Press Conferences

5. 2. 2007 10:56

Press conference of the Prime Minister of the CR, Mirek Topolánek after the meeting of the government on Monday, 5th February, 2007

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome the press conference after the meeting of the government of the CR. As the first one, the Prime Minister Topolánek has the floor, who will inform you on issues, which the government debated.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Good afternoon. I will try to present briefly issues that the government debated or rejected. One point concerning air protection was suspended rather because of formal reasons and perhaps the Deputy Prime Minister Martin Bursík will tell you more about it. We approved the Bill amending the Act on Bankruptcy, the Insolvency Act; we debated the draft government order on organization of wine market, which has been approved, we did not approve the proposal of regional council of region of Central Bohemia concerning environmental impact assessment, we did not approve the proposal of deputy Šplíchal and others. It was very interesting debate. We approved framework parameters, in which you may be interested, and I will leave it to Miroslav Kalousek to explain the details on the definition of social housing and the issue of VAT. We debated two materials, which had been submitted by Džamila Stehlíková. First one concerned the report on implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the second one concerned recommendation of the Committee for Elimination of Discrimination against Women. We noted both reports and recommended both organization bodies headed by Džamila Stehlíková and the individual ministries to follow these recommendations or to try to implement them in the framework of their competences. There were relatively big discussions on several issues. We were talking about removal of calamity consequences in national parks; Martin Bursík will inform you on it in detail. A material of deputy Čurdová was debated again, I think it had been debated several times before, and it was not recommended for approval. Furthermore, we debated two principal points. The first one was agreed and concerned our standpoints to the session of ministers on the energy policy. This material was approved. I think it was approved unanimously and the standpoint of the government is a compromise standpoint. In case of some questions, Martin Bursík will answer them. The second material, which was suspended last time, concerned the integration operational programme for 2007 – 2013, which had been circulated for comments and it was debated and approved today. That is all from my side and I give the floor to the moderator to pass it to Martin Bursík.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Well, I was given an order to give the floor to Martin Bursík; his material was debated before the material of the Minister of Finance Kalousek, in fact.

Martin Bursík, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment: Good afternoon, so, there it is a substantiation of it here. I managed to climb 800 meters in two hours yesterday, but it was much easier than today's meeting of the government. I am to inform you briefly about three issues and to explain them. The first one concerns the Bill amending the Act on Air Protection, which was submitted by the Ministry of Environment. We have solved a lot of things there, I think. As the Prime Minister had said, we suspended this issue because of formal reasons. What is the problem? We are to ensure admixing bio-fuels to oil and petrol starting from 1st July of this year, at last. After making legal analyses, on the basis of the statement of the European Commission, we agreed on one variant. There existed two variants so far; nevertheless the principle is that a person who places petrol and oil for cars on the market must offer certain volume of bio-fuels in the framework of the total assortment of fuels. It is in compliance with the Directive on Bio-fuels and we only determine the time period, in which this algorithm will be applicable. I think that nothing will impede us to approve it and to start to sow this principle in the CR. That was one thing. The second thing concerns the calamity in the Krkonoše National Park and Šumava National Park. That was a point, which we began to debate at the last but one meeting of the government; then we had certain talks with the Minister of Finance and I must appreciate helpfulness of the Minister of Finance, as this is the first case, when the budgetary reserve is used. But it is a really rightful reason, because it concerns a disaster, a calamity. The Ministry of Finance also forced us to search effectively for reserves in our budget; I am speaking about the Ministry of Environment now. So, final situation is that the government approved using financial means at the amount of 64 316 000 crowns for removal of damage caused by windstorm calamity. These means will be transferred to the budgetary heading of the Ministry of Environment and will be used for the Šumava and the Krkonoše. But the Ministry of Environment will use 17 million crowns from the reserve fund of the ministry and besides, it will ensure further 35 million crowns as a result of reassessment of priorities. In other words, we shared those costs. The result is, to sum it up correctly, 134 million crowns, which will be used in both national parks and mainly for fast exploitation of wood. In the Šumava 660 000 cubic meters of wood has fallen down, which is sextuple of average annual exploitation. We will also leave 15% of wood in the Šumava and 15% in the Krkonoše in first zones and partly in second zones; it will rest on the spot. In other words we accommodate the way of forest treatment in national parks. There was a debate about it, we projected ten pictures, and I am very content with the result. The important thing is that the government decided to help both national parks, so that effects of those calamities would be removed. And the third issue was the energy policy. We had a meeting with the Minister of Industry concerning this issue in the morning. It concerns our standpoint to the entire packet, which is called Energy Packet and which is connected with the German presidency. It is not only the European energy policy, it is also an action plan for effectiveness of the energy industry; it is a new travelling map of renewable resources, as they say, it is further Communication of the Commission, which is aimed at stopping of global climatic changes on the level of 2 degrees of centigrade in comparison with pre-industrial era. The Ministry of Industry together with the Ministry of Environment prepared a standpoint to this material, which will be presented the Minister of Industry on 15th February at the Commission, or at the TREN Directorate, to be more precise. I will be speaking about it five days later at the Commission for Environment. We succeeded in reaching an agreement on it and the result is that the CR agrees with adoption of an indicative target regarding share of renewable energy resources in consumption of primary energy resources in Europe. It is an average value in Europe, not in the CR and it is at the amount of 20% by 2020. The objective will be further redistributed among the individual member states. We agreed on further redistribution on the CR level among transport, heat production and electricity production. This is the first point and the second one concerns adoption of a binding, not indicative, target – to achieve 10% share of bio-fuels in petrol and oil consumption in the transport sphere by 2020. And then that we accept the target of cutting greenhouse gases emissions by 20% by 2020 in comparison with 1990. There are much more targets there, where we reached a consensus. We will leave for Brussels with principal standpoint of the Czech government. Thank you for your attention.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: I thank the Minister of Environment Martin Bursík and now the Minister of Finance has the floor.

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me inform you that the government approved basic parameters of so called definition of social housing today. You know that a temporary exception terminates this year for works connected with housing, to which a reduced VAT rate is applied. Starting from the next year, the duty of the CR is to apply the basic VAT rate for these works. According to the annex H 6 of the Directive, it is possible to negotiate a permanent exception provided it concerns flats and houses corresponding to the social policy of a state. Therefore, it is necessary to define what the social housing is, which corresponds to social policy of the state. After a discussion, the government approved basic parameters. We will be negotiating an exception for flats up to 120 square meters and detached houses up to 350 square meters of floor space, so that reduced VAT rate could be applied permanently to them. The basic parameters are square meters of floor space and it is 120 meters in case of flats and 350 meters in case of detached houses.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: I thank the Minister of Finance. Now, ladies and gentlemen there is time for your questions. The TV Prima, please.

Martin Erva, TV Prima: I would like to ask the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance about the debate on the law concerning pensions for Olympic competitors. What were reasons of your rejection? Can you add some details?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Good intentions often lead to hell. The discussion was very interesting. We have finally rejected this material, nevertheless there was a debate on possible and more effective involvement of the Olympic Committee or some endowment fund or some other non-state or nongovernmental initiatives involved in this problem. They could solve the problem much more effectively than the state, which finances the Czech Olympic Committee and thus helps indirectly these activities. Nevertheless, it was just free discussion, because there are a lot of groups of inhabitants, which could feel offended by this measure. I mentioned all pensioners who could not study in the times of the communist regime, as they were not allowed, they could not do their work, as they could not achieve adequate education and skills. And these pensioners are now included in the lowest pension categories, while pension of number of people who were conformed to the regime has pensions two or three times higher. Who would recompense lost pensions to those people? We debated such examples like veterans, war veterans, participants in various military missions and other examples. These problems are solved mainly by nongovernmental organizations, it is not strictly given by a law; it is a path to hell, it does not lead to an end.

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: If you are looking at me, the Prime Minister has mentioned basic parameters of this issue; there is no point in repeating them. But if we would analyse this law in detail, the proposal includes a lot of matters that are non-systematic and unjust, even when we considering sportsmen themselves, because it concern both former Olympic competitors who were not remunerated for their performance and present and future Olympic competitors who are remunerated in a different way. I would not like to participate in a debate regarding comparison of a value of a medal of a team member, in which all members received medals and the member in question was not actively engaged in the game, with somebody who gained a medal after an individual performance. But these are details, which are not very significant. The cardinal matter is that it is non-systematic and unjust towards other groups of inhabitants. Our nation did not have its elite only among Olympic competitors, but it has it in number of other categories, of course. Under the term of elite I mean those who had become well-known in the world and represented their country. It was not only a matter of sports.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Further question, please.

Martin Erva, TV Prima: If nobody is interested in asking questions, I would like to ask one. The American ambassador had talks with the Chairman of the CSSD Jiří Paroubek in the morning and the American ambassador said, in fact, that the USA would consider integration of the base, of that radar, in NATO, that the treaty would not be only bilateral one. And I would like to ask all the three gentlemen about their standpoints to this, if they could respond to it.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I am not surprised by information of ambassador Graber, as I have been informed before. We claim from the very beginning that it is a pilot project, which will be undoubtedly incorporated in a NATO project, which is slower and it is in the phase of a feasibility study. This is perhaps the first matter. I will not make comments on steps of the CSSD. They were just minister Tvrdík and the Prime Minister Špidla, they were just minister Kostelka and Prime Minister Gross and it was just the government of Jiří Paroubek, which were negotiating secretly about this issue for four years. Of course, we invited the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies to the session of the National Security Council, which was deciding on this issue and he was informed, in spite of the fact that Lubomír Zaorálek claims he was not informed. Our attitudes are different; we want to inform the public, not to threaten them, not to sow atmosphere of fragmented society through petitions. Therefore I will be waiting until real negotiations on those agreements in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate, if there will be any, and then I will be willing to conduct a political discussion about it. At present I regard as necessary to highlight the information campaign on all aspects that we had debated at common meetings of four committees; I mean on the sphere of international politics, security sphere, internal affairs, technical, regional and municipal spheres. I regard this attitude as more appropriate in comparison with sowing hysteria in society. So, that was perhaps the only response of mine. If I was to add stricter words, I would say that in case Russian generals, Czech communists and Lubomír Zaorálek agree on something, then it is necessary to be on our guards and to express different opinion; you cannot make a mistake.

Martin Bursík, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment: Well, if you want to know my response. If I am to understand the statement of the ambassador after that meeting as a kind of correction of the Friday's statement of the CSSD, then it is a good thing. I understood that the opposition has free space enough for extension of its wings, so that it could adopt the statement so fast. We regard as responsible the matter to have time enough for assessment of not only technical aspects but also security and political aspects. And regarding the issue you have already mentioned, I mean integration of this element of the antimissile defence in the joint NATO defence, not only in terms of technology, but also concerning attitudes of the government of the USA, Czech government and NATO headquarters; it is a very important parameter, which can be crucial for the political party, which I lead. In other words, if the debate is rational, then it will be good and it is necessary to realize that we have time enough for assessment of this issue, for talks with our partners in the EU, in NATO. It is important for the project, and we put emphasis on it, to weaken neither the position of NATO nor the position of the EU. This issue will be a subject of debates.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Further question, please. Česká televize.

David Borek, ČT: Good afternoon. I would like to ask Mr. Kalousek if he could add some details regarding certain problem of social housing. For example in case of tenement, in which one of flats would be larger than the limit, let us say one tens of flats would be larger than the limit of social housing; will be the entire building excluded from the exception? And perhaps more general question, do not you think it may be a problem if the CR accepts this European game of various exceptions and exceptions from exceptions? Is not it a problem for you?

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: I will start from the back. The exception of this type is result of the will of the CR; it is not a will of the EU. Our temporary time period terminates and in case we do not ask for the exception, the standard VAT rate will be applied to all constructions, including those related to housing, starting from 1st January 2008. It would not be correct to say that we accept a game of the EU; we want this exception for construction works related to housing in the framework of our social policy and housing policy. If you have asked me as a Minister of Finance, then of course, taking into consideration of VAT administration, it would be best to have the only one VAT rate, but from the point of view of social policy, from the point of view of housing support, the standpoint of the government is different and therefore we will be negotiating the exception and we will have to get it. It is just technical problem – you will not lose the exception because of one flat; lower VAT rate will be applied to flats with floor space under the limit and standard VAT rate will be applied to flats with floor space above the limit.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Further question, please. TV Nova.

Veronika Korčáková, TV Nova: Good afternoon, I would ask once more the Prime Minister a general question. What do you say to the fact that three out of five political parties have feel some problems regarding the antimissile base? Do not you feel certain disappointment or is not it a reason for rejection of negotiations with Americans?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I regard this question as nonsensical. I do not know why we should reject to negotiate about this issue. But still, let us try to analyse it. Position of each political party is different. I would say that in case of communists, the position is unambiguous. Their resentment of past times, their contacts, their ideology predetermines them to reject everything what is American; I mean what is devil's. As to the other parties, I do not think it is true that they have extremely different positions, as all of them want more information, they want to negotiate the best terms for the CR. The specific attitude of the CSSD after it had brought this issue in the CR, after it itself had asked for placement of the antimissile defence base of the territory of the CR, is given by turbulences inside this party, by pre-congress situation, higher aggressiveness in last two years when it rejected a priori everything. So, we will see whether the attitude will be the same after its congress, whether the election defeat will be definitely acknowledged there, whether forming of the coalition government will be respected, as those matters are closely connected, because I do not believe that the party, which has brought this problem or this challenge into the CR would have uniformly negative attitude to what it had supported. Generally speaking, governments should have very similar attitudes in case of foreign policy and security policy. I always insisted on consistent and consensual character of our attitude to foreign policy, attitude to security issues, and issues of citizens' protection. These issues should not divide parties; our national position should be simpler. The fact it is not so nowadays, I regard rather as an ideological dispute.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Further question, please. Česká televize.

David Borek, ČT: I have forgotten to ask Mr. Bursík, whether he can also make some comments on the rejection of the proposal concerning pensions for Olympic competitors. And then, one question for Mr. Topolánek, but I frankly admit it does not concern today's meeting of the government. The company of Setuza, change of property relations in the sphere of Czech oil production – what is the opinion of the government, if there is any or the opinion of Mirek Topolánek, at least?

Martin Bursík, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment: Regarding the pension of Olympic competitors, I am of the same opinion as majority of government members. The moment we would select the individual groups of inhabitants in this way, groups of certain moral or ethic privilege to draw a social or other pension, we would get into a circle, which we could not leave. The proposal is one-handed and an approval would mean precedence. We really debated about series of other groups of inhabitants, within the debate on this proposal, which would have similar or even greater right for such pension. And that was the reason why I voted against the proposal.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Regarding the Setuza, I would just like to say that the procedure, even after revocation of execution in Setuza, was chosen unambiguously – there were three variants there. One of them was an agreement on settlement, which was connected with sale of shares. So, if it is like this, it is in compliance with chosen strategy.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: TV Prima, please. Further question.

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: If you allow ...

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Some note of the Minister of Finance.

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: I apologize; allow me one more note, which is quite significant, as it relates to the Programme Declaration of the Government. The government undertook is its Programme Declaration to unconditional moratorium concerning all laws, which would increase mandatory expenditures. And this is the case of the proposal of deputy Ploc and this is the case of the proposal of deputy Čurdová. And we take the moratorium seriously because without it, it would not be possible to strive after recovery of public budgets.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Well, that was really an important remark. Now, the TV Prima.

Martin Erva, TV Prima: I would like to ask Chairman Bursík regarding the issue of windstorms. Does it mean that people will be allowed to go to forests, is there any change regarding the state of emergency or the issue concerned only the approval of financial means? And a question for the Minister of Finance – exactly one year ago the government decided that limits of the social housing would be 90 meters in case of flats and 170 meters in case of detached houses. I would like to ask why you have decided to increase those meters.

Martin Bursík, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment: I will be the first. This issue really is not connected with the state of emergency, at all; there is deadline on 5th February, it means it does not have any connection. I will specify the total amount, which consists of financial means from the state budgetary reserve and reserve of the Ministry of Environment. The total amount, which will be sent to the Krkonoše National Park and the Šumava National Park for removal of calamity effects is 116 316 000 crowns.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: I will not refuse to give the floor to the Minister of Finance, now.

Miroslav Kalousek, Minister of Finance: The proposal, about which you were speaking, it was not a government resolution. It was just opinion of one of my predecessors, there were three minister of finance during last three years; each of them had different proposal. The definite decision of the government was taken today, the other proposals the government had not debated before and no resolution was adopted. So, as late as today the resolution was adopted and as late as today the government adopted its definition of social housing.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Are there any further questions? I cannot see if anybody raised his hand. Did anybody raise his hand? No, therefore I thank you for your attention.

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

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