individual areas and number of emergency service stations will increase up to 20. The same situation will be in case of air emergency service. So, that is one many concrete measures included in those laws, and they concern primarily the position of patients. That is why we are speaking about tailor—made health care and about improvement of health care accessibility. As to the debate itself, you certainly understand that such a series of materials required longer debate, but I should state that we solved most of remarks at the meeting. Those which are pending will be settled by two weeks, as the Prime Minister informed. It concerns in particular submission of theses of the transformation law, which caused the delay; we originally intended to submit it later on and to discuss it in the framework of the coalition. Requirements concerning its submission arose during the meeting with deputies and senators of the KDU-ČSL. In this time period the KDU-ČSL will be acquainted with this transformation law and with other matters required. We regard it as legitimate, because certainty will be increased regarding passing the law in the Parliament and regarding well thought out character of the law; that no imperfections will be included, which would justify deputies, senators, citizens or journalists to think that they might lead to disruption of the public health care system, the solidary system. I should repeat it – these laws preserve the system we have - the public health insurance with high solidary rate, which is even increased by these laws. I insist on it. The second problem which should be solved during suspension of the debate concerns negotiation with the Ministry of Education on university hospitals. We have decided on the exact methods how to continue. We are dependent on attitude of university representatives, who have relatively independent position; nevertheless, the Ministry of Health requires the Ministry of Education to better specify its requirements. We also express our willingness to include those requirements into the draft intention of the law. These are the principal tasks I have – to submit the material on the way of transformation, including variants so that the government and the coalition could decide on them, and to solve problems concerning university hospitals with the Minister of Education and to settle certain objections from the side of university chancellors.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: To avoid questions leading to mystification of the public – it concerns an increase, not a decrease of solidarity. It does not concern privatization of those organizations which will be transformed. Financial means will not leave the sector; they will be kept in it. I will not answer questions of this type any longer. I deem them to be answered.
Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: Thank you, now there is time for your questions, please.
Tomáš Drahoňovský, TV Prima: Good afternoon, I would like to ask the Prime Minister a question concerning that brochure, that annual report. I would like to know how any prints were printed. Who is the brochure meant for? Where will be handed out? Who is the main addressee? How much money will it cost?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Of course, it is absolutely adequate and characteristic that you are not interested in the content of that brochure but in number of prints and in their addressee. It is meant for citizens because I have a feeling that in case I would be dependent on reporting of our media, I would have to come to the conclusion that only some three or four issues were passed in last years; and moreover – that they were negative ones. I would like to thank you for what you are doing at least and to call on you to work with this brochure so as to inform the public correctly. This brochure serves for informing the public through media. It is meant for those who are interested in true information. I ask for details.
Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: As to the annual report, that brochure – it will be printed every year. We had 2000 pieces printed plus it was prepared in the pdf format and we would send it also to further addresses. I would like to ask you to publish the information on it in your articles as it is meant for citizens of the Czech Republic, so that they have information on the performance of the government, on its vision, and on its measures – websites are and also As to the price, I do not know the exact price; I will inform you on it after the press conference. But the price was similar to usual price of other annual reports.
Jakub Linka, Czech TV: I would like to ask the Prime Minister a question concerning the annual report, too. What do you expect of the change of funding of science and research? Quite significant changes took place there.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: If you do not have a feeling that science and research are supported well in the Czech Republic, then I understand your question. I expect three main principles of the science and research reform. First, that not only budgetary resources but also private resources will be involved in funding. It means that there must be motivation for the private sector to invest in the research. Also resources from structural funds, especially from those three operational programmes should be purposefully used. I mean the operational programmes Science and Research for Innovation, Entreprise and Innovation and Competitiveness, or what the exact names of those operational programmes are. The second matter concerns that tertiary system of education, I mean the positive change which will enable forming centres of excellence at our universities, which should become centres of our basic and applied research, and which would enable establishment of a technological agency which would decide on grants for applied research. The important matter will be cooperation of the public and private sector, research institutes of the Czech Academy of Science, universities and firms which will order research contracts. The fact that certain form are already operating is rather a matter of accidence than a system matter. The system should speed up the entire innovation process, and to ensure for the Czech Republic profitability and to transfer from those assembly plants to manufacturing products with higher added value, with greater share of science, research and innovation; it would be in compliance with the Lisbon strategy.
Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: Further question, please.
Jakub Weinlich, Radio Impuls: Good afternoon. Mr. Prime Minister, you mentioned the fact that the government refused the regulation of store chains. Could you specify it in a more detailed way? What was wrong in the proposal?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: It is a problem which has been debating for a long time – whether to regulate store chains or not; whether to use direct integration in the system of marketing or to set a market share, and so on. None of those principles operates in the world; it does not operate in Hungary, either. We want to submit our own proposal. The deputies´ proposal is written in such a way that it was not possible for the government to approve it; therefore, we do not recommend this proposal. That is all I can say about it, as it would be a long discussion on it. We want to solve it together with the Food Chamber and other institutions and players on the market, because any regulation usually introduces rather negative principles than positive ones. I do not know whether anybody wants to add something. Moreover, it is hardly enforceable. Therefore, to approve something just because of setting further regulation without possibility to enforce it would be nonsensical. We know that it is a problem, but it is not a problem which could be solved through simple regulation.
Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: Further question, please.
Václava Vařeková, Radiožurnál: Mr. Prime Minister, can you briefly summarize results of that morning meeting with the President Václav Klaus and can you say whether they will be held regularly in the future? What were the main topics of the meeting?
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: That was a standard meeting; it was not any extraordinary one. We agreed on setting rules of communication in the new president's term. We agreed, and it was the first principal output, that we would held such meetings ones a month, at a minimum. It means we did not decide on a fixed date, as it would be very complicated with regard to our programmes. Nevertheless, we want to solve problems ones a month in relations President – Prime Minister or President – government. We also want to communicate on our foreign activities and our joint activities. That was the first output. As to the second output, we were discussing the attendance of the President at meetings of the government in case of a debate on important issues. The rules of procedure enable this. As you know, a representative of the Office of the President is present at every meeting of the government. We were discussing number of foreign activities, for example our participation in the Bucharest summit of NATO. Our Constitution enables attendance of the President or the Prime Minister; in this case both of us will attend the summit; however, our roles will be different. We were discussing number of issues connecting with our visits abroad. We failed in arranging my presence during the visit of the Brazil president who also acts as the prime minister. We were discussing the Visegrad Four, the visit of the President to Austria, lots of topics which we would like to transfer from those bilateral meetings Prime Minister – President to a meeting President – the Office of the President – people responsible for our foreign policy. So, we are waiting for recovery of Karel Schwarzenberg to be able to hold those four-member meetings in the presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister for European Affairs, the Prime Minister and the President. That was a brief summary of our meeting. It was entirely working meeting, there was no problem there.
Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: Thank you, I would ask for the last question.
Jitka Götzová, Právo: Mr. Prime Minister, the statement of the government on the situation in Tibet is absolutely clear. Is it possible for you not to go to the Olympic Games to China? Thank you.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I and the President have the accreditation confirmed, which was requested by the Chinese side as early as on 29th February. I will leave it to the agreement with the President. I am not dealing with that issue now. In case of worsening the situation there, I might not going there; nevertheless, there was a statement of Dalai Lama and some other people who warned against a boycott as it could even worsen the situation. I think there is enough time to respond adequately. At present there is nothing to be considered. I have the accreditation; I am not considering my attendance.
Vlasta Parkanová, Minister of Defence: I would add one remark. The violence in Tibet shows that China, despite all that economic development, remains a communist dictatorship and that all those expectations of possible changes in connection with the Olympic Games proved to be vain, from my point of view at least.
Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: Well, I would ask for really the last question.
Marek Pokorný, Deník: I would like to ask, in connection with the annual report in which you assess your achievements, how you regard very low popularity of the government and critical response to what you had approved during the last year.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Well, perhaps that is the reason for publishing that report. I am deeply convinced that overwhelming majority of people responds to three or four little cases, which do not reflect the real activity of the government. So, my request concerning you is to assess the report and to try to acquaint the public with it, as you are one of few communication channels with the public and I do not think that the assessment is adequate to our performance.
Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: Well, at the back there is still one question.
Josef Kopecký, MfD: Mr. Prime Minister, I have two questions to you regarding the statement of the government to the situation in Tibet. In case of escalation of the situation there, could it have any impact on participation of our sportsmen in Peking? And the second question – you have presented in that brochure some reform plans which you managed to push through in spite of the fact that number of deputies who show lukewarm attitude to certain changes raises among your coalition partners. How you yourself consider prospects of further reforms. Thank you.
Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: The first question has already been answered sufficiently. I do not think it is necessary to reach some conclusions now. Do not expect anything else of me than what has already been included in our statement. I suppose it is clear. We want to have more detailed information, we want cessation of violence, and we request a dialogue. That is all I can say at present. The second matter is connected with further performance of the government. In case the Programme Declaration is not met, this cabinet will finish its activities. I do not claim that everything will be met, as we may not fulfil something because of too little time. Nevertheless, we must meet the Programme Declaration of the Government in all its aspects. In case of failure, the government will have to finish its activities. I do not think it is something abnormal. But I do not have such a feeling now. At the coalition meeting held last week, we set number of mechanisms so as to be able to reach conclusions. I think there is number of myths here especially regarding health care laws, which are being incompetently criticized in spite of the fact that their preparation is only in the stage of draft intention. So, I would be very pleased to have an opportunity to explain these issues to you, to the public, and to deputies. I think it is all. Thank you and I wish you to have a nice day.
Radim Ochvat, Head of Programme Unit of the Office of the Government: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.

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