Press Conferences

28. 1. 2009 10:19

Press conference following Czech Prime Minister M. Topolánek's meeting with ETUC Secretary J. Monks

Jiří František Potužník, the Prime Minister's press spokesman for the Czech presidency of the Council of the EU: Good day ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference with Czech Prime Minister and Chairman of the Council of the EU, Mr. Mirek Topolánek, European Trade Union Confederation General Secretary John Monks and Czech Republic Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas. We should have on the line the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Mr. Vladimír Špidla. I would like to ask the Prime Minister and the General Secretary for their introductions and then you will have space for questions.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Once again, good day. I welcome the general secretary in Prague for a planned and standard meeting between the country holding the presidency and the EU's social partners. At the start I would like to say that we are both aware of the situation the EU finds itself in. We are going through fairly dramatic developments. In some countries, the banking sector has already been greatly affected during the financial crisis. The entire EU today faces economic decline and the problems that stem from it with unemployment and an entire range of accompanying effects.

We agree on a whole range of aspects. We agree that the EU's approach should be a joint one if possible, that it should fall under common rules and also also have common solutions. There are a whole range of issues we have similar opinions on, and I am here representing a European country with EU countries, and we as the Czech Republic agree with some specific issues. We are of course pleased that European labour's central office supports the free movement of labour. During this six months, we intend to fight for the removal of this barrier; it is evident that this is one of the many things blocking the European labour market and limiting its mobility. On the other hand, we have discussed the issue of so-called sent workers, which is a problem in both new and old countries; it is a bit different in every country. It is a thing we will also want to discuss and will want an analysis to be performed on.

We also talked about the climate-energy package. In the meeting, I did not forget that we take very seriously the preparation of the European position at the summit in Copenhagen, which will take place as part of the post-Kyoto process and which should expand the EU's activity on the global level, and especially the major players – the USA, Russia, China and others – to get them into this direction in the area of energy. We also agreed that as part of the presidency's priorities, building a common view on the issue of energy is necessary. The first weeks have clearly shown that without a common position and approach, certain countries will be threatened. This is an issue of solidarity in energy, which factually means the necessity to connect systems, both electric and gas.

We discussed EU enlargement. We discussed an entire range of social issues, and at the end of this introduction, I would like to say that we were very open in this discussion, and that aside from standard meetings, we are willing to hold discussions during every half-year, because economic problems, the recession and impacts on individual EU Member States are such that I take it as a crisis situation, and that it is necessary to create and tie in crisis partnerships and discussions. We are prepared for this.

John Monks, General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation: Thank you for your introduction. I would like to welcome you and thank you for making the time. I would like here to greatly appreciate the possibility of meeting with the prime minister and the minister, where we discussed the basic points that our office thinks should be accented during the Czech presidency.

I would like to officially present a document we have handed over to the Czech presidency. If you'll allow me, I'll now do it officially. The key points we emphasised related to the current crisis situation, the recession the EU faces, and we must emphasise two fundamental things. This is a big crisis and a big crisis requires a fundamental response. We saw what is happening in places like America and we need equivalent actions and issues here in the EU. Some things are already occurring, and some in our opinion should take place. We expect from the Czech presidency that it will ensure that the dynamics will not only be maintained, but will continue to strengthen.

The second thing we discussed with the Czech presidency is the need to hold the EU together. There is a certain danger here that as part of the crisis people will rather look out for themselves and seek assistance with national states and seek assistance on the national level, but it is important that we resolve these problems and issues on the European level, taking other parts of the world into consideration, so that, as unfortunately occurred in the 1930s, to avoid seeing certain protectionist actions and gestures that had their tragic impacts and which contributed to the even more tragic impacts of the crisis of the 1930s.

There are two fundamental things we expect from the Czech presidency, that it will really carry out very bold steps during the time of its presidency. The last thing, if you will allow me to accent it here, is that we strongly believe in the necessity of the free movement of labour, as the prime minister has said, and at the same time we would like to ensure that as part of this free movement of people that collective agreements are respected, and that migration issues and other aspects not enter into this issue, and that it is necessary to divide these issues somehow.

We are a bit dissatisfied on the basis of the recent decision of the European court, which puts these issues of the free movement of labour and people into correlation with collective agreements. I very much look forward to our cooperation in the next six months. I expect that our cooperation will not only be fruitful, but that it will also leave a mark as part of the issues we resolve in the EU relating to the social agenda.

Jiří František Potužník, the prime minister's press spokesman for the Czech presidency of the Council of the EU: Thank you, and now I would like to ask European Commissioner Vladimír Špidla for a brief commentary on what he has just heard and to summarise the European Commission's position on issues of social affairs and employment. Good day, Mr. Commissioner, you have the floor.

Vladimír Špidla, member of the European Commission, commissioner for employment, social affairs and equal opportunity: Hello. The European Commission's position is expressed in documents that are already available. This is a widespread crisis, and undoubtedly requires a corresponding coherent answer in the social area. It also requires, as the basis for the response, that the common market and EU be used and never only individual Member States. The renewal package has been approved and now it is our task to apply it as quickly and effectively as possible, and because John Monks, the head of European unions, has taken part, I want to emphasise the fundamental importance of social dialogue in resolving individual issues as well as strategy. The European Commission is absolutely prepared for this.

Jiří František Potužník, the prime minister's press spokesman for the Czech presidency of the Council of the EU: Thank you to Brussels for the introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, you have limited space for your questions. Please. If there are no current questions, I would like to thank those present and Commissioner Špidla in Brussels for their introductions and look forward to seeing you again soon. Goodbye.

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