Press Conferences

21. 7. 2008 15:22

Press Conference of the Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek and the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, held on 21st July 2008

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I have indirectly assessed the work of this ministry several times when I said that Karel Schwarzenberg was the best Minister of Foreign Affairs in the post-November era of our country. It was undoubtedly true. I highly value the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One of those positive matters is a long-term maintaining the Czech foreign policy. I think it is true whatever media publish. The basic attributes of the foreign policy in the post-November era are characterized by several main aspects. One of these aspects is the active role in the European policy. It is our accession to the EU what unambiguously dominates our foreign policy, not only at this ministry but also at the newly established body at the Office of the Government, the body of the Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra. It is undoubtedly the Euro-Atlantic relation, not only thanks to our membership in NATO; they are good relationships with our neighbour countries; it is not only Europe, it is our active role in Afghanistan, in Iraq, it is north of Africa, Middle East and such like. Further issue which belongs to our consistent foreign policy is the issue of human rights observance. The Czech Republic has maintained in this period since 2006 certain dominant and active role in the European context, whether it concerned the issue of Cuba, Belarus or Burma and number of further countries where we were active. As far as tasks are concerned which result from the Programme Declaration of the Government and from long-term objectives, there are lots of issues about which the Minister of Foreign Affairs will be speaking. I mean the change which is connected with those horizontal tasks, with reduction of the number of employees, delayering, reduction of organizations controlled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, issue of quality of assets such as buildings and lands. Also in these areas the ministry showed good performance. Starting from 1st January it converted to a different style of management. It is rather the project system of management and in this respect the ministry has my support. It is connected with our long-term discussion, which is not being held only by our government, on certain reduction of number of embassies which is connected with optimizing our foreign services, with our participation in the individual territories, in the individual regions. It is connected with the transition to commercial and economic diplomacy; it is our great task. Some of embassies have been closed; some of them will be closed. I think that similarly as other countries of our size and our significance, we are able to cover certain territories from a single country. A to some concrete matters which I regard as important and which did not always concern only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I should mention the issue of American visas; in spite of the fact that it looks like an out-of-date issue, I should say that I regard it as a great breakthrough, great success that thanks to our activities we managed to form a group of countries and to negotiate certain parallel process of the individual countries in Brussels. The fact that visa requirements will be abolished on the turn of the year I regard as a great success. As far as relative failures are concerned, but really relative failures, which occurred during last two years, we did not become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Analyses proved that we could not. I regard our mission as successful as we did not ask various disreputable regimes for their support. We also made a great impression by our presentation at the session of the UN Great Assembly. I regard the result of the vote as positive, as our diplomatic possibilities were limited with regard to the EU presidency and we would have great problems to manage it. I am of the opinion that we should not resign, but I do not regard it as a failure on no account. Another issue, which I regard as very important, very disputatious and very questionable, is the recognition of Kosovo. We did good thing in a good moment. It was not a decision which would give us a reason for jubilation; nevertheless it was the least bad decision we could make, and we made it. We made it not only because we had a large mission in Kosovo, because the West Balkan was one of our foreign policy priorities. We are very active in all countries of this region. We belong among EU countries which know well that the involvement of those Balkan countries in the enlargement process has a positive influence on them. We are actively operating there and we realize that there is no good solution for the near future and that this region will remain a sensitive area of Europe. The fact that we insist on of human rights observance, that we will protect minorities in Kosovo, that we are active in the business sphere, that we think that the commercial diplomacy especially in this region may help, these facts show that we made a right decision and that the problem of a return of the Serbian Ambassador will be solved and normal cooperation will continue. What I would like to highlight, is the development and humanitarian aid. We succeeded in ceasing the decline. We succeeded in a slight increasing the share of our development and humanitarian aid in the GDP by some hundreds of thousand crowns. We have been trying for a long time to provide development and humanitarian to those countries which need our aid and where we have our commercial interests. Based on the decision of the government, the Czech Development Agency was established. We are trying to centralize our development and humanitarian aid and we are successful; some inter-ministerial council was established which decide on the placement of our aid and the Czech Development Agency will become an organ in the future which will, apart from this ministry, administer the area. As to our foreign mission of our soldiers, as it is not only a question of the Ministry of Defence but also the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I think that our long-term concept of lower number of missions with greater involvement will pay off both in Kosovo and Afghanistan. As to Iraq, we have rather a formal mission there. A peaceful situation is perhaps going to be established in Iraq after a long time, the region is being reconstructed and it is a long-term solution; nevertheless, our principal role will be in Afghanistan now, in Logar, where our reconstruction team operates with all the complications resulting from higher concentration of our soldiers. I regard actions of our commercial or economic diplomacy as very successful. I have a feeling that that was a breakthrough when we succeeded to assemble all the honorary consuls for the first time in the post-November history of the Czech Republic. Some of them were in Prague for the first time. It was very significant as far as presentation of our priorities were concerned, with regard to involvement of honorary consuls into the entire process of economic and commercial diplomacy and I regard it as a great success of this ministry. We are beginning to cooperate in the sphere of science and technologies, in the sphere of research and development. It is not only a question of our priorities, the issue of the radar or our agreements with Israel. A very successful seminar was held here with representatives of the Japanese research. I regard it as a way in the right direction for the Czech Republic. We are organizing round tables, entrepreneurial missions, and regional cooperation. The economizing of our diplomacy is one of our key projects, which concerns realization of our commercial interests. In the very conclusion, I would mention a great success of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the course of negotiations on the placement of the radar. All diplomats and all employees of the ministry who were involved in conclusion of that treaty and deserve my respect. We had very ambitious objectives as far that treaty is concerned, and we managed to persuade the American side on all those issues, and to negotiate all the issues for the benefit of the Czech Republic. I would like to thank the Minister Schwarzenberg and his team. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs establishes good reputation for the Czech Republic, and I like cooperation with the ministry as we are co-authors of our foreign policy. Thank you.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister and now I ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs for a few words.

Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs: First of all, I would like to thank for that complimentary words ... inarticulate ... I could thank him for these words. The Prime Minister assessed the past, what we were doing. I would like to highlight what we will focus on in next steps. Our presidency, which is ahead of us, is the most important task of ours, of course; the main role will have the Office of the Government and the Deputy Prime Minister Vondra. Nevertheless, that mass of documents will be a task for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a lot of work which ahead of us ... inarticulate ... because thus we can prove that we are really matured European country. In this connection I would like to emphasize one matter – in the framework of the symmetry of the European policy ... inarticulate ... we will continue the internal reform, of course. I hope that during the following one year and a half will really ... inarticulate ... As to our embassies, I will have to disappoint the Prime Minister a bit. On the one hand it is true that we will close them, but on the other hand it is clear that ... inarticulate ... I would like to repeat once more what I said on the occasion of the signature the treaty with the State Secretary Rice, during her visit to Prague. The position of the Czech Republic consists in those two pillars. One pillar is Europe ... inarticulate ... and on the other hand it is the Euro-Atlantic cooperation. These two pillars ... inarticulate ... will be our main directions of our foreign policy. Thank you.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister, and now there is time for your questions. The TV Prima.

TV Prima: I would like to revert to the European issues; also the Prime Minister was speaking about it. Is it absolutely clear who will conduct session of the EU summit? Will it be you or the President? And when will this issue be solved?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I am of the opinion that as far as the sessions of the EU Council are concerned, there will be held two of them in Brussels during our presidency, I do not doubt it will be I who will preside over them. I think we will agree with the President on it; there are three types of events, which should attend the Prime Minister with regard to the Constitution and traditions in Europe, in fact. There is also number of actions which the President should attend and number of events which we will have to divide between us. Our presence is requested; nevertheless, we must to divide our work. In this respect, I thin that it will be I who will preside over the two sessions of the EU Council, and I think it is correct.

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

Radiožurnál: Good afternoon, I have two questions to the Prime Minister ... inarticulate ... ratification of both agreements in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate with regard to information we have regarding ongoing negotiations on the SOFA agreement. Is there any preliminary deadline or estimate concerning the date of the ratification in the Parliament?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I think there are two processes which are mutually connected. It is an issue of negotiation and the issue of ratification. As to the second agreement, I do not expect any breakthrough, during the journey of Vlasta Parkanová, at to the only one issue where there is certain unclearness. We are waiting for an offer of the American side. We suppose to have to find a compromise between those tax conditions and, I do not want to say offsets, but certain package which would compensate our concession, if any. The issue is not clear and we are of the opinion theta it will be a question of some weeks to conclude that bilateral NATO SOFA agreement and only then we would pass these both agreements to the first reading both in the Senate and to the Chamber of Deputies. I am not able to anticipate this process, but I hope we will manage to ratify both agreements by the end of this year.

Radiožurnál: I have one more question. You have spoken about the enlargement of the EU in the direction of Balkan. From the side of certain French politicians there were certain indications that without the Lisbon Treaty there will not be any enlargement of the European Union. What will be the attitude of the Czech Republic to the Lisbon Treaty after the judgement of the Constitutional Court and to what degree is it likely that you would like to exchange the Lisbon Treaty for the treaty on radar?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: There are too many questions here. I will have to answer them step by step. The enlargement of the European Union is not connected with the Lisbon Treaty. It is necessary to say that in the Nice Treaty the accession of Romania and Bulgaria was expected and therefore it would be possible to amend that treaty formally by an amendment, some mini-treaty as we call it, which would enable accession of Croatia, for example. It is the only one deadline which is to be set. Where there i room for three children, there is also room enough for four children; if the EU has 27 members, it can have also 28 members. It is a kind of, I do not want to speak about extortion, strong pressure from the side of France, as the solution is achievable. I am of the opinion that this matter concerns all the 27 states, not only France and the Czech Republic. When Frenchmen refused the Constitutional Treaty they were given a possibility to solve that problem. They solved it and they did not revert to the Constitutional Treaty or to a new referendum. Negotiations on a new treaty were begun. Let us allow politicians of the European Union to begin to search a solution and at the summit of the EU Council which will be held in October. There has not been any analysis prepared up to now. We will revert to the problem at the October EU Council, in fact. That was one matter. As to our process, I am glad that at the last EU Council our speed was accepted; I would say that it is not only a Czech habit that check from the point of view of constitutionality. This habit is common in Germany, it was common in France. Thus countries may amend their constitutions or to negotiate on certain amendments to the treaty. So, in our country, if the Constitutional Court meets expected deadline, I mean beginning of autumn, the Lisbon Treaty might be debated by the Parliament in Autumn. I think that we should vote on it this year; it should be ratified this year. I am not able to influence it at the moment. As to the exchange, I am rather cross with certain commentators because I have never connected the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty with the radar issue. I just said that part of parliamentary deputies and senators of the ODS might feel some problems, for example with the Lisbon Treaty, in case of non-ratification of Agreements on anti-missile defence. I stated during a broadcasting of the Radio Česko that I would connect ratification of all these three agreements; it means the Lisbon Treaty and those two agreements on the placement of the anti-missile defence in the Czech territory. I was rather upset by those misinterpretations in media and therefore I would like to set it to rights. I am of the opinion that these three agreements cover foreign policy priorities of the Czech diplomacy, they are in compliance with interests of the Czech state and the Czech Republic and in this respect I will not hamper any of them; I will support their ratification.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: I thank the Prime Minister; further question, please.

Czech TV: I have a question to the Minister. ... the rest of the question inarticulate...

Karel Schwarzenberg, Minister of Foreign Affairs: I will tell you something. The most important thing in the future is only Azerbaijan. We are considering ... inarticulate ... We will see whether our proposals are acceptable in this form or whether that solution would be more effective. We are considering it; not an Embassy but larger representation in Vietnam where the economy grows rapidly and therefore it would be good to have our representatives not only in Hanoi but also in Saigon... inarticulate ...

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Further question, please.

Jakub Dospěva, Czech News Agency: ... inarticulate ...

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I do not know that. I will leave it to the Minister; nevertheless, we are trying to solve the transport capacity of the Czech Republic; it is apparent. It has a connection with the aircraft L-159. I hope we will succeed in getting an airliner as soon as possible in spite of the fact that the transport capacity will not be covered. It is connected with our long-term commitments from the point of view of missions.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you, the TV Prima.

Tomáš Drahoňovský, TV Prima: I would like to ask about those new embassies. Is it clear who our Ambassador in Azerbaijan will be, or whether there are some proposals regarding those new embassies? Who will be the Ambassador in Azerbaijan? Do you know some concrete names?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: With regard to the fact that this material was debated at the meeting of the government in the regime "restricted", nobody may disclose these names. There are about five ambassadors to be exchanged and the respective documents were passed to the President. As several ambassadors will have prolonged their missions owing to the Czech presidency, there will be large personnel exchange in 2009 and 2010. The entire package of names will be a subject of a discussion. That also concerns your question. Nevertheless, it is a standard procedure to debate such issues in the regime "restricted" and nobody may disclose any of these names.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Is there any further question? Go ahead.

Journalist: I have one question which does not concern today's visit. You said in an interview for Hospodářské noviny daily that the Czech crown was not a problem for our economy.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I did not give an interview to Hospodářské noviny. It did not result from it and I do not like you to ask such questions.

Journalist: You statement in Hospodářské noviny evoked responses ...

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I did not say that it did not any harm to the Czech economy.

Journalist: Do you have a feeling that the Czech crown is still ...

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Czech crown is overvalued nowadays; it is apparently caused by certain speculative purchases and I am awaiting a statement of the Bank Council of our central bank. We are not able to reach a shot-term solution of the rate of exchange of crown to euro and dollar. It will cause short-term problems for the Czech economy. As I understood that question, it was aimed at long-term influence on the Czech economy. I do not think so. Strengthening of Czech crown is in compliance with our economic growth, on the strength of our economy and it is necessary to analyse that recent anomalous development, and the government will undoubtedly be dealing with it, and it will take steps which will be able to take. It will not disclose these steps for the present, of course. The crown affects especially exporters, it affects tourism; nevertheless it is not possible for the government to solve the situation through some short-term measures. But we will be dealing with this problem, I am sure. It is connected with the adoption of euro and it is true what all of us know and what we have said many times that it depends on the state budget, on meeting medium-term expenditure limits and on approval of further reform steps, in particular those steps which concern aging population; I mean the health care reform, the second stage of the pension reform. After fulfilling those basic attributes, thanks to fulfilling those reform steps and the long-term meeting of the convergence criteria, the government will be able to predict any date of adoption of euro, at least. But it would be hazardous and irresponsible to do that by that time. This government, as the first one, takes real measures aimed at adoption of euro. It means that we are not those who hamper the adoption of euro, the opposite is true.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you. Thank you for your attention and we will be seeing you tomorrow at the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry for Regional Development.

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