Press Conferences

14. 7. 2008 13:33

Press Conference of the Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and the Minister of Education, Youth and Physical Training Ondřej Liška, held on 14th July 2008

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: ... inarticulate ...More complicates situation is in the area of operational programmes, or rather the operational programme, as that first programme Education for Competitiveness is approved and it can be started in fact. The remedy was not easy in this case. You know well that concretely science, education, innovation, innovation process and the entire VIVAT Project (project aimed at support of research, technologies and innovations) are my Prime Minister's priority and I closely cooperate with the Minister. We are of the same opinion. There are some 68 billion crowns here, but the rate of exchange of the crown is growing so rapidly that it will be less than 68 billion crowns; we must not dissipate them. We cannot build useless buildings, some new campuses, which would remain empty after 2015 and would need huge subsidies; these financial means must serve for the enhancement of the innovation potential of the Czech Republic and we have the same opinion on that. We will cooperate in this area, it concerns the inter-ministerial cooperation, because that operational programme VaVpI (Research and Development for Innovations) is administered by two ministries in fact; it is the Ministry of Industry and Trade and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Physical Training. Great number of lobbying groups was looking forward to dividing those tens of billion crowns. Our common task, I mean task of ministries and my task, is to avoid that nonsensical redistribution and to use the last chance for the enhancement of our innovation potential, as we are still a country which draw more money than it pay to the EU. What I would like to mention here, I praised the Minister for abolition of discrimination in case of termination of kindergarten attendance. That measure aimed at abolition of fees in the third class proved to be incorrect, as parent of children from the first and second class subsidized in fact parents of children from the third class. Certain parents even let their children repeat the third class. Finally, the purpose of the measure was not reached as unprivileged parents did not use that instrument and therefore the preliminary year would be far more effective tool. It means that the fact that we proposed to cancel this measure was a step in the right direction. Thanks to the approved abolition of the limit of number of pupils in schools, dissolution of schools will not continue, I hope. It will be up to municipalities, to elected deputies, to parents to decide whether to maintain a school or not. It must be their priority, and it must be supported from the budget of the respective municipality. I praise the Minister for fulfilling that task. I welcome the modification of school-leaving examinations. The fact that students will have an opportunity to choose from two degrees of difficulty is in my view a step in the right direction. I also welcome that student will be allowed to do the entrance examinations at three schools. My son has been reproaching me up to now as it did not concern him; nevertheless he will still attend a secondary school, but we would have been more relaxed if he had had wider choice. Finally I will mention the tertiary education. I should say that it is a very complicated task. All the previous ministers found this problem a hard nut to crack because those necessary reforms which are to be aimed at quality of education and at support of the best students always met with strong opposition of those who were average or under-average or who were accustomed to the flow of money. I think I am the first Prime Minister who does not leave the Minister of Education without help; I will support him in this effort. The "White Book of Tertiary Education" has been presented and now also the public discussion is being held; not only the expert discussion. I support these principles and now something like a feasibility study is being prepared and a concrete articulated version of the subject-matter of the Act on Tertiary Education will follow. I support loans for students and scholarships, I support establishment of research universities as a specific segment of top-class schools for science, research and innovation, I support the bachelor study programmes and the increase of number of graduates within the individual age groups. I support further education and the discussion on possible introduction of the tuition in the following period of time. I am of the opinion that there is a shortage both excellent students and students of bachelor study programmes. There is a shortage both top-class research establishments producing new technologies and patents and bachelors graduates who are immediately ready to enter a job. I also support higher managerial responsibility of university managements, higher freedom in obtaining financial means, more opportunities to cooperate with private spin-off firms in introduction of new ideas in the practice. I support interconnection of the entire innovation chain by the way because I am of the opinion that it is one of few chances how to maintain our high economic potential in the future. I definitely support the Minister and I suppose he will not regard it as an unacceptable supervision, as we often discuss these matters. You might be surprised at the fact that we have the same opinion on these priorities despite different ideological basis. I believe we will win your support as well, a support of media, so as not to be ashamed of the education system in the Czech Republic, support of science and research and so as we could do our best for the future; not only to correct mistakes of the past. So, Minister Liška has my full support.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister and now the Minister of Education, Youth and Physical Training, Mr. Ondřej Liša has the floor.

Ondřej Liška, Minister of Education, Youth and Physical Training: Thank you Mr. Prime Minister for your words, it is very pleasant to listen to them, of course, and I would like to thank you for your support. It turn out during those six months that you understood certain spheres of education much more than I had expected and therefore the debate which was held today was held in such a detailed manner; it was not a formal discussion. My objective for the following months and for those two years is to implement priorities which have been mentioned here by the Prime Minister. A would like to add something or to emphasize some of them. In the area of the regional system of schools I would like to pay attention to the enhancement of quality of work of teachers. We are preparing standards of the teacher profession. I described them in detail at one of previous press conference and they would be presented by the end of the year. We would also like to continue the strengthening of motivation elements in the remuneration system of Czech pedagogues. As to school management, it is necessary to make relations between schools and their founders more transparent so that headmasters were not oppressed, for example from the side of certain political representation, and so that they could be dismissed, based on transparent criteria, in case of obstructing of school development. It is necessary to strengthen managerial competences of headmasters; also in this case we are preparing measures which will be made in this year. We also expect a new scope of activities of the School Inspection. Its activities will not be aimed so much at assessment of formal legislative and financial obligations, but rather at the educational process itself, at the implementation of the reform of education and at opportunities which result from it. As to the system of funding of the regional school system, it is a question which attracted the attention of media in the last six months. I proposed changes which were to strengthen motivation of pedagogues. But I do not want to be satisfied with this; I want to propose further system changes which will strengthen the autonomy of schools in the framework of the regional school system. The budgetary allocation of taxes which was to transfer all financial means to regions has already taken place in other spheres. There is a question here whether it will become topical in the future. In autumn I would like to propose a model which would solve this problem I am of the opinion that founders of school should be responsible for creation of conditions for teaching, and now it is a matter of the political discussion to decide how the ministry ,as a central organ, ensures the integrity of the educational system. We will be holding this debate with the Prime Minister and other ministers so that we would be able to propose a model in autumn which would have a chance to be approved. The tertiary education is our common priority. We want to proceed from the White Book, from conceptions and strategies, to the implementation which is scheduled for autumn. We want to prepare the subject-matter of the Act on Tertiary Education at the turn of the year and in the next year we would pay our attention to the enforcement of that law. I think it is one of priorities of this government and it is also our responsibility for the future competitiveness of the Czech Republic, for better function of the educational system, so that it would be comparable with the world and European standards. As to the operational programmes, I was appointed in the time when my predecessor was blamed for being unable to prepare the operational programme VaVpI (Science and Research for Innovation). This programme is an absolutely essential contribution just for the competitiveness of the Czech Republic, for the scientific infrastructure in our country. I had said I would present this programme by the end of March, and I fulfilled it. The government approved it and sent it to Brussels. I am leaving for Brussels tomorrow to conclude some negotiations on this operational programme and I expect that nothing will hamper its signature and approval by the European Commission. I will inform you on that after I return. The last matter I would like to mention concerns the fact that a task is included in the Programme Declaration of the Government - to support equal opportunities, to open universities for as highest number of students as possible; it is included in the White Book, it forms a part of the tertiary education reform. But what lacked in this ministry was the integral approach to the entire educational system. Therefore I regard as necessary to add further system changes to that reform of the tertiary education and to the regional system of schools. Therefore a team was established which should deal with this problem, so that both changes in the regional system of schools and the tertiary education and the reform of the research and development form an integral, rational and clear complex.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Minister and now there is time for your questions.

Journalist: ... inarticulate ...

Ondřej Liška, Minister of Education, Youth and Physical Training: There was a vote on such a proposal in the Chamber of Deputies, and it was not approved. It was shown that it was necessary to debate a model which would win the political support. It is necessary to negotiate on a model which would ensure integrity of the system and which would accomplish the process of creation of the regional education policy. We are holding a debate now on this issue and I will present the model in autumn.

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

Kateřina Perknerová, Deník: Good afternoon. You were speaking here on the tertiary education. I would like to now the opinion of the Prime Minister, because when the Danish Minister of Education was here some time ago, he presented a very interesting model which operated well in Denmark. It means that there is no tuition in Denmark and each student can receive a grant, state scholarship and he/she can use it both in Denmark and abroad in case of any study. In my view, it is a very rational and interesting idea which could be used in our country as well. The Danish minister said that Danish students returned from abroad enriched by new experience. In our country there are certain proposals in which relatively low grants are expected, only some one thousand crowns monthly. All the rest would be covered by loans. Are there any debates being held in this respect? I ask because the Minister of Education decided last week to increase scholarship for our students abroad. Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I am of the opinion that it is not possible to compare those education systems. Each of them is in a different stage. Denmark, apart from what you have mentioned, has also a different principle – it is a detailed interconnection of employment policy with the policy of education. The principle is that he who does not work studies, and thus also the social system of support of education is connected with the employment policy. I think we want to go in this direction, too. We will propose stricter conditions for payments of various types of allowances, so that the allowances would be bound to the activities of men related to further education and retraining, and active searching of jobs. This is one principle. The second one, I think it is aimed at the direction that you have mentioned, it concerns certain system of scholarship, loans, grants, as it is described in the White Book. This system is similar to that Danish system. But it will never be comparable, as they are in a different situation than we are.

Ondřej Liška, Minister of Education, Youth and Physical Training: I can just briefly add that the Danish model is inspiring but it cannot be entirely transferred to our country. But the important thing is that we are trying to implement in the framework of the reform of the tertiary education measures which were taken by Denmark five years ago, and great number of them stood the test of time, especially that which was aimed at management of universities – that was very similar reform which was done in Denmark. Nowadays universities in Denmark are more autonomous and they can raise money more easily; they better cooperate in the sphere of research and development. The system simply stood the test of time as they had expected and there is no reason for different expectations in our country.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: When professor Vaňka from the Cambridge University was in our country some time ago, he described absolutely the same principles which are used in similar types of schools in Great Britain now. Schools are far less depended on the state budget but there is great number of measures which cannot be implemented here now. It is not possible to make a revolution in the system, but it is just the White Book which is to show directions in various spheres – management of schools, financial independence, co-funding of schools, and division of universities to research universities and the others. All that is in the White Book, the debate is being held. Experts and academic sphere expressed their approval to number of measures, and we must communicate on the remaining issues. I do not think that we will do something what would be against interests of the academic circles and against interests of students. We would like to have more students than we have nowadays because the existence of this country or rather its successfulness depends on them. In the course of preparation of that White Book we studied various systems; each country is different; in Scandinavia there is different system applied than in Anglo-Saxony part of the world. Countries around us have different experience and our proposal is based on the best measures which stood the test of time.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you. Is there any further question? Mladá fronta, please.

Mladá fronta: I have a question to both Mr. Minister and Mr. Prime Minister. The company ČEZ (electric energy supplier) has asked for EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) for completion of construction of the nuclear power station in Temelín. Do you support this step, Mr. Prime Minister? Are not you afraid of certain problems with the Green party with regard to the Programme Declaration of the Government? And the question to Mr. Minister Liška – how do you consider the EIA for completion of construction of the nuclear power station in Temelín ... the rest of the question inarticulate ...

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Well, I am glad that we are dealing with issues connected with this press conference. I do not know whether I am to speak about education. I like to speak about education of journalists, but I will skip this passage this time. I do not expect us to breach the coalition agreement and the Programme Declaration of the Government. We will not take any steps in this election period which would lead to the planning or even construction of the nuclear power station in Temelín. The fact that the company submitted a request in the framework of standard administration procedure is not a matter of the government and you must know it. This step should enable to create basis for the next political representation in case it decides on planning any completion of the construction of new nuclear blocks. I think it would be very irresponsible, in spite to the fact that we have the coalition agreement arranged like this, and we want to observe it. It would be irresponsible to hamper this process, as we are not able to do that in my opinion. We would have to disengage the Board of Directors of the ČEZ and we would have to take dramatic steps. I do not regard it as a breach of our agreements; I regard it as a logical step. If the company ČEZ wanted to take this step, then it simply took it. I have no comments on it. It is not me to comment it.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Mr. Minister.

Ondřej Liška, Minister of Education, Youth and Physical Training: Thank you. I will mention only two matters. First, the Programme Declaration of the Government is effective. Second, the duty of the Ministry of Environment is to accept any request of any subject for assessment of the influence on the environment.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: It is as if you asked whether we want to breach environmental limits concerning mining of brown coal, limits which the Pithart´s government undertook to observe. We do not. We will not support this step on no account; we do not want to breach the Programme Declaration of the Government on no account. It is not connected with EIA, in my opinion. Do you know anything about energy industry? I do not think so.

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

Kateřina Perknerová, Deník: I would like to ask a question concerning this sphere but it concerns supplies of oil. I would like to know if you can explain that reduction of oil supplies from Russia. Or, can you say what the response of the government will be like?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: You should require that explanation of the Russian supplier, not of the Czech government. I want to believe that reasons which are stated by the Russian supplier are just technical reasons and that they are not any other reasons. I believe in it and I do not have any reason for not to believe in it. I think it is good that the government has a special department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs established, which deals with these problems very often. It holds debates on the European level on diversification of supplies, on the strategic security of the Czech Republic and so, we have other suppliers at our disposal. We have facilities, we have pipelines and I would like the future political representations to realize that it is not possible to be depended on supplies from the only one country and that it is necessary to take all the necessary steps to reach diversification of supplies. There is no problem threatening at present. Apart from great stock, we have an opportunity to receive oil from other countries and I hope that those technical problems on the side of the Russian supplier will be solved quickly.

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

Journalist: ... inarticulate ... whether you were debated resignation of Mr. Čunek? And whether you agree with Mr. Martin Bursík?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I was asked about that question on week-end and I will not say anything else on it. Yes, I am identified with conclusions made by Martin Bursík not only because we had been talking about it.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you; are there any other questions, please?

Vladimír Keblůšek: Does it mean that Karel Schwarzenberg told you that he would remain that he would not resign?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: We were negotiating on Friday or Saturday, I do not know exactly; it was in the evening. I read such a brief summary that had five pages. I evaluated it in the same way; it mans that the principal questions, because of which Jiří Čunek had been accused, were answered in the audit in a negative way. It would have been very complicated for Jiří Čunek to enrich himself, but such an enrichment did not take place in the end, and it was confirmed by the investigation. That was the main reason for which Karel Schwarzenberg wanted to have an audit made. I think it was proved that Jiří Čunek could have those financial means; it was proved that those actions that were part of the accusation could not have taken place. In this respect, I cannot see any reason for resignation of Karel Schwarzenberg, if he had invested his own money in such an audit. Nevertheless, I will add one more matter to it – it has been proved that there is great number of things which would deserve legislative amendments in the Czech Republic. One of problems which was part of the audit, and which is now being solved by Minister Kalousek, concerned accounting of reserves of companies for repairs. It concerned only taxes, not cash. In this case, the tax rules proposed by Minister Kalousek imposed companies a duty, in case they create reserves for repairs in the future, to allocate them in a cash form, and not to use only that tax tool. I do not think that it will be a problem, it just shows that audits and experiences can be generalized in a legislative form, which we are responsible for.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Than you, is there any further question? Mr. Minister please.

Ondřej Liška, Minister of Education, Youth and Physical Training: When Mr. Prime Minister arrived at the ministry, I gave him such a small gift, a drawing of a twelve-year-old Palestinian boy who had found his new home in the Czech Republic. And that drawing, Mr. Prime Minister can show it to you, was drawn in a facility which was administered by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Physical Training. It is a home of children who had left their mother countries because of security, economic or social reasons. That young Palestinian would like to remain in the Czech Republic and I hope that the policy we are doing with the Prime Minister will help children who has not be born here to find a new home in our country. In the very conclusion I prepared one more gift for you, Mr. Prime Minister – it is the most frequently translated Czech book. It was written by John Amos Comenius and its title is Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: That is fantastic. I have such a feeling that just that book was not written in our country; it was not written in Leszno, it was written in Sárospatak, which hardly anybody knows, where john Amos Comenius spent two years. There is an Evangelic university there and up to now the town, where he written this book, has a spirit of John Amos Comenius. Thank you for that. It is nice of you. Thank you.

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