Press Conferences

18. 10. 2006 11:24

Press conference of Prime Minister of the CR Mirek Topolánek after the meeting of the government in Koloděje on Wednesday 18th October 2006

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference after the meeting of the government, welcome here in Koloděje Chateau. Allow me to give the first floor to the Prime Minister of the CR, Mirek Topolánek.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Good afternoon. I would like to inform you on the materials that were approved today. One of these materials, the general public will certainly be interested in, and about which there will be a special press conference of the Minister of Transport held, as several times before, is the Draft Government Order on Amount of Toll Time Fees and Rates. I think that a very interesting material, which was debated today and which will be, after a comment procedure, approved next week, is the material on which Ivan Langer will inform you; it concerns the Strategy of the Corruption Prevention. It comprises a basic analysis and principal system tools and tasks for the individual ministries and central authorities regarding the fight against corruption both in the sphere of prevention and from the point of view of transparency and sanctions. The material, which was the most interesting today, in my opinion, was the material, which also showed our effort to change existing practice. It concerns two materials, which have been submitted by ministries as a response to Conclusions of the Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ). The existing practice was that ministries just noted conclusions of the NKÚ, but usually did not comprise any measures to be realized in their statement or responsibility of the individual persons or institutions for the state, which had been mentioned in the conclusion of the NKÚ. One of those materials was the material, which was submitted following the audit of financial management of budgetary means from the State Budget for investment incentives and investment support, and it was noted by the government. The government charged both ministries, i.e. the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to propose and to take measures, including determination of responsibility of the individual persons that had caused those relatively serious lapses mentioned in the Conclusion of the NKÚ. I think that these points were the most interesting ones and now I give the floor to my colleagues and Ivan Langer will start with his Strategy of the Corruption Prevention.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I suppose you have already noted that one of the principal priorities of this government is the corruption prevention. The reason is that the situation of the CR is not favourable at all and the corruption increases, because standing of the CR is decreasing in ranking lists of international institutions. The CR has dropped down and down among countries that are the most corrupted ones in the world; and this is a situation that cannot leave anybody in peace. Just for your information I can state that in 2001, based on the opinion poll, 50% of citizens were of the opinion that the CR was corrupted country; this year it is 66% and these figures are very dramatic and each government must respond to it. For this reason I submitted the Strategy of the Corruption Prevention for 2006-2011 to the government today, which differs from previous strategies by its basic methodical change. We do not deal only with repression, I mean with sanctions, but all the measures proposed are primarily aimed at corruption prevention, at reduction of space for the corruption, so that only limited chance for organization and existence of corruption could occur. The entire strategy was carried out based on long-term preparation and cooperation of the expert team, with non-government organizations and institutions that deal with this issue like the initiative eStat and the Transparency International. I think that especially the contribution of the Transparency International to this strategy was very significant and I thank for that. The entire strategy is built on three basic pillars, namely prevention, transparency and sanctions. In the sphere of prevention concrete measures are proposed, which are aimed at minimizing of the regulation from the side of the state, at simplifying legislative, at enhancement of transparency of the legislative process and at reducing unnecessary administrative burden, which is the cause of the corruption. As to the second pillar, i.e. transparency, it concerns transparency of usage of financial means from public budgets, simplifying all administrative procedures, which exist, setting of rules for legitimate lobbying and implementation of measures, based on which a citizen will have a possibility to check the state of his/her request on an office through the Internet. The objective of the government in the framework of transparency is also to strengthen opportunity of citizens to warn in case of suspicion of corruption and our intention is, and I suppose we will be successful, to establish a centralized unit, in cooperation with non-government organizations, which would protect citizens against possible sanctions and which would strengthen credibility of those suspicions. The third pillar is a sanction. Sanction, in spite of the fact that it is mentioned as the third pillar, is an integral part of the strategy, because it has not only sanction character, but also preventive character. The government tends in this sphere to establish anti-corruption senates at higher courts, special units, which will operate at High Prosecuting Attorney's Offices to strengthen anti-corruption unit of the Police of the CR, to establish anti-corruption agents so that more severe sanction, from 5-8 to 12-15 years, would be possible to impose on public officials. And concurrently also to introduce property declarations for persons, which were convicted in connection with corruption; in this case a principle would be used that property, the origin of which cannot be proved, may be confiscated. An important measure in corruption prevention will be also sanctions against those persons, natural or legal ones, which took part in public tenders and were convicted either of intrigue or of corruption and as a result, these persons will be cut off from public financial means once for all and they will not be able to get a crown either from the state budget or from public budgets at the level of regions and municipalities. I was very pleased by initiative of the individual ministers, who proposed to complete the strategy and I can say now that principles of the strategy, which I had defined, were adopted and the definite form of those concrete measures will be submitted next week. And I suppose that it will be approved next week.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: I thank the minister and now the Deputy Prime Minister Petr Nečas will be speaking.

Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, one of materials, which were debated by the government today, was also the Conclusion of the NKÚ (Supreme Audit Office) that concerned management of financial means from the state budget for investment incentives and investment support, based on a statement on joint intention. I would like to repeat words that the Prime Minister said as an introduction – that the existing practice of the government was that the government ignored conclusions of the NKÚ in fact, it just noted the conclusion, and it declared that shortcomings would be removed and nothing special happened. To be concrete, regarding the matter, which was criticized by the NKÚ, it was a non-standard fact that in the amount of obligatory investment of the IBM Global Services Delivery Czech Centre Czech Republic also costs of training and retraining of the staff were included, which had already been covered by financial means amounted to 70 million crowns in the form of material support. The fact is that within this investment incentive, the company undertook to create 200 new jobs at a minimum for citizens of the CR and concurrently to provide training and retraining for 200 employees at a minimum from the date of signature. The actual state is that the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs stated in the conclusion of a control done in the end of 2005 that the company had not met its obligations. Owing to the fact that the company had asked for an annex to the declaration before the aforesaid term, the company is not obliged to return used financial means. In other words, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs knew well, based on its own control conclusion, that the company did not meet its obligations. The fact is that the annex to the declaration, the company asked for, and which changed its duties, was signed by guarantee sides as late as in the end of March 2006. That means after expiration of the deadline of the individual obligations stipulated and therefore the state failed without doubt. It signed the annex after expiration of the deadline, when the obligations were to be guaranteed. The material support at the amount of 70 million crowns rested in company for more than 4 years without fulfilling the purpose, for which the support had been granted. It is necessary to emphasize here that guarantee sides, which were the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Finance fully accepted request of the company and adopted the annex that the company proposed and they satisfied the company in all the points of the request submitted. In other words, even after forgiveness of 70 million crowns, the Czech side was lending a willing hand to the company. The annex of the declaration changes duties stipulated, but this change was not compensated by higher performance. It is a fact that under this annex, in which nearly all matters are forgiven and which fully satisfies the company, and I repeat again, creates a situation when the material support at the amount of 70 million crowns need not be refunded, or it is not a duty of the company to refund it to the state budget, under this annex Mr. Škromach, Mr. Sobotka and Mr. Urban are signed. I repeat again, after the deadline when it was possible to require the refund of money. It is a case, regarding which the government is not going to pretend that nothing happened with regard to the conclusion of the NKÚ and it is going to take measures that should prevent repetition of similar steps. Also certain other decision of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs are connected with this matter. As you certainly know, a fine amounted to half a million crowns was imposed on the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs by the Office for the Protection of Competition in connection with the public contract for a communication system. The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs placed this contract without a public tender; in other words, it placed the contract to a contractor, which had been chosen in advance. I can state that I am supported from the side of the government in my opinion that the Office for the Protection of Competition in all probability decided correctly; in other words, it is not possible to tolerate the state in which ministries obstruct decisions of the Office for the Protection of Competition, as they are always submitting abjurations and they sometimes even contest the decision of a court, because the respective officials refuse to assume responsibility for their incorrect decisions, or sometimes even illegal decisions. The government does not intend to support or accept this trend and its aim is to positively cooperate both with the NKÚ and with the Office for the Protection of Competition, so that the economy of the respective ministries would be more transparent and more effective. Based on these conclusions, we are not willing to continue in the existing practice, when the conclusions are doubted and fogged, and we want, based on these conclusions, to make the economy of the respective ministries clearer and more transparent.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you. In conclusion I ask the Minister of Finance for a few words.

Vlastimil Tlustý, Minister of Finance: Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. One of the principal documents that we presented at the last press conference after the meeting of the government was finding of the Ministry of Finance that in comparison with the optimistic expectations made in June regarding tax revenues of the state budget, which was presented by my predecessor minister Sobotka, the real development of these revenues and the estimate of tax collection by the end of the year is minus 12 billion crowns. We have immediately started actions to find causes and to remedy this state, which deepens expected deficit of the state budget in this year. The conclusions has not been finished yet, but both of them I regard so interesting that I will present them tentatively to you as early as today. The first main cause of the shortfall in tax revenues are much more significant consequences of so called common taxation of married couples. The project of the common taxation of married couples is a very interesting project of the previous social-democratic government, as it is a project that removes tax progression in case of very small group of people, families with children, in which one of partners earns much more money than the other one. This mechanism removes the tax progression in a very complicated manner. When debating this motion in the Chamber of Deputies, maybe I have said it here, but I will repeat it, estimates regarding consequences of this new tool were mentioned, which were inconsistent with the reality; in other words, members of the Chamber of Deputies were not informed correctly on real consequences of this step. The second conclusion is also very surprising and very principal, as well. It concerns the following: in spite of the fact that the government took absolutely concrete measures to increase tax collection from self-employed persons as it had promised to the public, as you surly remember, results of this intention are counterproductive. These measures came into force from the beginning of this year and they are such measures like minimal tax, minimal level of payments. The tax collection did not increased after implementation of these tools, as the social-democratic government had promised, but on the contrary a drop occurred. To say it in a simply way, it is further, I suppose that the third evidence, which proves the theory, which we repeatedly and unfortunately not very successfully explain to the general public, theory that says that increased tax liability does not lead to the increased collection of the respective tax just because things go according to the Lafair curve. If somebody makes a firm resolution to impose high taxes on certain group of, the result is counterproductive; it means lower tax collection takes place. There will be very interesting debate in the Chamber of Deputies, when we will be discussing correct rates of the consumption taxes of petrol and tobacco. I am saying it here, because there will be debate again on the same issue, if the rule of three is applicable or the Lafair curve.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, your questions, please.

Journalist: Did you debate the issue of the Aero Vodochody and what was its result?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: This material was passed to the comment procedure. We will debate it in the term which is a key one for the debate, i.e. by the end of this month, as the previous government determined, and thus it will be debated next week.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you, further question, please.

Jan Vavrušák, ČTK:The second point of the agenda was the Bill amending Act on Protection of Confidential Information. What was the decision of the government like?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: We decided to suspend this point. The last amendment, which has broaden number of exceptions up to 5000 persons, including judges, meant significant variance with our international treaty and we were warned by the NATO´s headquarters that there is a risk of stoppage of information provision from the side of NATO´s headquarters for our needs, which are of course of a security character. The purpose of this small amendment is to reduce number of exceptions significantly, to accommodate the other side and to fulfil the international treaty. This point was suspended by a week, as we are still debating number of those exceptions. And we also would like to charge the Director of the NBÚ (National Security Authority) and also my person with a task to prepare much more complex and more principal amendment, by June of the next year, which would better formulate provision of this act, which is very important.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you, further question, please.

Pavla Švérová, MfD: I have a question regarding your candidates for municipal election in towns of Slaný and Kutná Hora. Two of them were removed yesterday. I would like to know why and why anybody discussed it neither with local association nor with them. And who concretely decided on it, because the regional commissionaire claims that there was no discussion on this issue at the committee.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: This matter is only of a managerial character and it is in competence of the electoral manager; anybody else has no right neither to remove persons from lists of candidates not to decide on it, it is exclusively managerial matter. It means that your question should be directed to the main electoral manager of the ODS and on the electoral assignee, who made it. We discussed this matter at the committee. I do not think it concerned any important persons, who had higher positions of the list of candidates, as Jiří Paroubek announced loudly in a TV debate "Otázky Václava Moravce". But the recommendation of the committee to the electoral manager was to solve this problem. The way of his solution is within his competences.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you, further question, please.

Journalist, televize Nova: I would like to ask about the point that concerned the care for endangered children and children living outside their own families. Has this point been approved?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I ask Petr Nečas to answer.

Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: Yes, it has. I regard this material as very important, because it concerns an issue, which is very sensitive and it is an issue, which did not have a clear concept. And as range of organs of the state administration is involved in it, including non-profit-making, nongovernmental sector, a united methodology is very necessary. The problem is that, apart from the state administration, there are also organs of municipalities with local jurisdiction involved in the sphere of social-legal care of children. Significant role is that of courts, but also that of non-profit-making sector, non-government organization and such like. The strategy, which was debated, was debated based on five principal priorities that it has. The first one is a cooperation and communication of subjects in the framework of care for endangered children. I have described in fact the situation, in which range of subjects are involved in the framework of public authority, but also beyond the public authority. Further area is education in the sphere of social-legal children protection, because in this case there is necessary to solve it sensitively; it is a very sensitive issue that concerns the most brittle beings we have, I mean children. In other words, it is also necessary to increase the level of education of the individual components of the system. The third and key priority of this strategy is enhancement of general public awareness of its role in the sphere of social-legal children protection. I regard this issue as very principal one, because in many cases maltreatment of children is caused by our unconcern, because we take no notice of what is happening in our neighbourhood. And it is necessary to inform the public that something like that happens and that it happens more frequently than we are willing to admit, that for example organs of school administration, schools, doctors, neighbours, friends relatives , etc, who may notice typical signs of maltreatment of children, may help a lot. Further priority of this strategy is the development of the alternative network of care for children, as we are convinced that the basic requirement must be to ensure adequate childhood for as many children, who face various problems, as possible and based on this strategy we want to establish a system, within which a broad spectrum of possibilities exists to provide alternative care and to give preference to the family care before the care that is provided by institutions. This is one of objectives of the strategy. Well, the last priority of the strategy is accent on children's opinions and on their rights in the framework of decision-making process and in the framework of care for them. I suppose this element to be quite new and modern, which has not been respected in the course of decision-making process at organs of public administration; it also concerns courts that very often ignore children's opinions, especially in the area of alternative care. And other priority has a connection with this; it is the education, as it is a very sensitive issue. The system must be able to protect children and care for them. Therefore also the issue of taking into consideration of children must depend on their age and their ability to assess some matters. As you can see, these five priorities are mutually bound and I am convinced that the strategy is necessary and that it is extremely apolitical or non-party one and that a broad consensus of political parties at our political scene will be reached. I am very pleased and I am convinced that it will ring new positive elements in the system of alternative care but also in the system of protection of children against various abuse or maltreatment.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I would just ad that the material was adopted by the government unanimously, that should have been the first information.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you, further question, please.

Journalist Sadílek, ČTK: I would like to revert to the toll rates. I would like to know whether the toll rates were accepted as they had been submitted. And other question, which concerns the communication infrastructure of the public administration. The government charged the Minister of Interior and Informatics last week to submit new version of the project. Was it submitted and what was the result?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Regarding your first question, as Minister Hřebíček is not present yet, the government adopted those rates as they had been proposed, it means the only one rate for vehicles over 12 tons was approved. We debated the problem and checked whether it could impair small hauliers. Their vehicles are just in the area of the time toll, it means from 3,5 tons do 12 tons and therefore we came to a conclusion that they will not be impaired. Based on an agreement with the Ministry of Environment, the material was amended and these rates will be applicable for one year, then they will be evaluated and that was relatively significant amendment in comparison with the proposal of the previous government. And further change is that there will be the only one rate for vehicles over 12 tons and not seven rates as the previous government absurdly proposed.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I will respond to the second part of the question. I submitted the anti-corruption package to the government today; next week it will be the information package, which will comprise issues of communication infrastructure of public administration regarding contracting in the sphere of information and communication technologies, and issue of implementation of the CzechPoint project. I can say that there will be a significant change of the strategy, which should lead to more effective and cheaper operation of communication technologies in the sphere of public administration, as there will be a duty of the respective subjects to be involved in it. And I say as early as now that everybody who would fight against this duty will have to explain whether he/she prefers the fragmented system of non-transparent contracting in this area. As to contracts in the sphere of information and communication technologies – the government tentatively agrees with consistent application of the principle "Open Source", so that nobody could be the exclusive supplier for the respective ministry. And you are well acquainted with the CzechPoint from the Index, I suppose. There will be information package next week.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I just add that I charged all ministers with a task to check all contracts in this area, as it is shown that just in this area the main principles of effectiveness have been breached. We even had to approve the material to secure upgrading of tax and finance tools, which are done at the Ministry of Finance, but concurrently we charge ministers with a task to check it, because these contracts are sometimes difficult to be terminated and to make an amendment is also very complicated in case of forced amendment.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you, further question.

Rampachová, televize Prima: I would like to ask the Prime Minister Topolánek about the political situation; whether an agreement is possible to make at present of all political parties.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: We will certainly be trying to reach an agreement on early elections, this is a platform, which we had announced, I think. I suppose that these debates will start after the President finishes his introductory round of consultations. We are ready to negotiate on a broad agreement concerning early elections. I think that after discussion on various names, we revert to the basic concept, i.e. first thing is to reach an agreement on early elections, then to debate a form of such government and not until after that to speak about names. So, such an agreement is possible, in spite of the fact that I am informed about the result of talks of social democrats with the President, where no progress has been reached. We will certainly strive to reach an agreement, which would be based on consensus of all political parties in the Chamber of Deputies, as we are of the opinion that it is the only one possible way or right-minded way to start normal governance.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you, further question.

Journalist, ČT: What would be your attitude to the great coalition? And the second question concerns Jiří Paroubek. Do you expect him to be commissioned by forming a government?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: These are very frequent questions and I answer them quite irritably in the same way. We will not accept a great coalition, of course. Apart of the fact that it would be a great dupery of our voters, that what we have presented here today would be never investigated, without doubt. Moreover, the great coalition is not a miracle; in all countries where it had been applied, increase of right-wing and left-wing extremism took place and these republics are parcelled out. We have experience enough to refuse such a pattern of governance. So, we do not prefer it and we are not going to negotiate about great coalition. And the second question concerned Jiří Paroubek and his commission. This is a question for the President, not for me.

Journalist, ČT: But what is your opinion?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: My opinion is still the same.

Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: I would just add something regarding the great coalition. As a key fact I regard the fact that the social democracy admits now that it wants the great coalition for two years, in other words, it admits that the only one honest, correct and rational solution of the existing political situation are early elections. The only one question, which is here to be answered is, why it is necessary to wait for the early elections until 2008, which is the worst term from the point of view of interests of this country. And why on the contrary, if we can agree on early elections, why not to hold them as soon as possible, which would be in compliance with interests of this country.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you, further question, please.

Journalist: Jiří Paroubek said that his feelings had been very good after talks with the President. And his personal ... inarticulate ... that he could get a chance in the second round. What do you thing about it?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Our feelings after talks with the President were also very good and we declared it openly and we will wait after the finish of this round of discussions of the President with the individual parties so that we could start bilateral negotiations. I am not going to express my opinion regarding statement of Jiří Paroubek.

Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: Perhaps it would be worth of mentioning that Jiří Paroubek´s face has been very kind for about five days and we like the view of kind Mr. Paroubek.

Vlastimil Tlustý, Minister of Finance: Ladies and gentlemen, if a courageous man is being sought, I will assume this role. I think that during last days it is absolutely evident that Mr. Paroubek must know that, based on his actions since the electoral evening, he disqualified himself from the nomination for the prime minister.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: I ask for the last question.

Journalist: I would like to ask a question Minister Tlustý. You have allegedly found 15 billion crowns for pensions. Could you say where they have come from?

Vlastimil Tlustý, Minister of Finance: Above all I noticed that certain media have published information that first I had not found anything and then I found them. I would like to say that the statement regarding missing means for pensions was the statement of my colleague, the Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. I think that you were informed in this room that I had been charged with a task to find in reserves these means in reserves, which would enable to cover those 10 billion crowns, and not to increase the deficit. And I promised in this room that I would do it. And I did it. So, everything is exactly as it had been stated and not so inexactly as you cite.

Ivan Langer, Minister of Interior: I must sadly note, as an administrator of one of budgetary headings, that he was finding and he has found eventually.

Radim Ochvat, secretary of the Prime Minister: Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Thank you, nice day.

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