Press Conferences

4. 9. 2008 12:11

Press Conference on the Occasion of Presentation of the Information Campaign before the Czech Presidency, Held on Wednesday 4th September 2008

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, let me welcome you to the Straka´s Academy today. Thus, I would like to launch the information campaign of the Czech Republic which will from January preside over the European Union. The communication campaign will last until June of the next year; it means it will last not quite nine months. I will not be speaking any longer, look at the essential thing of the campaign.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Good afternoon everybody. Only four moths remain until the beginning of the Czech presidency. It will be a historical event from the Czech point of view. It will be an event comparable with time of Charles IV and with then position of the Czech Kingdom in Europe, and perhaps, to be topical, with the presidency of Edvard Beneš over the League of Nations. Nowadays Europe is more integrated and much more interlinked with Europe and therefore the impact of the European policy on citizens of the EU countries, and also on citizens of the Czech Republic, is far stronger and more concrete than it was the influence of Charles IV on the European events. We do not realize nowadays that four fifths of the legislation comes from Brussels and we must adhere to them. We are adhering to them voluntary. It is a matter which is not widely known and in my opinion it is not good. I would like our people to understand our presidency as a unique opportunity how to understand the EU and how to enable the EU and countries of the European Union to understand our country. We have been members of the EU for four years. We have still perceived it as something distant, uninteresting and something what is hardly to be understood. It does not correspond with the reality. We do not want to be perceived as people or a country which is constantly complaining about something, either. I would be glad if people in the Czech Republic, thanks to our presidency, get accustomed to the EU, to all its advantages and sometime also to its shortcomings which are its attributes and thus to gain a reasonable view of the European Union as for example Danes, Dutchmen and some other citizens of European countries who are able to protect their national interests very well. "In variante concordia" – "United in diversity". It is an official motto of the European Union and it is also my vision. The same meaning, in fact, has the national motto of the United States of America: Pluribus Unum. Unity is based on many. And there is a clear linkage to our presidency, Europe without Barriers, which means common space of freedom and respect to particulars. Our presidency is a great chance which we do not want to miss. It is a chance for us to belong to Europe not only formally but also de facto and that we are able to organize such a huge whirl of events during our presidency. A logical part, and that is why we are here today, is our effort to present the Czech Republic as an active part of the EU. That is why the information campaign, which is being launched today, is a reflection of our ideas how to present the Czech Republic not only to Europeans but also to citizens of the Czech Republic so that they could understand our solidarity in the framework of the Community. That is why we have chosen faces of the presidency: architect Eva Jiřičná, worldwide known name, great personality; the prima ballerina Daria Klimentová, prima ballerina of the London ballet; the discoverer of the medicine against cancer, academician Antonín Holý, holder of lots of awards and also the holder of the "Czech Head Award"; Tereza Maxová, whose photo is not here and who is not only a top model; Jaromír Jágr – name which is admired in Russia, the USA and Canada, who is known in Europe and who is rather a face of the Czech Republic; Petr Čech and last but not least the director Libor Pešek who was to be here but unfortunately he is not and I cannot welcome him. We added one anonymous face to these names, among them Tomáš Baťa, who has died recently, and certainly Miloš Forman should have be named. This face is a lump of sugar. I do not know whether you know that but a lump of sugar is the Czech invention. That was my little hint why you will receive one package of lumps of sugar, or you may have received it on you entering. You understood it from the introductory spot which we will present to you several times today. We would like the campaign to be understood, to reflect our idea of us and to help create ideas of us, Czechs and the Czech Republic, by the other people.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Good afternoon, dear ladies and gentlemen. I am of the opinion that it would be best in the introduction to thank those who without any claim to a fee offered their faces. I do not think they made a mistake. That performance which you can see in the spot really discovered unexpected talents of people who won respect in quite a different sphere of activity than in dramatic art. Furthermore, I would like to thank those people who are not seen in the movie, but without them the movie could not be shot. A great deal of work was done by Herbert Slavík, a well-known Czech photographer who has been photographing faces of the Czech Republic and the world for many years. It was him who brought forward the idea of faces of the Czech Republic and who from the greater part mobilized people who got down to those activities.

I would also like to thank here Eduard Kauh who is with us today and you can speak to him after the end of this press conference. He was in charge of processing of that advertising concept and last but not least I would like to thank a lot the director Alice Nellis, who directed that spot. I think that in case we awarded this contract to a company, it would not be possible to gain such results as in this way. We met in Karlovy Vary where we were seeking out somebody desperately, and I liked her movies so much. She is not here with us today as she is in hospital but she deserves our thanks. Why are we coming forward with that campaign? Above all, we as the government have a duty to inform. We had had several surveys of public opinion made and I was attracted by the fact that normal citizens, not those participants of our political life, but people of our country did not know much about it and we felt as out great task to attract their attention. A long discussion had been held about this issue about the slogan and we can say that it is a way how to attract people's attention with a touch of a hyperbole; in other words, duty to inform, to attract attention. The second reason was that apart from the basic slogan "Europe without Barriers" we always wanted, and it was also mentioned in documents on preparation of our presidency made by those two previous cabinets, to leave a mark. We must realize that time period during which we will be presiding over the European Union will not be easy at all. There will be elections held to the European Parliament, the term of the European Commission will finish, the term of the European Parliament will finish. We must be realists. We cannot expect that some great reform, some revolution will take place. Our ambitions should correspond with our real potential. It will not be easy because we will be doing it in the whirl of that culminating struggle, when many members of the European Parliament of any member country will want to attract attention; there will not be an effort to manage something. You have experience with elections in our country. Our objective is to attract attention. Where we, as the Czech Republic have our strengths? Every time when we asked that question, we answered it: if we do not regard ourselves too seriously, when we are able view ourselves with a detached point of view, with certain exaggeration. These are our strengths and I am glad that we managed to emphasize it in the spot with those faces. That is why we will show the spot several times today; to leave a mark - certain originality, humour and hyperbole as Czech strengths; and also not to be afraid of anything, to act with pride and with self-assurance. And that is why the project "Faces" was created because they are people who have left their marks in Europe and in the world. The message is clear – we will simply manage it. In compliance with traditions of the European Union we cannot publish our logo now. It can be published about one month before the end of current presidency, so that we would not put in the shade it, I mean the French presidency which is very ambitious. The only one thing we can publish concerns colours of the Czech presidency, which are a kind of a start of that what will be published in the second half of November. We have been thinking about a communication tool; and it is the lump of sugar. It is one of many original Czech inventions. Just for your amusement I will read the explanatory text. It was in 1829 when brother František and Josef Regner established the sugar refinery in Kostelní Vydří near the town of Dačice. And that sugar factory was then transferred to Dačice and in 1840 it was 41-year-old Jakub Kryštof Radt who became a director of the Czech refinery. He was not a pure Czech, I think he was partly Swiss, which implies that Europe is still unfinished task, and thirty workers produced in the Dačice factory 10000 cents of sugar loafs annually. Shapes were nice but not very practical. To split off pieces of sugar which would be useful required great deal of experience and it was sometime quite dangerous. Radt was therefore thinking about a different form of sugar for instant use. Tradition has it that his thinking was accelerated by an accident of Mrs. Radt who injured herself when splitting off the loaf of sugar. With erected bandaged finger she said to her husband: "Do something about it, for goodness sake you are the director!" Therefore in October of the following year Mr. Radt placed a box on the table and with inscrutable smile said: "I have fulfilled your wish at last, my dear". In that box there were first 300 pieces of white and pink lumps of beet sugar. Thus, an invention, which became to be known all over the world, was born. So, we have directors as well and also we are heading to the year 2009 with certain innovations because this year was declared by the European Union as the year of creativity and innovations.

Michaela Jelínková, spokesperson of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Ladies and gentlemen, I will add some technical details. The campaign is intended as nationwide. It means that you will see the spot on TV, and it will be presented in the form of billboard as well. The other technical details are in the press release which you will get on your leaving from our assistants. As to reaching a maximum effect which is very important now in the beginning of the campaign, in September starts a journey of the Deputy Prime Minister through the regions in which informal ministerial councils will be held during the Czech presidency. Luhačovice will be the first town which will be visited by the Deputy Prime Minister. You will find more details in the press release.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Ladies and gentlemen, now there is time for your questions, and I ask the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister for their answers. The first question, please.

Czech News Agency: I have a question – what does the government expect from this campaign in comparison with the campaign concerning the radar which was not very successful. The second question – does not the government feel certain negative connotation of that slogan "We will make the Europe sweeter", which has rather ambiguous meaning in the Czech language?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I am of the opinion that the information campaign on the radar was successful, even though not quite deliberate. The best radar campaign is surely that conflict in the South Ossetia. This is the answer to your first question. As to the second one, Alexandr Vondra explained that the discussion on the main slogan "We will make Europe sweeter" had two internal contexts at least and one of them was rather provocative. If you ask me that question after you have seen the spot for four times, I am rather surprised, as after the explanation of Alexandr Vondra it must be apparent that we did not mean it like this – the two contexts.

Michaela Jelínková, spokesperson of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Further question, please.

Czech Business Weekly: I would like to ask about the price of the campaign.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: We will inform you of the final price later on; nevertheless, we expect it to be around 11 million crowns for the autumn stage.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Further question, please.

TV Prima: I would like to ask a question – the informal ministerial councils will be held in those places, where representatives of member countries will meet, and therefore the citizens in the street may not notice the presidency. Does not it mean that those 11 million crowns are misspent money, that it is useless?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: From such a point of view, all money spent for the Czech presidency would be misspent and we would not have to do anything. However we are of the opinion that the Czech presidency is a chance for us; I have already spoken about it and I am sorry you were not listening to me. We want Czechs to feel more as members of the EU, not only through media but also through practical experience with the presidency; and on the contrary, we want Europeans to understand our approach to this matter and our response to it. I think that this is a chance and total cots amounted to 11 million crowns is a derisory amount in this respect.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: You are working in a commercial television station if I am not mistaken. Try to ask your marketing department whether there is a company which would do something like that for such a price. I am sure they would say that it is nonsense. I feel as our duty to invest in it, definitely.

Michaela Jelínková, spokesperson of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Further question, please.

Lidové noviny: I would like to ask whether you know about any other country which used celebrities for promotion of its presidency. And the second question – who was the author of that idea of the lump of sugar?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Each country uses celebrities for presentation of its aims in case of such events. When the Olympic Games in Beijing finished you could see a double-decker which arrived at the "birds´ nest", that huge stadium for 90000 spectators, and there were David Backham and other famous people in that bus. It is a standard and normal solution. Just to add information on the price, because lots of your questions concern it, there are countries which have special ministry for providing citizens with information of the government. For example in Great Britain the basic amount is about 30 million pounds annually. I think that we are doing work which we must do, in this respect. To use such people is exactly something through which we can present ourselves both inwards, as we are sometime lacking self-conscious, and outwards. There could have been 10, 20 or 50 other faces there, as Czech are successful and sometime people in Europe even do not know that a concrete man or woman is a Czech because he/she does not live in this country for a long time, for example Milan Kundera and others. I want to say that the idea with that lump of sugar was your idea Alexandr, was not it?

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: A had a quite huge documentation on the Czech sugar industry before and after our accession to the EU. I think it was sometime in May when we were sitting together with Herbert Slavík in my study and I sad: "Certain sceptics said that we would dissolve there as a lump of sugar." And we are certainly not a lump of sugar; we invented it. And if we were a lump of sugar, what ambitions of ours should be like? To sweeten that period of time a bit.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I thought that it was connected with the fact that thanks to the previous government we lost one third of our sugar quota.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: The TV Markýza, please.

TV Markýza: Good afternoon. Who decided on the final selection of celebrities? And a question to the Prime Minister – did not you like to act personally in that spot?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: We have been considering it for a long time but as it would get into a negative context I resigned to that; nevertheless we were preparing it in a close collective. The final matters we discussed together with Alexandr Vondra. The selection of those people was really a collective work. It was necessary to address these people, to persuade them. As Alexandr Vondra has already said it was Herbert Slavík who helped us a lot, and not only he. It was also very interesting experience for those people and I was very proud of them as they were really excellent. And it is not the end; we will gradually inform you on further communication means during our presidency and before it. I wanted to act there but you must not want everything.

Michaela Jelínková, spokesperson of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Further question, please.

Deník: Good afternoon. I like the spot, I must say. It is really skittish, very nice; nevertheless, as the Deputy Prime Minister said there is certain deal of slyness in it. I would like to know whether the slogan will have that connotation in the connection with non-approval of the Lisbon Treaty in the Czech Republic and that we will show Europe that we are an element which does not quite fit in it. What do you think? Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: But you really wrong us. Czechs are rather sly I think; it is our national feature. Nevertheless, we should concentrate on positive matters. Europe is experiencing ratter bitter period thanks to that communication and number of further issues and Czechs decided to make this period sweeter and to ease the discussion. This is the positive aspect of that slogan and I always concentrate on positive matters.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: I would like to add one more thing. I believe that there will be still the second phase starting from January, and you can speculate what the continuation will be like. We will not say anything about it now, but I am sure that the communication tool must remain the same, so that we would be successful. We cannot use salt instead of sugar, but we can cultivate the idea of sugar. I have forgotten to thank those boys who were helping as external workers. I would also like to thank Miachaela Jelínková, Jana Bartošová and Gabriela Škrcová who are responsible for the activity of the office. Later on I was also speaking to the Prime Minister. As I have said, one of objectives of that campaign is to attract people and that is why the campaign is like that.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you. The TV Markýza.

TV Markýza: I have one more question concerning those celebrities in the spot. Did you have to persuade them to act in it: Did anybody refuse to participate in this campaign?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Since the very beginning we have had selected people about whom we thought that they could address both people in our country and in Europe, in the world. Not all of them were free, not all of them could participate in the shooting. We did not use all means which we are preparing in this respect. Nevertheless, there was anybody who would refuse his or her participation or who had to be persuaded. I value this fact a lot, as those people gave their faces to the Czech presidency, they were risking their necks as well as the Czech government, which had to manage it ; I valued them highly in this respect. They cannot be with us today as everybody has his commitments, but I am very pleased with their support.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: I was really surprised at their responsibility and appetite with which they participated in it. I think you can see it in the spot. For example Jaromír Jágr – there was little time then, we were shooting it in summer, but Jaromír Jágr took part in it in spite of the fact that it was a few hours before his departure to Omsk; he could have been with his girlfriend or with somebody else, but he devoted his time to this project. He deserves our thanks.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you, do you have any question? You mentioned here you would want to present people of the Czech history who had taken great pains to achieve something significant. Will you also use other names, for example Julius Mainl and Ferdinand Porche who was born here and who invented something in the world? And the second question concerns the spot. If you want to communicate the European Union, is not it rather ambiguous, and it is a question to Mr. Topolánek, that the ODS submitted the Lisbon Treaty to the Constitutional Court to be reviewed? Cannot be our citizens confused by the fact that the government wants on the one hand to present Europe to them and on the other hand it takes steps in the opposite direction?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I must correct your statement as the Lisbon Treaty was submitted to the Constitutional Court by the Senate, not by the ODS. Do not to oversimplify it. I do not think I understood your question. Perhaps it was not your objective. We have cooperation prepared with great number of people in the framework of this presidency. We have chosen them ourselves. Those names you mentioned were not among them. I do not thing it is important. But I understood from your question that it had not been quite correct.

Alexandr Vondra, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: By the way, the Treaty was also submitted to review to the Constitutional Court in Germany. Such questions are posed in Germany. I do not understand your question.

Michaela Jelínková, spokesperson of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs: Are there any further questions? There are not any.

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Mr. Prime Minister wants to add something.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: I am not here as the Chairman of the ODS but as the Prime Minister. There is rather a difference between the two functions..

Jana Bartošová, Government spokesperson: Thank you. Thank you for your attention and I ask for one more projection of the spot.

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