Press Conferences

20. 8. 2008 15:24

Press Conference after the Meeting of the Government, Held on Wednesday 20th August 2008

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, let me welcome you to the press conference after the meeting of the government. I welcome the Prime Minister, Mr. Mirek Topolánek, the Minister of Health, Mr. Tomáš Julínek and the Minister of Justice, Mr. Jiří Pospíšil. As usual, I ask the Prime Minister for his introductory speech.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Good afternoon, once more. Excuse us but we were sitting longer today. There was great number of issues of rather formal character, on the agenda, which piled up during government holidays. Some issues which had been expected were debated beyond the framework of the agenda. One of them was the issue of the situation in Georgia and in Georgian parts, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I think it would be best if I read the statement of the government to the situation in Georgia which was adopted unanimously. Thus, my yesterday's information on unity of the government concerning these attitudes was confirmed by today's vote.

The Government of the Czech Republic views the current situation in Georgia as very serious and calls on all the parties involved in the conflict to maintain maximum restraint. The Czech Republic supports the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, including South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The continuing Russian military invasion of Georgia violating the international law is unacceptable.

The Government of the Czech Republic has supported the conclusions of the Ministerial Council of the European Union on August 13, 2008 and in compliance with President Sarkozy´s plan calls for a speedy withdrawal of the Russian Federation’s military forces from Georgia. The Government gives its backing to the sending of an international mission based on an international mandate to restore and maintain peace in Georgia. Such a mission should be composed of third countries and the Czech Republic is prepared to participate in such a mission.

The Government of the Czech Republic supports the Georgian democratically elected constitutional figures and the country’s integration efforts to join the European and trans-Atlantic structures. In view of the current situation, the Government of the Czech Republic emphasizes the importance of the Allies´ decision to set up a Commission NATO-Georgia, to confirm the conclusions of the NATO summit in Bucharest, and to approve the package of measures for immediate aid to Georgia.

Responding to the serious humanitarian situation in Georgia, the Government has decided to earmark 150 million CZK for economic reconstruction of Georgia’s war-damaged infrastructure. In cooperation with other countries the Czech Republic will be supporting the holding of an international donor conference and consequent establishment of an international mechanism to assist Georgia.

That was information on the response of the government to the events of past days or weeks. We were debating today, apart from other issues, also the response and the decision of the government on the procedure concerning the long-standing problem – dispute between the company Diag Human and the Czech state represented by the Ministry of Health. That is why the Minister of Health is here and he will inform you on this issue. I should say from my point of view that when you study these materials, you will come to the conclusion that shameful mistakes of the Czech administrative in the past years caused that we are engaged in a lawsuit and in the arbitration which passed it was decided on a damage caused by the Czech administrative to the company Diag Human. When you read these data you will have to come to the conclusion on political, and perhaps not only political, responsibility of those representatives who decided in this matter. As far as issues which were debated today, I should mention the Bill amending the Competition Protection Act. Apart from certain changes which implemented some European directives, we approved establishing a function of the Third Deputy Chairman of the Office for the Protection of Economic Competition. We approved the Bill amending the Act on Civil Aviation and great number of government decrees; I will inform you on them during answering your questions. Lots of points related to the Minister of Justice who would inform you not only on changes resulting from the ongoing implementation of the Insolvency Act and the preparation of the insolvent register; he would inform you on a small amendment in this act, on the Criminal Procedure Code and what would be crucial – he would inform you on the Draft Intention of the Code of Criminal Proceedings and on a certain systemic change, I do not want to use a word "revolutionary" as it does not sound well, but on a relatively significant proposal which was given the green light and was passed to further legislative procedure. We discussed the Supreme Public Prosecutor Report on Activities of the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office. The Supreme Public Prosecutor was invited to the meeting and we were debating with her, apart from that general report which was rather of a statistical character and which give information on better work of the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office, also certain concrete matters which concerned concrete cases. I found the discussion very interesting and the Supreme Public Prosecutor had my complete trust. As to issues which are worth mentioning, I was on the spot of the accident in Studénka and there was also the Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk there. Right on the spot, I assigned a task to the Minister of Transport and to the Minister of Interior to submit on the first meeting of the government following the accident, a report on the accident itself and on involved organizations; I mean the company which owns the railway network and the České dráhy (Czech Railways) itself. The report should include also impacts and damage compensation, as great number of people asked for compensation, and the issue of function of the integrated rescue system. I hope you will have both reports at your disposal. Both of them provide information on what we have said immediately after the accident, and that was, I do not want to say perfect, but flawless function of those units of the integrated rescue system, whether it concerns the Police, firemen and the following mastering the situation. They provide information on the fact that the Public Prosecutor was on the spot immediately after the accident and that immediately began investigation and preparation of documents. In spite of the fact that there were seven victims in the accident, we stated from the point of view of the government that the integrated rescue system fulfilled its role and eliminated impacts of that sad story, that tragedy to the least possible extent. That is all from my side. The rest information I leave to my colleagues and to your questions.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister and now I ask the Minister of Health, Tomáš Julínek, for his information.

Tomáš Julínek, Minister of Health: Thank you, good afternoon. I will give you only brief information. Based on my proposal, the government inclined to entrust the Ministry of Heath to submit an application for a review of the arbitral award which would be final and conclusive as of 12th September of this year. I am of the opinion that it is necessary to use this last remedial measure because this government has only limited possibilities to influence this case and therefore it is their duty to use that measure. Thus, a certain position for the government is created so that the government have a chance to solve it, because from the point of view of the arbitral award, there are maters which should be reviewed and therefore this is the right procedure. Further task of the Ministry of Health is to propose an arbitrator of the state.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Health and now the Minister of Justice, Mr. Jiří Pospíšil has the floor.

Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: Good afternoon once more, ladies and gentlemen, I will try to present here briefly that package of amendments which has already been mentioned here. What is important to mention, is the amendment to the Criminal Procedure Code. It is very important as it forms a part of the package of amendment which was approved by the government and through which we fight against the organized crime. If the amendment is passed it will mean that if somebody is condemned in the territory of the EU for criminal activities to a financial punishment, then the judgement will be executed in the territory of the Czech Republic. And on the contrary, if somebody is condemned in the territory of the Czech Republic, then the judgement will be executed in the territory of a member state of the EU. Through this implementation the government, as one of the first countries, acceded to strengthening possibilities of a member state of the EU to fight against the organized crime and to prevent culprits, who was condemned to financial punishment, from transferring their property to another country of the EU in order to prevent the property from its seizure. It was necessary to be mentioned here. As to the further point which has been mentioned here and which was the most important from the point of view of the sphere of justice, it concerns an extensive material which has more than 150 pages, is the Draft Intention of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In the introduction I would like to say that the government implements extensive reform of the Czech justice. Part of the reform is also the change of criminal legislation. You know that there was the new Criminal Code passed to the Chamber of Deputies; it will be approved in autumn of this year. The second crucial law, apart from the Criminal Code, is the so called Code of Criminal Procedure, which stipulates rules of procedures. We have prepared the draft intention of the law not a concrete law and that draft intention was debated by the government today. As the Prime Minister said, we were given the green light to transform it into the form of a concrete law. Those of you who are interested may visit websites of the Ministry of Justice. Citizens have been sending their comments for several months and we use them in our work. To briefly mention the principal change - it is shortening of the criminal procedures. We are successful in that shortening even nowadays, I will persuade on it in a moment, but our objective is further shortening of the criminal proceedings and to strengthen position of public prosecutors based on the principle of contradictoriness. To say is more clearly, the public prosecutor will be responsible for adducing evidence at the court and he/her will be responsible for proving the case by realistic evidence and for proving the guilty through his/her activity. The court will judge the case and it will decide on a guilt and punishment. Nowadays, it sometimes happens that certain public prosecutors are too passive and the proving procedure is up to a court; thus the entire proceedings are prolonged. The third main change in philosophy of this proposal is marked strengthening of rights of damaged persons, rights of victims of crimes. We expect preparation of a separate law which will supplement the Criminal Procedure Code and damaged persons will have more chances to recover compensation as early as in the course of the proceedings. They will have a possibility to exact so called satisfaction, which they do not have now. They will have new possibilities during proceedings to protest against the procedure of a public prosecutor and they will have a right to favourable treatment. In other words, it will be necessary for investigative, prosecuting and adjudicating bodies to treat victims of crimes correctly. Thus, our law will be closer to the law of the west countries. If you allow, I will give you information on the third material which was mentioned by the Prime Minister. As an introduction, I point out that it is a standard instrument which the government has, and through which it supervises the activities of the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office. The Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office submits such a report every year, it is annual report. It is worked out by the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office and for those of you who would want to know details, I point out that it is published on the websites of the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office. It has 60 pages; it is full of statistical data and figures. Let me mention four figures which document improving state of the Czech public prosecutor's sphere. First, the length of pre-trial proceedings significantly dropped. I will mention two facts, so that you would be informed on how we are successful in shortening of pre-trial proceedings. The average length of proceedings in 2005 was 74 days, in 2007 58 days, which is decline by more that one quarter. The length of preparation of a suit, based on materials received from the Police, was in 2005 14 days, in 2007 10 days. It looks like only four days, but it is nearly by one third lees time which a public prosecutor needs for preparation of a suit. The second fact which is necessary to mention concerns the increasing activity of public prosecutors. Number of acts done by public prosecutors during supervision of the Police is growing and also the activities in a non-criminal sphere are growing. This is a matter which had been neglected and we are successful in improving activities of public prosecutors. The third positive matter I would like to mention is that we are successful in staffing the Public Prosecutor's Offices. Nowadays, we have 93% of posts occupied. Also in such regions like North Bohemia, we have been succeeding in the last two years in staffing of District Public Prosecutor's Offices and thus in removing problems which had arisen in the past. The last figure concerns custodies. We have managed to markedly decrease the number of custodies. There were more than 800 custodies two years ago, in 2007 there were 623 custodies and no custody was longer than one year. It means that the length of custodies declines as well. These were four examples which I view as important and which document that we were successful in improving activities of these bodies through our systemic work and through activities of the Supreme Public Prosecutor's Office. And I hope that also the newly mentioned draft intention of the Criminal Procedure Code will contribute to creation of more suitable atmosphere for the work of public prosecutors and to giving them further instruments for shortening the criminal proceedings and to improving their quality. Thank you.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Justice and all the members of the government. Now, there is time for your questions. The Czech News Agency.

Lucie Petrová, Czech News Agency: I would like to ask the Prime Minister whether he could make comments on signing the Polish-American agreement on the placement of antimissile defence in the Polish territory. What does it mean for the Czech Republic?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I cannot hear well. You are asking about the signing of the agreement on the placement of antimissile defence in Poland. With regard to the fact that we have been dealing with matters concerning the placement of radar and interceptors in the Central Europe for about one year and a half I do not feel any necessity to comment it. Despite all these peripetias, I am not very surprised. I view it as a positive step. It is an evidence of tough negotiations, both Polish-American and Czech American and it means in fact that Poles have felt into step with us. The executing agreement NATO SOFA is nearly finished in our case and we will pass both agreements to the Parliament if they are signed. I am not surprised at this step.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please. I ask you to ask questions concerning the meeting of the government, first. The Czech TV.

Olga Málková, Czech TV: I would like to know one thing; you have mentioned the responsibility in the case of Diag Human. You said that there was a political responsibility if not other responsibility. Do you consider for example criminal information?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Owing to the fact that the case is not concluded yet and it still continues, owing to the fact that we approved today the submitting an application for a review of the arbitral award, I do not want to inform you on my opinions. Great number of these matters have been dragging on nearly for 15 years or even longer. I am of the opinion that the time for reasonable solutions finished sometime in 2002 or 2003. We are reaping what we did not sow. Despite this, we do not surrender. We are going to continue. We think that we have number of legal instruments and arguments for that review which could change or improve the position of the Czech government. That is all what I wanted to say at the moment, because the arbitration is continuing and I will not say anything else to maintain our position.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please.

Czech News Agency: I have questions concerning point no. 9 and 11. Did the government approve the new decree on resting hours of transport employees? And what was the result of the point concerning milk at schools?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: We approved the point no. 9 in spite of certain reservations, which had been brought up by the Deputy Prime Minister Nečas, and which were rather of a formal character; nevertheless, the situation in the sphere of transport would be very bad if it were not this decree, and I hope that we will manage to harmonize it with those legal norms where it is necessary. As to the point no. 11, there certain reduction of that programme takes place; nevertheless, the part of the project for which we receive subsidies from the European Commission, will be preserved. It means in fact that the subsidy to milk for children during their compulsory school attendance will be about 10-15%. It means that milk will be by 10-15% cheaper that in shops. The programme itself is being reduced as we are of the opinion that consumption of milk and dairy products or rather promotion of dairy producers should be supported in a different way. Therefore the programme is being reduced to such an extent, so that we could use financial means which we could not draw otherwise.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please. The Czech TV.

Olga Málková, Czech TV: I would revert to the report on Studénka, on that railway accident. The Minister Langer said our reporters that he would like to equip our rescuers with some device for cutting out of victims from such heavy trains or cars, and added that the equipment was not sufficient enough. I would like to ask whether there is certain measure aimed at equipping these rescue units, when you praised them so much. And the second matter – did you consider some compensation or for what reason you decided not to provide compensation?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: But I have already said it. Part of the material is information on ongoing compensation not only for victims but also for other participants in this accident. There are exact amount of money, exact figures in the material. České dráhy (Czech Railway Company) indicated clearly that there would be certain compensation from its side in spite of the fact that it was not responsible for that accident. I have no reservations to it. As to the first question, if the Minister Langer said it, then it is a question to him. I should say as a direct participant of the solution that they started to work immediately and there was cooperation both with České dráhy and with the Army which provided rescue mechanisms and tanks. I do not want to speak about time now, on the fact that people with light injuries got to hospital two hours after the accident. If Minister Langer wants to improve equipment of rescue units, nobody will hamper him from doing it, but I could not see any shortcomings in the concrete case. It is true that the greatest delay was caused by investigation, by preparing documentation and that is why the restoration was delayed; but it was a question of some hours, not days. As you can see the putting railways into service, it is not easy at all, but it proceeds in compliance with our information. I cannot see any problem in it. I cannot see any error which would cause hampering of works; nevertheless, an improvement is always possible. There are ceratain speculations that the function of rescue units was good because of recent tram accident in Ostrava, where all the systems were upgraded. The system was checked following those negative experiences and therefore it operated so well. And I wish it to operate well independently whether there will some accident take place or not; but such an accident checks the system best.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you, the TV Nova, please.

TV Nova: I have a question to Minister Julínek. You said you would let the material of arbitrators reviewed and that then your layers would decide whether to bring an appeal or not. Now, they recommended it to you. Can you mention concrete examples where they can see certain lowering of that amount?

Tomáš Julínek, Minister of Health: It is rather misunderstanding of what I have said. There is the only one action here; it is the review of that decision which is enabled by the arbitration agreement. We have the only one remedial measure which prevents us from being lawfully condemned on 12th September and from having a duty to pay. I also added that it does not concern a simple use of this measure, but that a reason for the review of the decision was that the position of the state might be changed.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please.

Tomáš Julínek, Minister of Health: It does not concern appeal; it is a review.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: That was the same answer as I gave you. Do not expect to publish our situation in media when we are holding arbitration. You do not expect us to do so, do you?

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Does anybody have a question? You are welcome.

Czech Radio: I would like to ask whether you are planning some meeting with the President in connection with the situation in Georgia, because when the Lisbon Treaty was debated there was certain negotiation held during which you agreed. Now, it is the same situation; do you plan any meeting so that the position of the Czech Republic would be unanimous?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: T

We ill certainly have a meeting with the President, whether it will be a planned meeting or unplanned one; it will be tomorrow, at the latest on the occasion of various action related to 21st August 1968 (anniversary of the Soviet occupation), and on the occasion of the visit of Robert Fico. The official position of the Czech state is the position of the government. It is true that the President represents our country in relation to other countries, but rather uncomfortable thing is that he is not supported by the government; therefore, the discussion is necessary. I will hold it with the President. Do not expect any date of me as I am not decided yet.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you. Further question, please.

Z1 TV: Good afternoon, you have mentioned those mistakes in the Diag Human case. Could you be more concrete?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: With regard to the fact that it is rather old case, those mistakes have been mentioned one hundred times and I am not going to repeat them.

Tomáš Julínek, Minister of Health: I would just like to point out that any new facts, than those who had been published by media, have not been found out, and it means that there is no news concerning the individual crucial decisions which were made five or six years ago.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please.

TV Prima: Good afternoon, I would like to ask a question. The Polish side succeeded in negotiating quite interesting terms. I would like to know whether you are content with those terms which you had negotiated.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I do not know from what material did you learn terms negotiated by the Polish side. I do not want to say that they failed in that negotiation; they had rather different approach to it, but with regard to those terms negotiated by Poland, I am very content.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you, is there any further question?

Czech Radio: You have mentioned the 21st August 1968. Do you intend to decorate those people who will arrive, those eight brave people and others?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Yes, it occurred to me. It will be done tomorrow.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you and the Czech News Agency for the last time.

Czech News Agency: I would still revert to Georgia. You mentioned the donor's conference. Do you have any idea when and where could it be held? Will not it be in Prague by chance? Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I think that our role has several levels. Besides that bilateral level, we are a country which belongs to the club of new friends of Georgia. We are a country which is a member of NATO. We are a country which has always supported the accession of Georgia to NATO, and which will support it in the future as well. We are a country which has its strategic and energy interests in Georgia. Therefore we, as inhabitants of Central Europe, view this problem more sensitively than others, because the latest statements concerning Abkhazia clearly indicate that one of objectives of Russia and its aggression in this country had an energy character. We are the biggest investor in Georgia. We have investments there; private investors have their investments there in the energy industry, in the health care sphere and in number of other areas. That intensifies our role, but the crucial role is that we will preside over the EU Council in the following half a year. As early as nowadays we consult those steps which are necessary to be taken in the framework of the "three". We want to use all bodies, whether it is the OBSE or the Council of Europe or the session of ministers of foreign affairs, session of NATO or the NATO-Russia Council. It has several levels and the humanitarian level, reconstruction level is based on the fact that that entire region, not only Georgia, but also Armenia and Azerbaijan need some aid. We want to prepare these plans together with other countries, not only with Germany and France but also with countries out of the EU. We are negotiating certain long-term plan, as these events affected the entire region for a long time and we cannot expect that it could be concluded merely by withdrawal of Russian troops and the presence of some international forces. The entire region is affected and therefore it needs our aid. For us it is insofar important part of the world because of many reasons that we will be very active in this matter. It means that there is not a concrete plan for arranging a donor's conference as far as date and place are concerned, but I think we will accept full responsibility for that situation during the next half a year, starting from 1st January. We will not avoid a very active attitude and we want to choose such an active attitude.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister. If you do not have any questions, thank you for your attention. Good-bye.

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