Press Conferences

22. 6. 2009 16:03

Press Conference after the Meeting of the Government, Held on Monday 22nd June 2009

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman, I open the press conference after the government’s session; I welcome the Prime Minister Jan Fischer, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kohout, the Minister of Health Dana Jurásková and the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Petr Šimerka. The Prime Minister has the floor.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Government of the CR ČR: Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you a pleasant Monday afternoon. Don’t be afraid because of our number, this does not mean that the conference will be dramatically long; on the contrary I think that we will make it more productive, we will not keep you for long; present are those government members, who are responsible for, who are closest to the required information. Now, about today’s government session. First, the draft legislation on foreign and development cooperation and humanitarian assistance to foreign countries. This is an item which was passed smoothly, and similar was the government decree on the procedure for the determination and claiming for damages and on the procedure for the determination of the amounts in the territories specified for controlled flood fluiding. This item was submitted by the Minister of Agriculture, and the issue was also passed without any problem. On the other hand, we postponed our consideration of a material on updating the housing policy instruments. Not because of any dramatic reasons or any mental or conceptual difficulties, but the material simply needs to be updated so that we would precisely know for what purpose do we approve the resolution. The material will be back in a week and I am convinced that it will be safely approved. We postponed for three weeks a material concerning the gender issues, in other words a material on government priorities and procedures in asserting equal opportunities for women and men; there, Minister Kocáb with his colleagues ministers should introduce some final touches; the material was already submitted and commented by former ministers and their staff, etc. The ministers need to get acquainted with the issue in more detail, they will discuss it with Minister Kocáb, and this will take place during the forthcoming three weeks. Here again I add that the issue was far from being dramatically conflicting, please do not seek any mysteries there. On the other hand, we considered at this session an informative material to the effect that the state will not procure means to serve for defending against the new influenza pandemy, the Minister of Health will speak about it; and we also considered two government decrees, which legislatively fine-tune the already approved government decrees, which are effective as of 1 July and concern the salary adjustments of health workers, both civilian and in the army, and on these issues we have here Minister Šimerka and Minister Kohout. I think that you will be interested to hear about other issues in addition to this material, and he is prepared to answer your questions about the Czech standpoint, but mainly the European standpoint, with respect to Iran so this is why the Minister is here with us. We also had a meeting of the European Committee, as we always have before the government session, and there we reflected on the proceedings and results of the summit held last week. I mention it here because you may perhaps wish to hear more about it. This is all I wanted to say on the agenda of today’s government session, and I will now ask first the Minister of Health and then my other colleagues.

Dana Jurásková, Minister of Health: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, as I advised during the several past weeks, the government considered today one of the Czech Republic’s measures aimed at the minimisation of the occurrence of the new influenza and H1N1; the government asked me to provide for a delivery of 5 million vaccines for the Czech population. I should add that I am to ensure a blocking production capacity of this vaccine. The vaccine will be produced at the moment when the pandemic virus will be known, and then the vaccine will be ensured for 25% of the population. Another task I was asked to realise was to purchase 500,000 unit packs of antivirotics, in this case this will be Relenza, we have at the moment a reserve of Tamilu antivirotics; the reason for diversification in the field of antivirotics is that the pandemic virus may gain resistance to Tamilu, although it is not the case so far. I am also asked to inform the government about the measures taken by the Ministry of Health as well as by other ministries and central bodies, should the influenza pandemy actually break out.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: I thank Minister Jurásková and I give the floor to Minister Šimerka.

Petr Šimerka, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: Ladies and gentlemen, as you already know, the government approved two government decrees. They both address the problems of remuneration of health workers. The first one concerns the civilian health workers, while the other concerns the health workers in the army. In short, they are a sort of parallel decrees of similar contents. Both these decrees react to the government decrees approved by the former government on 6 May, whose contents were similar, but the form and legal formulation were different. The aim is to stabilise and improve the situation of the personnel of the health service of the Czech Republic, in the civilian as well as army sector, mainly for the middle-level health workers, but we may say generally for the health workers as a whole. The so far valid two decrees of 6 May should come into effect on 1 July, unfortunately because of certain legal faults, which could put under doubt the entitlements of the health workers, we had to approve today the new government decrees, which supersede the decrees of 6 May and eliminate the said legal faults. The level of remuneration is the same as that in the valid but so far ineffective government decrees, and the effective date is also the same, that is 1 July of this year. Thus, the aim is to eliminate the faults and to preserve the entitlements of health workers as of the 1 July this year. This is the purpose of the two decrees.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Thank you and I will now ask Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jan Kohout to inform about his agenda.

Jan Kohout, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs: Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time - as we have found in the history of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - I had here a draft law and this is the draft law concerning the issue of foreign development and humanitarian cooperation. We have been working on its preparation for nearly one year. It forms part of a certain package of measures entitled the Transformation of the Development Assistance in the Czech Republic, and the work on this material was initiated by the former government in 2007. The draft includes several basic steps in the provision of development assistance in line with the increasing amount of resources expended by the Czech Republic. The Czech Development Agency was established and its establishment is confirmed by this law, and the coordinating role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with other ministries and central bodies through the Council for Development Cooperation is being embedded. The entire purpose of this process of transformation and of this legislation is to enable the Czech Republic to render development assistance in an efficient and modern way, in awareness of the commitments undertaken by the Czech Republic with respect to the developing countries in this field as a member of the UN and, in particular, as a member of the EU. I thank you.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Thank you, and now I invite your questions. TV Nova.

Nova TV: I wanted to ask the Prime Minister, have you considered the request by Mittal concerning the contribution to wages and, if the answer is no, when will you consider their request?

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Government of the CR: We have not considered it today. I received the letter containing a request for assistance in this matter by the government or by the state. I passed the letter on to the Minister of Labour and to the Minister of Industry and Trade with a request for their views, and I will then decide on further steps, this means whether we include the request into the agenda of a government session or whether we will proceed otherwise. Thus, it was not on today‘s agenda, but it is in the process of solution.

Czech TV: I would also like to ask about this problem. Should I understand that the government does not forgo the problem, and will not leave it to the next government, and does the Czech legislation allow for providing assistance to a private company?

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Government of the CR: This is exactly what I want to form my view on, and I want to have a legal and professional standpoint at hand so that we would be able to take a decision on the matter. This is not a question of alibi, as to which government and so on. The problem must be handled properly, in accordance with the valid legislation of this country.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Thank you, next question please.

Mladá fronta Dnes: This is a question for Minister Šimerka, have you been successful with respect to the request of 440 jobs for the Czech Social Security Administration? Thank you.

Petr Šimerka, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: The issue will be considered next week, we will have to wait. I have not submitted the request for today’s session.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Government of the CR: Just for your information, a meeting of economic ministers will be held this week. I would like to discuss all materials of this type first with the economic ministers, possibly with the participation of certain other invited officials, and only then let the materials be submitted for consideration at the government’s session.

Prima TV: I would like to ask Minister Šimerka if he could describe what would be the increase of wages and salaries in the health service system? Because the first increase for physicians, nurses and other personnel was 3.5 %, and now there is an increase by another 3.5%. What is the total increase? When will they get this money? And, I would like to ask Minister Jurásková, once this is supposed to be motivational, is the situation concerning the nurses that bad indeed?

Petr Šimerka, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: Well, first on the first question. As you know, this spring a 3.5% raise was approved for all employees in the budgetary sphere, including those we speak about here. Then, the government decided on 6 May on the introduction of a special extra pay, only for the health workers, at a rate of 3.5 %, and what we are doing is that we accord in another form the same 3.5 %, too. This is not any new increase, but the correction of certain legislative shortcomings of this government decree, having the same financial effect as it already had in accordance with the government decree. This is not a third wave. It is the second wave, which is simply here as of 1 July, and what we did was just to adjust its legal form.

Dana Jurásková, Minister of Health: Yes, let me answer the question raised here. This is not really a motivational measure, it is rather a stabilisation measure. In case of nurses, it only applies to one-half of them, because another measure consists in an updated catalogue of professions; the general nurse profession and that of midwife were moved up by one salary bracket, which means that the total increase should be some 14-15 %, the largest increase in the past 20 years, and we are hoping for one and only effect – to halt the outflow of nurses from the health service. Is the situation bad? Yes, it is bad. This was confirmed to me by the regional representative at a meeting we held. The figures we have at our disposal do not have a really strong informative capability because they are biased by a certain error, and we are aware of this error, the providers are also aware of that, but the professional associations tell us that the general nurses fallout is of the order of thousands, and the regions confirmed that the existing shortage of general nurses force them to reduce certain capacities, which we consider alarming. Hence, we expect that this measure will motivate the nurses not to leave the sector.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Thank you, and now ČTK.

ČTK: Good afternoon, I have two questions. The first question is a technical question, what was the outcome of the agenda item concerning the appointment to the rank of generals, was it approved after these two weeks? Second question, the President said that what was agreed in Brussels at the end of this week is a clear change of the Treaty of Lisbon. I would like to know your reaction. Thank you.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Government of the CR: The generals were approved as proposed by Deputy Prime Minister Barták, and I am forwarding the matter to the President of the Republic, which brings me to the second part of your question. We, the government and the European Council, believe that this does not constitute any change of the Treaty of Lisbon, that there are no reasons for opening of the process of ratification, and that there is no need to view it this way. Full stop.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Would Deputy Prime Minister Barták like to add something? No, your questions, please.

Právo: I would like to come back to the wages and salaries in the health service. In which way may these decrees influence the level of wages and salaries in private hospitals and facilities?

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: The question is directed at whom?

Dana Jurásková, Minister of Health: This was the most frequent question asked by the health service community, because the community knows the legislative techniques for wage and salary increases. This was also the reason for my meeting with the regional commissioners (hejtmans) with a view to acquiring a public promise from them to the effect that if the health insurance companies send additional resources for this purpose, the founders will use these resources for the same purpose, that is for the increase of wages and salaries. There is no other legislative option open for me in this case.

Právo: Is my understanding correct that you have a promise from private hospital operators that the wages and salaries will also be raised?

Dana Jurásková, Minister of Health: I have a promise from the founders of regional hospitals. In case of private operators, I expect that they will be forced to do it by the labour market, because they will also receive funds from the health insurance system for this purpose; if they do not, they will be exposed to a risk that health workers will leave them because there will be a certain movement towards higher wages and salaries.

Právo: In this context, one more question. How do you perceive the linkage between the increase of wages and salaries and the funds required for this purpose and the reduced collection of health insurance contributions?

Dana Jurásková, Minister of Health: For 2009, the insurance companies from its very beginning counted with certain funds, to be specific with one billion, whose release they discussed with the then ministry management and included these funds into the plan for 2009, and at a meeting we held they confirmed that this promise holds, that the funds were released; the insurance companies themselves found technical procedures how to send the funds to individual facilities and segments. As far as the balance sheet of public health insurance for the year of 2009 is concerned, it seems that we will be able to adhere to all our plans and as to the commitments for 2010, they will count with it and will reflect it in their plans.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Thank you, next question please.

ČTK: Good afternoon, the government was supposed to have on its today’s agenda an annual report of the Disposal Site of Nuclear Wastes. Was it on the agenda? Would you offer any comment? Thank you.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Government of the CR: The report was on the government’s agenda, in its part without debate. The resolution on the report was approved.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Thank you, your questions please.

Radiožurnál: I have a question for the Prime Minister, and the question is whether the government has already responded or whether it will respond in the future to the invitation by the Chamber of Deputies to ask BIS (the Security Information Service) for certain information on the parties interested in the purchase of the Glass Factories in Světlá nad Sázavou? How was this issue dealt with?

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Government of the CR: With a view to the fact that I was not present, because of well-known reasons, at the session of the Chamber of Deputies, the Minister of Justice, who was present, informed me about it. The government was acquainted with the problem and, based on this, I asked the Minister of Justice to submit, in cooperation with the Minister of Industry and Trade, to the next session of the government a written document, because this is not a matter to be talked about, and based on the written document and the debate at the government’s session, I will decide whether and in which way I will approach the services of the type of BIS and other services. This is all.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Thank you, the Czech TV has a question.

Czech TV: I would like to ask the Minister of Health, you spoke about the transfer of nurses to the higher tariff class. My question may perhaps be too specific, but how much does the raise represent in the higher tariff class in real terms?

Dana Jurásková, Minister of Health: Yes, in terms of real wages it should be additional 7%, that is the increase of 7 % based on the government decree, as mentioned by the Minister, and another 7 % thanks to the shift in the catalogue of professions.

Mediafax: My question concerns the two reports submitted for consideration by the government today by Minister Kocáb, namely on disabled persons and on national minorities. I would like to ask whether the government considered these documents or whether you decided to postpone their consideration?

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Government of the CR: The first report was approved and so was the government resolution, as proposed. No one raised any critical comments, discontents or so. In this case the government adopted a resolution in accordance with the draft proposed by the Minister. As to the national minorities, the consideration of this document is being postponed by one week upon request by the Minister himself.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Czech TV, for the last time.

Czech TV: OK, for the last time. This is a sort of a summary question for Minister Šimerka, if I may. I wanted to ask about the remuneration measures, could you tell us what will be the total costs? I am aware of the fact that this is a decision taken by the former government, but nevertheless, how much will it cost and how many persons will it concern?

Petr Šimerka, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: It will concern some 80,000 employees, of whom 72,000 are employees within the competency of the Ministry of Health and the rest within the competency of other ministries. This means of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the amount will be approximately 1 billion crowns. If the decree comes into effect as of 1 July, this will be roughly one-half of the amount, and the next year twice as much. Annually it will be nearly one billion, and for half-a-year the amount is 450 million.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Thank you, and now Prima TV.

Prima TV: I would like to combine two questions in one. The first question – when I talked to some representatives of the Czech Nurses Association, they told me that they registered protests by hospitals saying that as they are in the red, the do not have funds to raise wages. I would like to know whether you think that this is just an excuse because the money will come from elsewhere or, whether such situation may really arise, and in the second question I would like to come back to Mittal; some economists say that such request is inordinate because Mittal earns 6 billion a year and should not be eligible for such support. I mean from the philosophy point of view, I know that as far as the legislative point of view you wish to study the issue in detail, my question really is whether you would consider such support anywise feasible.

Jan Fischer, Prime Minister of the Government of the CR: Whether I would consider such support feasible, this I will learn on the basis of these analyses, and if I come to conclusion that this belongs to the “less inordinate” issues, I would know how to react, but at this time I would keep it to myself.

Dana Jurásková, Minister of Health: I would like to respond to the first question. Salaries were being raised by means of changes in the salary brackets or by means of government decrees in the past too. Without additional funds, the health sector had to find reserves in their own costs. Here I would say that I consider it fully correct that the Ministry of Health tries to find, through the insurance companies, funds to cover most of the increase, and I would consider that responsible management of the facilities will be able to find the missing amount, because this will be the smaller part. Most of the operators with whom I talked, including the founders, regions, ministries, agreed to that. They will find the required additional resources. And I hope that this will be a generally accepted procedure and that they will make every effort to find the lesser part of the funds they need.

Roman Prorok, Press Spokesman of the Government of the CR: Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your attention. I thank the Prime Minister and other members of his government for responding to your questions. Goodbye.

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