Press Conferences

3. 9. 2007 11:55

Press conference after the meeting of the government held on 29th August, 2007

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference after the meeting of the government. I welcome members of the government, the Prime Minister, Mr. Mirek Topolánek, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Petr Nečas, the Minister of Interior, Ivan Langer and the Minister of Justice, Jiří Pospíšil. The Prime Minister has the floor in the introduction.
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mirek Topolánek: Thank you. As to issues, which were debated today, the Deputy Prime Minister will inform you on the Labour Code and its amendment. The Minister of Justice will inform you about the Bill on Higher Court Clerks; it is an amendment which we regard as one of four pillars of changes in the sphere of justice. Minister Ivan Langer will inform you of the Bill amending the Act on Criminal Procedure, which was approved after a long discussion; it is rather small but very important amendment. After long discussion we approved the Bill amending the Act on Copyright, which concerned copyright payments, and finally we chose the solution that did not include duty to pay for those potential payers who are somewhere involuntary, e.g. in hospitals. We suspended by two months the Water Act, which was the amendment that was to solve legal problems related to controlled floods. Nevertheless, there are lots of economic, proprietary and philosophical problems regarding possible solution, because the institute of expropriation is not supported by all members of the government, in spite of the fact that it is better from the point of view of the law and the public interest. Proposal of the ministry leads to further discussion, which was prolonged by two months, so that we could implement certain flood control measures. We approved the point suspended of formal reasons in the last meeting; it concerned granting subsidies for agriculture land afforestation. We considered that problem, about which I was speaking last time; it was related to possibility to submit common request for subsidies following an agreement of owners. We approved, and the Deputy Prime Minister will perhaps be speaking about it, the Draft Government Order on Minimum Wage, on the Lowest Levels of Guaranteed Wage, etc. We debated, and we returned to the Chamber of Deputies with a standpoint of the government, the proposal of deputies that concerned ownership relationships to buildings, flats and related problems to the Chamber of Deputies. We want to complete this amendment, which will be a subject of a debate in the Chamber of Deputies; Jiří Čunek as the 1st Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Regional Development will really start works on solving problems, which are connected with this. The amendment as it is proposed by deputies is not possible to implement. We do not refuse it strictly, but all the reservations concerning unconstitutional character of the amendment are so serious that they should start discussion on solution of that problem. We debated a series of points, and I think they were six of them, which concerned Supreme Audit Office Conclusions. The debate was very long, we found some of measures as insufficient. Nevertheless, the practice continues which had been started by the last two governments, and it is rather a question to President of NKÚ (National Supreme Office), that we are solving problems and we are solving them also from the point of view of criminal aspects. We decided on acquisition and integration of crypto communication system for Gripen aircrafts. The government approved it so that to substitute licence proceedings at the Ministry of Industry and Trade. I suppose that the last point, which you will be interested in, is the point that brought about certain media debate; it concerned the Updated Strategy on the Accession of the Czech Republic to the Euro-Zone. This issue was debated without controversies and finally it would be submitted without those two variants, which had been presented by media. After a discussion with the Czech National Bank the Ministry of Finance finally inclined to the variant not to present any binding deadline, as it would be presented for the third time. First time it had been presented by the government of Vladimír Špidla in 2009, and then in 2010. There is a risk of reputation loss resulting from fixing the deadline. The government cannot guarantee the deadline, as it has just brittle support. In spite of the fact that it has all the steps leading to the long-term and medium-term stabilization of public budgets in its programme declaration, that it removes all those bottle-necks which prevent us from introduction of EURO, it finally decided not to take this reputation risk and not to fix that deadline. But it is evident from the resolution that the government takes this objective seriously, that the original deadline is achievable; nevertheless, it would mean to fulfil the programme declaration and to take those medium-term measures, e.g. the pension reform, healthcare reform and some other measures. It means that this point was finally approved without disagreements and it opened further discussion, which the government wants to absolve during an out-of-Prague meeting of the government. There will be more time to debate on possible deadline fixing in the next period of time, as we, apart from other things, approved that we would consider this strategy annually and we would annually assess its fulfilment or removal of those bottle-necks, so that we could present a credible target to the public, a credible deadline. That is all from my side.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister and now the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Petr Nečas has the floor.
Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. As the Prime Minister already said, the government approved The Bill amending the Labour Code today. The amendment has two principal motives. The first one is that the existing form of the Labour Code involves a lot of errors and mistakes, and also legislative mistakes. The purpose of the amendment is to remove them. I would like to remind you that the existing form is in contradiction with number of other laws on social services and they are paradoxically references included in it to laws which do not exist or laws which are not in force, for example the Act on Healthcare, or the Anti-discriminatory Act. These mistakes will be removed by this amendment. In addition to that, we made an agreement with our social partners, it means with trade union representatives, and with employer representatives based on their mutual agreement on amendment of some other clauses, in particular those, which liberalize certain areas of the labour market. I would mention three or four areas here. The first one is that it liberalize employing of young people under 18 years of age, whether it concerns temporary jobs of students or people who has permanent jobs and are under 18 year of age, who could work only 30 hours per week so far. These people will be able to work 40 hours a week, in other words they will have standard working time. That thirty-hour working time did not allow creation of new jobs for these people. Now, and I repeat again that I am not speaking only about students and some summer temporary jobs, I am speaking about young unskilled people with basic education, who were not be able to be employed because it was not possible to create such thirty-hour job opportunities on the side of employers. Further liberalization area is making so called working time accounts more flexible. It will be possible to change these working time accounts during their course and also their calculation for one-week and four-week period of time will be more flexible. Also the requirement concerning approval of each individual employee in case of introduction of the system of working time accounts will be omitted, as there were serious administrative problems especially in firms with thousands of employees. This amendment to the Labour Code also enables, based on the agreement with our social partners, more flexible remuneration for work at night and for work on Saturdays and Sundays. It will also make a change possible, which will enable to go under limits stipulated in the Labour Code and the Labour Code will be applied only in case the respective agreement does not include such clauses. It will create conditions for cost decrease of employers for work on Saturdays and Sundays as these costs have increased since 1st January of this year quite rapidly. They are some other liberalization measures there, for example those concerning parents of a child who work less than one year. The existing Labour Code banned to work overtime, which was nonsensical. Now, there is possibility created to conclude and agreement between an employee and an employer on working overtime also in these cases. They are some other clauses there concerning for example making work in the sphere of agriculture more flexible and such like. I am very pleased that the government unanimously and without any significant disagreements approved this amendment. I am also very pleased that there is a consensus with our social partners, it means with trade union representatives and representatives of employers regarding this amendment. We regard it as necessary corrective step and the first little step towards liberalization of our labour law. And after the decision of the Constitutional Court on the constitutional complaint, which had been submitted by a group of deputies and the other constitutional complaint, which had been submitted by a group of senators, a new amendment to the Labour Code will be submitted to the government. It will be an amendment, which will be more conceptual and which will lead towards higher flexibility of labour, as it is undoubtedly a European trend. Even the European Commission criticizes in its report the Czech Republic for little flexibility of our labour market. As chance would have it, that critical recommendation is signed by Commissioner Vladimír Špidla; so, you can see that the trend towards higher flexibility of the labour market, towards higher liberalization of the labour market is correct. This government started that trend and it wants to follow it. It is shown undoubtedly that the more flexible and liberal the labour market is, the lower unemployment rate is reached, and vice versa.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Deputy Prime Minister and now the Minister of Interior has the floor.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: Nice afternoon. One of points that were debated by the government today was the point, which is directly connected with the anti-corruption strategy of the government. I would like to emphasize that today's decision of the government is further step, which shows how thoughtfully and conceptually we want to act in this sphere. Just for your information I remind you that the strategy of the government concerning the fight against corruption is based on three principal pillars: prevention, transparency and punishment. I am of the opinion that today's decision of the government enhances efficiency of investigative, prosecuting and adjudicating bodies in their fight against corruption, in detection of these serious crimes. The government decided to approve the Bill amending the Act on Criminal Procedure, and in the clause 158, letter "e" possibility to use an agent in the course of detection of giving and accepting bribes, and indirect bribery. We expect that that this measure will give us better chance to penetrate into the corruption sphere and to detect corruption. Besides, as the Prime Minister already mentioned, this decision is very sensitive, because it ensures more power to investigative, prosecuting and adjudicating bodies on the one hand and on the other hand it is further penetration into the sphere of basic rights and freedoms, and therefore we debated very long if the new right, which is to strengthen the power of the Police is really well balanced with protection against misuse. I am convinced that the proposal we chose, to broaden use of the police agent for corruption detection, is a good step, which creates a balance of the two values – better ability to detect corruption and better right and freedom protection. So as to avert misunderstanding and misinterpretations, I would like to emphasize that a police agent, according to this proposal, will have a right to act in the corruption sphere, to acquire information on criminal activities, to acquire evidence applicable in the criminal proceedings; nevertheless, he/she will not right to encroach into rights of other persons, for example through provocation or initiating to a crime. It was found to be too significant breakthrough into the sphere of basic rights and freedoms. Therefore the balance of better opportunity for the Police and better protection are included in the proposal. In addition to that and after wide discussion the government decided to pay more attention to usage of intelligence means and device in case of using a police agent, wiretapping, monitoring of consignments, and it assigned the Minister of Interior with a task to submit in cooperation with the Minister of Defence and the Minister of Finance a concept of usage of intelligence means and device. I can say that we noticed a positive trend in wiretapping means usage in the first half of the year. Their number dropped significantly in comparison with the first half of the last year down to 3052. Nevertheless, it is an area where the state breaks into rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, but the state is decided to enable the Police, intelligence services, custom officers to detect criminal activities and to protect interests of the Czech Republic, and on the other hand to protect rights and freedoms of citizens. And the last comment concerning this point – I said in the introduction that it was further step of thoughtful strategy of the government in its fight against corruption. We will continue in fulfilment of this strategy in September, when further point, which is included in the strategy, will be fulfilled, I mean the implementation of the anti-corruption telephone line. You will be informed in time. Thank you.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Interior and now the Minister of Justice, Mr. Jiří Pospíšil has the floor.
Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, let me briefly inform you on a new bill, which was approved by the government today and which concerned higher court clerks. I would like to emphasize that it is a quite new legal norm, not an amendment to the existing law of 1949, which we regard as outdated. I want to emphasize that this legal norm is a key legal norm of the Czech justice reform and from that reason we will be able, after its approval, to evolutionary reduce number of judges in the Czech Republic, which is the key trend and key philosophy of the justice reform in the Czech Republic. I want to say that this proposal enables to strengthen and extend the scope of activities; I mean what the higher clerks should do at courts. Basically, we expect that all the auxiliary activities of judges will be done by higher court clerks in the future. It will depend on a concrete judge what limits he will determine for a higher court clerk and on the responsibility the clerk will be willing to take. Judge will be involved only in the judicial proceedings itself, in decision-making process, in case the decision is ended with a judgement, and in case of criminal proceedings the judge will be involved in production of evidence in the process and in award of a judgement. This legal norm is based on experience of Germany and Austria; it means that we use experiences from other European countries and we transfer experiences to the Czech Republic from abroad. In the future, after adoption of this legal norm, in case that some judge leaves, it will depend on the President of the Court if he/she will ask the Ministry of Justice for a new or whether, as a good manager, will come to a conclusion that it will be better to hire for example four higher court clerks. It means that this legal norm will not mean increased requirements for the state budget, but it offers Presidents of Courts to decide themselves whether to they want more higher court clerks or just one new judge. That is why that evolutionary gradual trend will take place, which will lead to the state when presidents of courts will want more higher court clerks in the future and they will want new judges only if really necessary. I want to emphasize that this law establishes quite new institute, the higher prosecutor's office clerk, who will be charge of extensive paperwork at Prosecutor's Offices; he/she may be an auxiliary clerk in carrying works at Prosecutor's Offices and the number of higher prosecutor's office clerks will depend on the demand of Chief Prosecuting Attorneys, and it will depend on him/her again whether a Chief Prosecuting Attorney will prefer to have one Prosecuting Attorney or higher number of Higher Prosecutor's Office Clerks. The last comment I would like to make concerns with the fact that the Ministry of Justice has prepared general reform of the Academy of Justice in Kroměříž. We expect that the Academy of Justice will offer university education, three-year university education of a bachelor type and I suppose that the post of higher court clerk will become more attractive, as the Academy of Justice will be opened to all persons who completed secondary-school course, not only to employees of justice. It will offer classical university education and we hope that the post of a higher court clerk will become attractive for young people in the future and that it will not be just kind of re-qualification course in the framework of justice, as it is has been up to now. So, I emphasize that this bill, if it is adopted, will enable what all of us want – an effective justice, because we will have fewer judges and more skilled administrative workers.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Justice and now there is time for your questions. The TV Nova, please.
Tomáš Drahoňovský, TV Prima: I would like to ask Minister Langer, perhaps it will be rather laic question, nevertheless – those agents will be used in the corruption sphere. Will they be only policemen or is it possible to expect using civilians, for example because of better penetration into the corruption sphere
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: We use the existing institute of agents, we just broaden their scope of activities just to this sphere of criminal activities, I mean corruption. An agent is a policeman, and it is the Prosecuting Attorney of the High Prosecuting Attorney's Office who decides on his/her use. You have a guarantee here that it really concerns possibility to penetrate into the corruption sphere but the permitting and approving procedure, which is concentrated at the High Court and the High Prosecuting Attorney's Office, should guarantee that it will not be misused. And also the control system aimed at assessment of existence of reasons for using an agent should balance encroachment into private persons.
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mirek Topolánek: If I can add something, use of the agent in case of serious criminal activities, which involves also corruption, is included even in the existing law. Corruption is a serious criminal activity according to the international agreements. In spite of this fact we decided to extend it also to this special criminal activity and the resolution, which is part of the government resolution, which Ivan Langer has already mentioned. It is a task for the Minister of Interior in cooperation with those who have institution in their competences that can use intelligence means and devices, including my person, as the BIS (intelligence service) belong to my sphere, to set rules and principles, which would restrict encroachment into human rights and freedoms of people to a minimum degree. And regarding an issue, which has been discussing in media for a long time, for example wiretapping, new rules will be set, more rigid rules for use. The second resolution leads us to the fact that it is not only a change of competences of an institute of agent, which is included in the existing law, but it is a debate on approving, controlling, and assessment process regarding those agents. It means that it leads us to further debate; we did not make any change of this type so far, but we are aware of higher sensitivity of that problem and we expect higher efficiency in the course of production of evidence just because of penetration into the corruption sphere. I think that the debate was very demanding also because of the fact that it was a very sensitive matter. But the fight against corruption is one of priorities of the government and it was as early as in times of the previous government of Mirek Topolánek; and we want to be consistent in this sense.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister and the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs will add something.
Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: I would just like to emphasize one thing, which has been mentioned here during speeches of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Interior, nevertheless, I regard as important to repeat it again. It does not concern an agent-provocateur. I ask you to note it. If a different terminus technicus is to be used, then it is an agent-documentarist, in other words a man, who is to acquire documents on a crime, if any. The government did not debate and it would not debate on an agent-provocateur.
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mirek Topolánek: During the debate it was mentioned that such a provocation would lead to the obstruction of judicial proceedings and acquittal of a person; and I do not think that it was our objective. But unfortunately, there were steps of the previous government which led to this. They did not lead to the objective we want to achieve. We are of the opinion that they had reverse effect.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question, please. The TV Nova.
Lucie Brunclíková, TV Nova: Brunclíková the TV Nova news. Minister, the opposition claims that you have copied their proposal; you affirm that it does not concern an agent-provocateur. Could you explain how the agent would perform his function? And if it is not the same situation as in case of Slovakia, where there is an agent-provocateur, as I think.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I know that the opposition claims a lot of things. I can just say that we proceed, unlike the previous government, in compliance with the thoughtful strategy, thoughtful concept and it is based on those three pillars, and we know, unlike the previous government, that the most effective fight against corruption is reduction of the space for existence of corruption; that is why we have three pillars – prevention, transparency and punishment. Corruption is especially there where somebody decides on us, corruption is there where somebody ladles out money. Unlike the past, we want to proceed very carefully and to balance all the three pillars. An agent will be used as in case of other forms of criminal activities. The moment when a policemen acquires information on possible corruption, the agent can be used in this area based on the decision of a judge; he/she can acquire information and evidence and to glean them to be usable in the judicial proceedings. The problem of corruption mostly consists in the fact that they are only two participants, perhaps three participants and it brings problems to the Police and investigative, prosecuting and adjudicating bodies, because of failure of evidence. We expect higher number of evidence and higher number of condemned people.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Interior, further question, please?
Zuzana Janečková, MfD: I would ask the Minister Pospíšil regarding these agents. Do you also think that that corruption is difficult to be proved and do you think that this solution could help in the judicial proceedings?
Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: Well, the Minister of Interior said clearly that corruption is basically criminal activity, which is done by two subjects and therefore it is difficult to be proved. It means that this change will lead to better proving. I want to say that we will have by coincidence a negotiation with Mrs. Vesecká and we will debate whether the existing legal norm is sufficient enough, what are its risks, what is the protection of civil rights. It means, and the Prime Minister has already mentioned it, that we were assigned with a task to assess the existing legal norm, to assess activities of Prosecuting Attorneys in the course of control of agents and we will prepare the material for the government. In other words, I agree with adoption of this proposal, if you ask about my opinion, as I think that it will bring sufficient evidence, which sometimes lacks an thus the criminal activities, which are evident cannot be proved. This is unfortunately practical problem, if you ask me as a lawyer and the Minister of Justice
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mirek Topolánek: I want to add something. I think that both, I and the Minister of Interior Ivan Langer have experience with a misuse of intelligence means and device and do not expect us to be those who would support misuse of intelligence means and device. It means that all those measures, and that is the difference in comparison with the past period of time, are very sensibly balanced on apothecaries´ weights. I want to protect civil and human rights of all people, it means that our proposals are aimed at possibility to defend against wiretapping. All those steps the opposition refused and now we are trying to push them through. On the other hand I want effective use of these means, for example in the fight against terrorism, against corruption, because the corruption undermines the system from inside. People wonder that nobody is convicted, in spite of all the participants are convinced that they were to be convicted; but there is failure of evidence there; so, one thing is protection of human right and the other thing is to avert failure of evidence, so that criminal activities could be condemned. Those discussions are relatively complicated and I can assure you that in spite of the fact that majority of people voted for the proposal, the discussion led to assignment of these tasks and to assignment of really proper solution concerning using intelligence means and device. I think that the figure expressing how many times a list of telephone call was required, I do not mean wiretapping, just a list of calls, I have a feeling that the figure was over 40 000. It is also a penetration into civil rights, after all. And all this we want to reduce and on the other hand we want to make it more efficient.
Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: To speak frankly, it was over 40 000, but it was not for the whole year, but only for half a year. It was 80 000 in the last year.
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mirek Topolánek: There is a tendency to get use of the intelligence means and device under the same regime; and it does not concern only those units which you know and about which you inform, but it concerns also the custom administration and services. It made us to pay greater attention to it. I do not want to make promises here, but I say that on apothecaries´ weights we consider every breakthrough into human rights and on the other hand we make the control more intensive, we increase possibility of defence.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, further question? The TV Prima is raising hands.
Tomáš Drahoňovský, TV Prima: This time I would have a question to the Deputy Prime Minister Nečas. It concerns the amendment of the Labour Code. Was it necessary to accept certain changes in comparison with the original proposal during the dialogue with social partners? Did they have any special requirements, which were projected into the amendment?
Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: We agreed in the tripartite basis, which means that it was an agreement of trade union representatives, representatives of employers and representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs that this amendment would be extended by some further clauses; part of them I already mentioned here, and clauses on which parties involved were able to reach an agreement, to make an agreement on that liberalization, those clauses have full support of the government and we had no problem with adoption of these amendment. Only in cases where a conflict with the Constitution could occur, we acted in compliance with an agreement with the Legislative Council of the Government, or with its chairman, Minister Svoboda.
Tomáš Drahoňovský, TV Prima: Allow me one more question, as the dialogue in the tripartite made the opposition to be softened up, let us say. I was speaking to Mr. Škromach today and he said that he had no problem with your amendment, but he was afraid of a lot of motions to amend from the side of deputies of the ODS, which would change wording of the amendment. I wonder whether you will make demand on deputies to change their minds so that they would not present any motions to amend, and so that the amendment would be adopted as early as in the first reading.
Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: I must say that also deputies know, as majority of them signed it, that there is the constitutional complaint here and they know that also after the decision of the Constitutional Court a more extensive, conceptual, liberalization amendment of the Labour Code will be prepared. Undoubtedly, all motions will be considered seriously and we are beginning to work on the amendment immediately, in fact. We will create a team consisting not only of workers of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, but also of external experts, which will be preparing more conceptual amendment.
Markéta Hulpachová, Prague Post: I would like to ask Minister Pospíšil whether you are preparing further justice reforms; and if it is so, whether some of them will concern also the Constitutional Court.
Jiří Pospíšil, Minister of Justice: It is not the first bill, which was adopted by the government, which would be a part of the Czech justice reform. Just at random I can mention the electronic paying order, which was also debated in the Parliament, execution amendment, amendment of detention facilities, summons delivery and so on. At present, the ministry has finished one of the most extended bills of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which has 150 clauses and which will change completely the civil procedure if it is adopted. The justice reform has four pillars, four basic areas, which concern personnel sphere; that was today's issue, higher court clerks, new codex. We have Criminal Code prepared, as you know, which is published on our websites; citizens are making comments to it, the subject-matter of the Rules of Criminal Procedure is prepared, and the Civil Code is being finished. I was speaking about the Rules of Civil Procedure, then there is also general electronization of the Czech justice; we opened the electronic registry together with the Prime Minister last week. We expect implementation of the electronic "infocourt" and we also expect that justice will become more open to the public. One third of laws is already prepared, if I am to quantify it. We expect that a great ministerial conference at Žofín Island will take place in November, at which we want to discuss with the professional public issues which are prepared and which should be prepared. So, the general summary of the justice reform and the presentation of the justice reform as a whole will take place during this autumn and as I already said one third of matters is already prepared or it is just before finishing. You asked about the Constitutional Court. Very intensive negotiations are in progress now. The Constitutional Court is not included in the justice reform, but we are debating whether to change the structure of the decision-making process at the Constitutional Court or not. We have a proposal prepared, which we would like to discuss, as it has a lot of objectors. It means that it is a topic, which will be still discussed and it has connection with the issue of the Supreme Administrative Court, the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court in the Czech Republic. It is a broader issue, which should be prepared in the form of amendments, but we are discussing about it for the present.
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you. I would like to excuse the Prime Minister who must go to an important meeting and now let us continue in the press conference.
Prime Minister of the Czech Republic, Mirek Topolánek: Excuse me...
Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Is there any further question? Well, thank you. Good bye.

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