Press Conferences

21. 6. 2007 12:47

Press conference after the meeting of the government held on Monday, 18th June, 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 1st Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister for Regional Development, Mr. Jiří Čunek, the Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, Mrs. Dana Kuchtová and the Minister of Interior, Mr. Ivan Langer. The 1st Deputy Prime Minister has the floor now.

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon everybody. The meeting of the government was very brief today as there were few conflicting issues there. The Prime Minister is negotiating with Prime Ministers of V4 in Bratislava now, and therefore he did not participate in the meeting of the government; I substituted him. We chose those points from the agenda of today's meeting you might be interested in with regard to the presence of the Minister of Finance and the Ministry of Education. Then they were some interesting points submitted by Minister Pospíšil. Unfortunately, he had to leave. I will start with the point no. 5, it is the Bill amending the Civil Code Procedure, as amended. It concerns judicial officers. In principal, it introduces the electronic signature in cases, which concern debts. The core of this law is that he, who extorts a debt, submits his proposal to a court in a electronic way and the court, without any procedure, without officers decides directly; in case the accused does not protest, the matter is settled. In case the accused files the protest with court, standard proceedings are applied. Minister is of the opinion that this amendment could cause savings of some 250 people, mostly judicial officers, who must act nowadays as postmen, who have to take over orders and requests. Therefore, we suppose that it should cause decrease of the administrative burden and we believe that this law will contribute to it. Minister Langer will inform you of further interesting laws, which are within his competences. Well, if he is going to give the floor to the Minister of Education, who has significant day ...

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: Mrs. Minister has her birthday today.

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: But she is so young, she can say that. So, I give her the floor.

Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: I thank you gentlemen that as a birthday present I have the opportunity to speak at this press conference. But it is not because the government approved significant Education Act, which I would submit to the Parliament. The core of this bill is that we broaden access to education to foreigners who are legally in our territory. Existing practice was that all foreigners staying legally in our territory had the same access to primary, secondary and other education as citizens of the Czech Republic, but it concerned only strictly defined groups. It concerned in fact citizens of member states of the EU and their family members, persons with the statute of long-term residents in the territory of the Czech Republic or other member states of the EU and their family members. Those citizens who did not meet those conditions, which I mentioned, in spite of the fact that their stay in our territory was permitted or they even had children born here, these persons did not have this basic attitude. And the bill, which I submitted, broadens this set. The government adopted a resolution, based on the initiative of the Council of the Government for Human Rights, and decided that it would be necessary to take certain steps. The resolution also refers to the Convention on Children's Rights, which stipulated that everybody should have these rights. In other words, as I have already mentioned the set of foreigners who will get access to education is broadened and we even broaden this set to those children and students, whose parents stays in our territory illegally. In other words, also these persons will have the opportunity to enable their children to educate themselves. We are of the opinion that it is very important, because just pre-school, primary and further education will enable integration of these groups, which often faces problems connected with social inclusion. We provide them with this possibility, we support their inclusion and I think it will lead to the improvement of the existing situation. We have been facing great problem in certain cases and this is a step how to overcome those problems. Thank you.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Education and now the Minister of Interior, Mr. Ivan Langer has the floor.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: Good afternoon. One of issues that were debated at the government meeting was also the Report on Corruption in the Czech Republic in 2005–2006. The objective of this report was first - to assess this negative phenomenon in the above-mentioned period. Second, with regard to the fact that the government worked out and submitted the Strategy of the Government for the Fight against Corruption for 2006-2011, it was necessary to harmonize these two concepts into one material, and it was done. As to the corruption in the Czech Republic in 2005 and 2006, conclusions, which we have at our disposal, bring both good and bad news. The good news is that the Czech Republic improved its position as far as corruption perception index is concerned, in comparison with previous years. The positive improvement is in the sense of improvement of our assessment from 4,3 up to 4,8; it means the higher figure the better result. Nevertheless, in 2006 138 cases of corruption was exposed and condemned, which was the same figure as in the last year. This is information, which can lead to satisfaction on the one hand, as we succeed in punishment of this phenomenon, on the other hand the general meaning is that corruption is more extended than this figure show; moreover the figure show that the latency rate of this phenomenon is still high. Just because of these reason, the conclusion is, in the framework of harmonization of the old strategy with the new one, to continue in implementation of certain concrete projects. The first project concerns anti-corruption audits at the individual ministries. These audits have been performed and by the end of holidays of this year the individual ministries are to assess them and pass them to the administrator of the project, which is the Ministry of Interior, so that relevant measures could be taken following their results. This was one part of this issue. I would like to extend this issue, as the government debated the Draft Intention of the Act on Control. And you certainly know that the new strategy of the government is based on three pillars. They are prevention, transparency and sanction. And one of key prerequisites of the transparency is also consistent control. Now, and it is a shattering figure based on analyses we have made, in total more than 230 legal norms concern the sphere of control of decision making process in the state administration. I repeat again – 230 legal norms. And I think that an unambiguously result of the audit is the fact that the decision of the government to create a special legal norm, which would cover this sphere, I mean the Act on Control, is a right decision. The objective of this law is to unify procedures and rules concerning the control, to remove certain duplicities, to simplify the control process itself and to introduce quite a new principle. From those 230 legal norms results that exception is rule, while the Act on Control is based on the principle that rule is rule and exceptions will be used just exceptionally. In the framework of the strategy of the fight against corruption and that updated version, we use, apart from the Act on Control and those anti-corruption audits, also the deregulation reform – this is the prevention, which is based on the fact that the fewer regulations the smaller space for corruption. The Ministry of Interior is administrator of the RIA method, which means Regulatory Impact Assessment, the objective of which is to assess any new regulatory measures, not only from the point of view of economic impacts, not only from the point of view of reasons, but in particular from the point of view of possible corruption. Part of the strategy is also pressure to better professional training of both policemen and employees in the public administration. And one of today's decisions of the government is the goal-directed effort to work better with the corruption perception index and to be more open towards nongovernmental organizations, because the index is one of key prerequisites, which is to secure that people will start on the one hand to regard corruption as a serious phenomenon. On the other hand it is important for people to take into consideration the fact that the government and not only the government, the entire administration are active regarding this matter and take concrete measures to improve the existing state.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Interior and now there is time for your questions. The TV Nova, please.

Kamil Houska, TV Nova: I have two questions; first one to the Minister of Interior. I would like to know whether it results from the analysis, where the corruption is the most frequent, whether it is the state administration or self-governments or the police; where is most cases of corruption? And then I have a question to the Deputy Prime Minister Čunek: did you take part in the debate on this point? How did you feel as a man who is being investigated because of suspicion of corruption? Thank you.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I would like to answer the question number two. I believe that we live in a democratic legal state and we do not live in the movie and that we are not the main actors of the movie "Melted and Drained" and that we do not use such terms like nasty suspect. I am of the opinion that one of the principal prerequisites of the democratic legal state is consistent presumption of innocence. A man can be regarded as somebody who breached the law only in case of final decision of a court, after using all the standard and extraordinary remedial measures. That was the first comment. The second one: I will give you the report, but I cannot say now the exact structure of those 138 cases of corruption, which sphere was the most affected and which sphere was the least affected. Nevertheless, the report deals with the entire sphere of public administration, the state administration on the central level, on the regional level and also self-administration and it does not exclude the Police. There are interesting figures there, which show that we cannot say, and I add unfortunately, that there is a sphere of the public life here, which is free of corruption; unfortunately.

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: I would like to answer the second question and it is perhaps also the reason why I attend this press conference. I attend it because first, I chaired the meeting of the government, and second I knew that this point could be a key point for you; nevertheless it is not a key point for me. It is not a key point for me and I can show that under my leadership the Town Authority in Vsetín was the first authority in the Czech Republic, which introduced ISO 9001 and 14001; it means that all the procedures were described apart from routine activities of the authority, for example procedures connecting with tenders. I am convinced that in the sphere of decision making process we did our best to limit competences of individuals. I can just add my personal feeling. If you want to offend somebody, then you kick him into the most sensitive part of body. The kick, that part I mean just metaphorically. I was fighting against it. All the information from the place, where I worked shows that nobody in the town, including entrepreneurial subjects, regards me as a man who could behave like this. On the contrary, I introduced regulative measures, which perhaps did not cause 100% removal of corruption, but they restricted it. Therefore I was sitting during the meeting as a competent man who had the same opinion of this issue, and I was chairing the meeting of the government during the discussion about it; moreover, as a man who is experienced enough as many other people are. And I thank my colleague to answer that question; I would not manage it in such a professional way.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, and before the next question the Minister of Interior will add information on the point, which was approved today.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I, as a great fan of the works of Cimrman, cited from certain movie interpretation. I must apologize; I forgot one more issue that was debated by the government today and which I regard as very important. It concerns the sphere of information security. The government approved the Action Plan of Implementation of the National Security Strategy Measures and I put emphasise on this issue, in particular in the framework of vicarious experiences we have with the cyber attack in Estonia. We live in an information society and information has gradually higher and higher value. At the last Council of Ministers of Interior we agreed that in the course of defining the post-Hague Programme, which concerns next stage of the European programme in the sphere of internal security, it will be necessary to pay maximum attention to the issue of the information security and protection against such attacks; according to the latest analyses it is possible to expect in the sphere of terrorism a transfer of these attacks from attacks against human lives to attacks just in this direction, as attacks against information systems are key prerequisite for reaching terrorist objectives – to disturb stability of the society and state, to jeopardize everyday routine activities of the state. I think that the action plan is very modern, well structured and I believe that the administration will be able to define concrete measures and that there will be also space opened for private and public sector, and that we will be able better and more effectively face to those new threats.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: The Minister of Education will add something.

Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: I would also briefly respond to your question. We also think, I as a minister for the Green party, that it is necessary to strictly respect presumption of innocence; we have always been repeating it. I support the Minister of Interior. Apart from issues, which had already been mentioned, the government also debated the report on Situation of the Romany Community in the Czech Republic in 2006. I think that the report is very interesting and it states in fact that a lot of work has been done in this sphere and a lot of money has been invested, not only from the state budget, but also from the European Social Fund. I must say that that some of those measures were very effective. I would like to mention teacher assistants, or preparation classes in the sphere of education, or street workers in municipalities or coordinators for Romany issues, Romany advisors at regional authorities in the sphere of the state administration. These are measures, which were proved to be very effective. But generally spoken, the report informs that there is lack of local, complex and long-term strategies for solution of problems of socially excluded Romany communities. As to the allocation of subsidies it is recommended to principally change it in the future, to aim subsidies more at territories and to support themt with long-term local strategies, which are starting points for further work aimed at inclusion of Romany communities. In the sphere of education we pay great attention to it and we are preparing development programmes and I will base planning of development programme activities on information that the report provided. I think that also colleagues in other ministries, which are involved in this sphere, have the same attitude. Thank you.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Education and now we continue with questions. Please.

Marti Erva, TV Prima: I would like to ask the Minister of Interior if it is possible that some of deputies will be absent from the vote of confidence tomorrow; is it possible that something like that happens? And then, I would have question to both gentlemen: how the corruption perception index of people changes when we take into consideration the fact that the main political topic in last moths has been just your case, Deputy Prime Minister. Thank you.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: If the vote of confidence takes place tomorrow, I will be one of deputies who will be absent, as I am at the meeting regarding the Schengen area and police cooperation with the German Minister of Interior in Berlin. But anyway, the vote of confidence is based on necessity to gain 101 votes against the confidence in the Chamber of deputies. I am convinced that there will not be those 101 votes tomorrow.

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: The second question was to me. I suppose, and I let alone certain opinions concerning media, which have been dealing with this case a lot, I think that if too much attention is paid to an issue, it usually leads to lethargy; so I do not know how many people are interested in it, but I am convinced that it may strengthen awareness of my innocence. I am sure about the reality, in other words I know that something like that never happened. I am sure about what I have already said, that the anti-corruption mechanisms in the Town of Vsetín were introduced well and whoever wants to investigate, whoever is investigating, he will finally finds unambiguous evidence on the fact that every decision or change were made by a commission, not by an individual. Well, in case there was a decision made by an individual, then it is known and recorded who was responsible for it. I am convinced that it can be a positive moment, in fact.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Further question, Česká televize.

Daniel Takáč, ČT: Good afternoon, I would like to ask the Minister of Education first how it turned out with her half-a-billion, which she wanted to gain for her ministry. And then I would ask all participants to say something about equal opportunities of women and men, to express their assessment of the existing situation in this sphere in the Czech Republic. And the second question regarding this sphere: how should employers be motivated to remove that problem and to install equal opportunities?

Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: Half-a-billion for the state information policy in the sphere of education – debate on this issue was suspended again and it was postponed to next week, because we are negotiating among others with the Minister of Interior and with the company O2 and we are trying to reach certain compromise, as the company O2 ensured connectivity and there are some problems there regarding contractual provisions concerning this connectivity. In other words, we will be waiting until clarification of the situation and then we will continue in the debate on this issue. But I say frankly that the project and mainly its part - project SIPVZ, Internet for Schools, has shown so bad image that I am afraid I will fail in my effort to persuade the government to continue in it in the existing extent.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, the Minister of Interior has a comment.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I just add that I promised help to the minister, because the Ministry of Interior is administrator of communication infrastructure of public administration and we will try to negotiate some solution of that historical problem, which the minister inherited and which is apparently beyond her. As to the other questions, can the Minister of Interior say that he does not know it? Do not regard this, please, as an attempt to steer clear of your question, but I really do not know. I think I am an expert in different areas than in gender studies and gender sphere.

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: I am convinced that it is not a matter of the law, that the situation on the Czech Republic is not so serious and that it should not be perceived such critically. All of us know about roots of the problem. This problem originated long before the first republic, when man supported family and that disparity of wages is derived from this fact, which continued in later times; as early as in the socialist era man had higher wage in comparison with woman. I think that this problem is solved as far as the highest positions in the state administration are concerned. I can see it at the individual ministries, because ministers also communicate about personnel issues. I am convinced that nobody assesses a person, who is to be appointed to an important post, whether he/she is man or woman. We examine whether he/she is competent or incompetent. I think that this problem does not exist. The fact is that your question was aimed at entrepreneurs and that there are two levels there. One level is historical-philosophic one, I mean the concrete life conditions of the concrete entrepreneur, who could regard as advantageous to hire a twenty-five-old woman might, as she can work for his firm for many years in spite of being pregnant for some time. The second issue concerns creation of legal conditions so that costs of entrepreneurs would be as low as possible. I mean the motivation of employees, both men and women, so that they would not stay at home with their children unnecessarily. I do not mean only the maternity leave; I mean sick leave and similar matters. All these mechanisms have been already abandoned by the Czech society and we are trying to introduce them again, often crudely, in the form of legal norms. So, one thing which is in the new Act no. 222 is, above all, the multi-speed maternity leave, when women can choose whether they want to stay at home for two years, three years or four years. These are mechanisms, which contribute to the free will of women and they also prevent entrepreneurs from suffering from that. Of course, there are plenty of matters here, which must be improved, but I think that these are steps, which could help a lot in this sphere.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, and now the Minister of Education has the floor.

Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: I thank you for that question, because unlike the Deputy Prime Minister I do not think that everything is solved, including the state administration. The problem apparently exists, it consists in financial remuneration and it concerns the state administration, too, I am afraid, as women are less paid than men at the same positions. Unfortunately, also discrimination occurs on the labour market, where it is more complicated for women, who have more children, to find a job. We also know about cases, flagrant cases of course, and I do not want to speak about various types of harassment, sexual harassment and such like. The gender problem apparently exists here and we use, in the framework of the efforts to equal those gender inequalities, too bureaucratic ways sometimes and we fail in finding ways towards effective enforcement of equality of men and women. So much for the introduction; sometimes also our strategies and concepts are too general, but I regard as a positive phenomenon that the government pays great attention to this issue and it was so today, as well. We debated the problem and the news is that this agenda is transferred from the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs under the competences of Mrs. Džamila Stehlíková. As far as my ministry is concerned, I think that the most effective measure is to remove gender stereotypes as early as possible, it means during upbringing, from nurseries, primary schools and such like, so that we would make chances equal. Really, those education documents were often made in such a way that mother was symbolized by cooking and father by constructing a spaceship, as you certainly know. It is being changed gradually. It is being changed also thanks to the reform of the education system, thanks to new framework and educational programmes, where we pay attention to gradual removing those gender stereotypes and we use modern attitudes, which does not mean that father is cooking and mother is driving a tractor; on the contrary. The problem is to level out chances, but it does not mean stereotypes on one side or on the other side. I would like to say that at my ministry a special position is established for that gender issue. One of official deals with this problem and we closely cooperate with nongovernmental organizations and we are preparing such a concept, which would, to say it simply, using a non-bureaucratic way, contribute to effective enforcement of equal opportunities both at our ministry and other ministries.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I have an urge to ease this issue a bit. When I was thinking about it, as I had time for it, I am father of two-year-old son and five-year-old daughter and I can assure you that I apply equal opportunities. It is easier for me, as they are my children.

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: I would like to add one more important thing; the material was suspended and it has been suspended for several times. You noticed it and I would like to mention the fact that we do not gloss it over. It is because some of us think that the term itself is incorrect. Unfortunately, we cannot change it with regard to the European legislation, which we are bound with; we must to preserve the terminology because of the clarity. But we are convinced that enforcement of equal right expresses incorrectly what we want. We want all people to have equal opportunities and we also respect motherhood of woman. So, it is an issue, which is very serious. Of course, at the meeting of the government sometimes a smiling comment occurs, certainly, but the debate is mostly very serious and it documents that we do not want to approve it in the form of a bureaucratic material, which would affect all degrees of public administration. Under the term of public administration I mean the state administration, municipalities, courts, etc. Then only tables will be worked out on number of employees, how many men and women are in the public administration. The picture need not be very exact and informative; it concerns more creation of equal opportunities for everybody, than tables.

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

Kateřina Krausová, ČTK: First, I have a small question of technical character to the Ministry of Education concerning the Education Act. Does it mean that also foreigners from the third countries, who has been living here for a long time or who have permanent residence in our territory, will have the same access to education?

Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: Yes, regarding the primary education it concerns those, who are still not citizens, who just live here and who have not applied for asylum so far; all people will have access to the primary education. As to the other types of education, it will be applicable to those, who are not residents, who do not have permanent residence here, but who have applied for asylum, who stay here for more than 90 days, I think. It does not concern only long-term stays, it concerns also such stays, when people work here or apply for asylum, and thus they have right to education. We have broadened it; formerly it referred only to residents.

Kateřina Krausová, ČTK: The second question concerns the equal opportunities and it is to the Deputy Prime Minister or somebody else. How should be called the point, if you argue about names? And then, was one of key points, as the Deputy Prime Minister mentioned support of women, was one of the key points introduction of quotas?

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: There is not expected introduction of quotas in the report. I will read for you the name of the point – Comprehensive Report on Implementation of the Government Priorities and Strategies in Promoting Gender Equality. As to the opinion of many members of the government, in spite of the fact that it has not been expressed by voting, the opinion is that it would be better not to use term promoting equality, but rather promoting equal opportunities; that instead of equality there shouldl be equal opportunities, because it is necessary to say that it does not concern only comparison men and women, but the objective is to give all people equal opportunities. Unfortunately, legislators say that the point should be called as it is with regard to the legislation of the EU; so we shall see.

Kateřina Krausová, ČTK: And apart from the name, what problem is there that the material is always postponed?

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: I ask my colleague.

Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: There is not any principal problem there. Quotas are not included in the material; different opinion of quotas has every political party. There is no dispute there concerning our willingness to deal with this issue. The only one problem is that we do not want to use the term "strategy of Equality" but rather "Strategy of Equal Opportunities", this is our slogan. Not equality of men and women, because it implies a comparison of genders. It is not correct. And there are not problems with gender issue at meetings of the government; the point was suspended only because of its name.

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: If you allow me to add something, we were solving rather different matters. The issue had been originally assessed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and we debated transfer of competences to Džamila Stehlíková and transfer of employees and certain technical matters, which are connected with it. And because the Minister Stehlíková is abroad today and Minister Nečas was not present at the meeting of the government when we were debating this issue, the material had to be postponed. As to the name of the point, it is a legislative problem, not a problem connected with the opinion of the government.

Dana Kuchtová, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports: I just add something. You asked me a question and I will extract from the clause no. 20 – pre-school education, primary education, art education, language education is allowed to foreigners on condition they have right abode in the territory of the Czech Republic for 90 days or more.

Jana Bartošová, government spokesperson: Thank you, are there any other questions? I just remind you to ask questions only in the framework of the press conference. Thank you and good-bye.

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