Press Conferences

21. 7. 2008 15:19

Press Conference of the Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Alexandr Vondra, held on 21st July 2008

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press conference after the seventh stop of the Prime Minister on his way around the individual ministries, this time at the Ministry for European Affairs. I welcome the Deputy Prime Minister Mr. Alexandr Vondra and the Prime Minister Mr. Mirek Topolánek whom I give the floor now.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Thank you, good morning. As an introduction I should say that we decided to establish a special body at the Office of the Government, which has not a character of a ministry. Nevertheless, this body plays two key roles and we decided to establish a post of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs. The first aspect which was proclaimed by everybody is that our European scope of activities in the fifth year of our membership is far more aimed at internal issues than at foreign affairs issues. It cannot be surprising in many respects. This body is a parallel of similar bodies in many other countries of the European Union. Not only because national interests are pushed through the European scope of activities, but also because all the steps taken by the European Union are eventually projected to the activities of the individual ministries, to our internal scope of activities, to lives of all citizens of the Czech Republic. The second reason, which is a temporary reason, is our EU presidency. So, on the one hand it concerns the coordination of the European policy or our internal policy in the European Union, on the other hand it concerns the Czech presidency which will begin on 1st January 2009. These were the main two reasons why we finally chose a man who has been perfectly fulfilling this role. The Czech presidency is something of which the Czech public has not enough information; it does not know what will be dimensions of the Czech presidency, what the Czech presidency will mean for the European life and institutions, for the European Union, for citizens themselves. If we realize that before less than twenty years there was a government of the only one party and centrally controlled economy here and that we have accessed NATO, occupants left our country, we accessed the European Union and the Schengen area, and in the first half of 2009 we will become a country which will be heading the European Union, in fact, which will preside the European Council, the individual session of ministers, which will moderate the entire discussion, which will offer the European politicians and citizens certain solutions of great number of burning issues, this is something that hardly anybody was able to realize. It is a chance for the Czech Republic, for making it known, for our ability to demonstrate that we are able to find compromises, that we are able to organize and to control the life of the European Union within those six months. I am very content with fulfilment of those tasks which were included in the Programme Declaration and which the Minister was endowed with. As to matters where there are certain problems, I am used to talk about these matters openly, they are issues connected with coordination of the European policy. There must be absolutely clear the role of the individual ministries and their officials in the course of negotiations on new directives, the role of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. After non-ratification of the Lisbon Treaty is the role of sessions of Ministers of Foreign Affairs very important and crucial. It is a role of Alexandr Vondra as the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, it is a role our mission in Brussels which through everyday work enforce our European policy. As to the European presidency, I would like to say that we have started very early and I should say that there was nothing we could continue. We had to prepare completely new financial framework, new staff. We had to decide on new institutional conditions, on the individual actions, on their placement, on their agenda; we had to decide on financial frameworks of the individual actions, on their agenda. I am very content with those preparatory works. We are trying to remove those risks we are aware of and I must appreciate the body of Alexandr Vondra, as I do not mark anybody; he did the job very well. And I will leave to Alexandr Vondra to tell us which issues he regard as essential in the following months, in the next year, what problems we must still cope with.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Well, good morning ladies and gentlemen. I would like to emphasize again that it does not concern a ministry. The Prime Minister visited us in his home, in fact. We form a part of the Office of the Government. Both the body which coordinates the European Affairs and the body which prepares the Czech presidency, it has its seat in a different building, form a part of the Office of the Government. I agree with what has been said about the coordination.. It is an important task and if the matter is not solved explicitly by the legislation, then it is always a question of finding compromises and it is always more complicated in a coalition government that in case of one-colour government. I thin it would be good to include this issue in the future also to the Competency Act. In times when most of European countries deemed the Lisbon treaty as nearly approved, it was before the Irish referendum, our model of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs was a modem which was very inspiring for many countries, as the council for general and external affairs is divided into two different independent parts, and the Council for General Affairs has a coordinating role on the European level and it is a kind of a return to the original concept which the European Union or the European Community were based on. There was stronger influence of the Council for General Affairs. As to our presidency, I am of the opinion that we are following the time schedule; it means as far as financial framework, organizational preparation, security preparation and selection of the individual suppliers are concerned. As to our principal task for the last stage, I think that the autumn stage will be the most difficult one. All people who have experience with organizing a presidency say that the last four months are the most complicated stage of preparation. After the presidency begins, there is no space for some changes or adjustments; everything is running. Now there is summer season, perhaps there is the last opportunity to recover and starting from September we will enter the last stage of preparation. I regard the role of communication as the most important in this stage. We must explain why we are doing that, how important it well be what positions the Czech Republic will try to find, as our position is quite specific. On the one hand we are not an European power, as for example France which has very ambitious programme and which will have to do its best to be able to fulfil its planned tasks. On the other hand, we are not so small as Slovenia with its two million inhabitants. we are ten-million country which is the ninth largest country in the EU out of those 27 countries, if I am not mistaken.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: We are the smallest of big countries or the biggest of the small countries.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Well, whatever true is, we will have interest to leave any imprint behind us and I firmly believe we will be successful and that we will use a style which belongs to Czechs – a detached attitudes and humour. If we were fierce, as it is in case of our political struggle, it would discover those dark aspects of our character. If we view problems from dispassionate point of view, we are usually successful, I think. It will not be an uncomplicated period of time, as in its end the European Parliament elections will be held in June of the next year. The term of the European Commission will be finished and we could see as early as at the last session of the EU Council that many Commissioners, or a Commission as a whole which is always a guarantor of reforms and impartiality, tends to be politicized as many of its members hope they will continue their work after elections; let alone the atmosphere in the European Parliament which will certainly have a pre-election character in autumn and in spring. In other words, it rather complicates the situation and creates certain plots; nevertheless, we will overcome them, there is no doubt. In the introduction I said that it was not a ministry and that the Prime Minister visited us at his home. Now, I would close the circle and I should say that the essential prerequisite of our success is that the Prime Minister pay great attention to this area; he is interested in it, he enjoy it and it is half of our success. He visited us at his home and we feel at home here, as well.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Deputy Prime Minister and the Prime Minister. I ask for your question, please.

Tomáš Drahoňovský, TV Prima: Good morning, with regard to the final phase of the preparation which is drawing near, I would like to know what your stand is to the fact that the post of the Chairman of the Committee for European Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies is not assigned yet. Do you have some possible solution prepared?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I should say it is not a problem which should be solved by the government. The fact that the post of the Chairman of the Committee for European Affairs is not assigned is unpleasant but our preparations for our presidency are not affected. It is rather a problem of the Chamber of Deputies, it is its inability to elect a chairman who could play certain role, not an executive role, but relatively significant role in the framework of the individual actions. It is apparent that there will be the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies and Deputy Chairmen who will have to stand in for him/her. I hope the problem to be solved but I do not think it is my problem and I am not going to solve it.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: As a senator I would add that the Committee for European Affairs is also established in the Senate and this Committee is very well chaired by Senator Luděk Sefzig who is working very well in the course of preparation works, I mean in areas which have broader significance, and which are not only some partial policies; thus the important role of the Senate is demonstrated. I am of the opinion that we must solve it somehow as soon as the Chamber of Deputies has its session in September but with regard to the competent and continuous work of the Senate, I do not regard it as problem in relation to the European institutions, as we have our representatives assigned.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I only add that it does not concern only this partial problem, small problem. We must solve the coordination of the individual high officials. We had a meeting with the President on Tuesday. The President has certain constitutional role, the Prime Minister has his role, the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs has his coordination role, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has his role, and chairmen of both chambers of the Parliament have their roles, as well. Tens of various actions will be held, rather informal actions. There will be held great session of European economic chambers and many other similar actions. It means that we must divide our work in this respect; it is not a competition on who will work more, who will go further, who will be faster. It just concerns the division of labour and we may miss that man, in this respect. But as you can see, those officials, who will bear certain degree of responsibility, have their task allotted, and we will try to initiate a discussion in the Chamber of Deputies so that that man could work during our presidency.

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

Czech News Agency: You said you would communicate during the last months preceding our presidency about the nature of the presidency. Could you specify it?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I read rather a derogatory text in a newspaper, I cannot remember in what newspaper, and I explained it later on. First, it concerns just the role of this department, as it has a communication system established. It is rather a question to Alexandr Vondra, but an information campaign will be running since September. I am of the opinion that it is important for people to understand what the presidency means so that they would not have expectations carried to an extreme; nevertheless, we would like people to be proud of our country which will preside over the European Union for half a year. It means that people deserve information as well as in case of other matters and we are going to be absolutely open and we will provide such information so that people understand the internal procedures of the European Union and its institutions, varying responsibilities in the course of a year, our role and our opportunity to influence them, the individual problems which do not concern our citizens immediately but which will have a significant influence on them in a medium-term horizon. We would like our citizens to understand what agenda is debated and what we ourselves can influence. That is the content of the information campaign. Perhaps Alexandr Vondra knows more about it.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: I think that there is still such a feeling prevailing here that causes that division to "THEY" in Brussels, in the European Union and "WE" who are here. I think we will want to show clearly that we are those who can influence it. We are those who have a chance to show that we will manage it that we are respected partners. In other words, this is one part of the information campaign. There are two different models as to the second part. The first one means that all the actions are held in a single spot; that was a model of small Slovenia, which held the actions in a conference centre near the centre of Ljubljana. Slovenia, as a small country had no choice. France, on the contrary, but also Finland, Austria decided in the past to hold the actions relating to the presidency in the whole country, not only in the capital. We are following this model; in other words, great part of those sessions of ministers and number of other conferences and working meetings will be held out of Prague, in Bohemia and in Moravia, nearly in all regions. Not all the sessions of ministers will be held in all regions; we are not able to allocate them in all regions. We discussed it in detail. We are cooperating with the Association of Regional Commissioners and with the Union of Towns and Villages. I suppose to leave in autumn to the individual towns where the sessions of ministers will be held. We will check the progress in preparation and it will be also an opportunity to explain people what our presidency can bring the Czech Republic and regions.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I would like to say that it is necessary to explain what may cause some problems; I mean security measures which will result in certain restrictions during those sessions. It is good to communicate it in advance, inspite of the fact that not every action will be as large as the NATO summit in Prague was. Nevertheless, some of actions will be held beyond the standard security framework and it would be good to prepare people for it.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: I would like to add that there is nothing to be afraid of. At present, I do not expect that we will hold an action which could be compared with the NATO summit which was held in 2002. In other words, I do not suppose any three-day closure of a important part of a town; I do not think people are to be afraid of it.

Czech News Agency: Could you mention some of these towns?

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Yes, as to the sessions of ministers, they are Brno, Olomouc, Luhačovice, Teplice together with Litoměřice, Hluboká, Mariánské Lázně and we also suppose Liberec where the session of ministers responsible for sport would be held on the occasion of the Nordic Ski World Championship.

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

Czech News Agency: You have mentioned a lack of communication between the individual ministries; what is the problem?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: It is not any lack of communication between the individual ministries but at present, when we expect the organ of the Deputy Prime Minister to coordinate the European policy, the problem rather concerns the communication of the individual ministries with our mission in Brussels and with this body at the Office of the Government. It does not mean that the communication does not function, but our idea concerning the future is that the European agenda should be coordinated just by the organ of the Deputy Prime Minister, whether it will become a ministry in the future or not. The current state is suitable for us. It was rather a small complaint; in a history, in the last years after our accession to the EU ministers or their deputies learnt about problems only after their arrival in Brussels. We are preparing a mandate of the government now for every session of ministers; we cope in detail with the respective scope of activities, but still, I am of the opinion that the role of this body in the future will have to be more significant.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: If there are no further questions, we will be seeing you at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Good-bye.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Thank you, have a nice day.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Good-bye.

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