Press Conferences

10. 10. 2008 11:37

Press Conference the Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek after negotiation with representatives of farmers on 10th October 2008

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press briefing after the meeting of representatives of farmers with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Agriculture and the Deputy Minister of Finance. I welcome the Prime Minister, Mirek Topolánek, the Minister of Agriculture, Petr Gandalovič, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Eduard Janota and from the farmers´ side I welcome the President of the Czech Agrarian Chamber, Jan Veleba, the Chairman of the Association of Private Farming of the Czech Republic, Stanislav Němec, the Chairman of the Union of Marginal Areas of the Czech Republic, Milan Boleslav, and the President of the Young Agrarian Society of the Czech Republic, Pavel Moulis. I give the floor to the Prime Minister.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Good afternoon. After relatively tough negotiations of recent days we met today to try to solve the situation concerning direct payments in the agricultural sphere and some other problems which of this sphere which led the Agrarian Chamber to its intention to highlight the problem on Monday through a token strike. We have been finding a solution both in the sphere of the ministry itself and with the Minister of Finance, of course, whose absence I apologize a he is in Washington and the 1st Deputy of Minister of Finance acts on his behalf today. They have found such a solution which would satisfy in the current turbulent economic situation needs of farmers from the point of view of their competitiveness and disqualification in comparison with their colleagues from neighbouring or European countries. We also wanted to meet our promise which was given in the Programme Declaration of the Government, which concerned just the "top-up", that 100% completion of payments providing by the European Union. We have found several solutions that were presented to the representatives of agrarian experts and agrarian chambers and associations. I pointed out that representatives of chambers and associations could not add financial means for agriculture with other resources from structural funds, like with those of the EAFR Programme that were intended for the rural development and thus partly to the agricultural sphere. Those offers were presented beyond what had already been debated in the Chamber of Deputies. We will table an amendment and we will solve the problem of the property tax. It is not easy to estimate the impact of this step; nevertheless, we do not regard it as marginal. It is a question of hundreds of million crowns, perhaps several billion crowns and therefore it is a significant aid if the motion is passed in the second and third reading. I cannot see any reason for its refusal. So, it would be one part of the unsolved problem. The second one concerns completion of direct payments. We have found one billion crowns in the Land Fund and thus there was a chance to transfer this amount during the debate on the state budget just to those "top-ups", it means to direct payments or additional payments per hectare. Thus, we would reach the last year's level of payments, I mean the level of some 4470 crowns per hectare. It would be by some 35 crowns more than in the last year. This is matter which we can guarantee as we are able to do it ourselves. The second matter concerns resources of the Ministry of Agriculture and it will be explained by Eduard Janota. We can transfer more than one billion crowns from this year to the next one, in fact and we must to find a solution concerning their drawing. I cannot describe exactly that principle, but there are sufficient funds in the budget of the ministry. It means that we found a solution which would not result in expenditure increase in the next year; it means just a transfer in the framework of the budget that is now being prepared and the transfer will mean nearly 100% completion of direct payments from national resources. This is our proposal and I do not expect an immediate cancellation of the Monday's strike as the presidium of the Agrarian chamber will certainly want to debate this offer; nevertheless, I regard this offer as absolutely above-standard in current economic situation and I hope we will reach a agreement with the individual chambers and associations so as to make this sphere competitive within the European Union and so as not to influence the elections. Thank you for your attention.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: I thank the Prime Minister and now the Minister of Agriculture has the floor.

Petr Gandalovič, Minister of Agriculture: Ladies and gentlemen, as you could hear it concerned one billion crowns which would be, during the debate on the state budget, immediately transferred from the Land Fund to the state budget. As you know they are resources of the privatization of state pieces of land. They are resources of the agricultural sphere and that one billion crowns will be a part of the state budget draft. We also made an agreement with the Ministry of Finance that reserve funds of last years, it means funds for co-financing of the individual European programmes that had not been drawn, would not be seized by the Ministry of Finance from the Ministry of Agriculture; on the contrary, if possible they would be used. In such a situation I cannot see any reason for any protest actions of the Agrarian Chamber. Thank you.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: I thank the Minister of Agriculture and now the 1st Deputy Minister of Finance, Mr. Janota, has the floor.

Eduard Janota, Deputy Minister of Finance: I would like to say two things, in fact. First, the transfer of financial means from the Land Fund is nothing extraordinary. That procedure has been used several times in last years and I would like to concretize these financial means. First, that part of means which concerns funding of direct payments or "top ups" we could do only now as we received information from Brussels on the rate of exchange for this year and thus we could calculate our economies that amounted to 250 – 500 million crowns. Second, there are funds in the reserve fund for the agricultural policy from the last year because as you know commodity prices were extreme in the last year and no interventions, no intervention purchases of grain were necessary. That is why there is a reserve amounted to about half a billion crowns there. And the third item which plays a role in that promise of the Prime Minister concerns saved financial means of the operational programme for the agricultural development from years 2004-2006. These means amount to half a billion crowns. So, I would only like to confirm words on possible and relevant use of internal resources of the budgetary chapter of the Ministry of Agriculture for the next year for the next year's budget. It is possible to do it in the framework of the existing standard budgetary procedures as within this procedure both revenue and expenditure side will be increased and the balance will remain unchanged. It is in compliance with our laws.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: I thank the 1st Deputy Minister of Finance Janota and now the President of the Agrarian Chamber, Mr. Veleba, has the floor.

Jan Veleba, President of the Czech Agrarian Chamber: Good afternoon. I would like to make several comments here. As to the Agrarian Chamber, there are about 58 District Agrarian Chambers prepared for the Monday's action. The Agrarian Chamber consists of that number plus there are 13 Regional Agrarian Chambers and 32 unions. I am alone at this meeting. I wanted to bring somebody with me but it was not possible. Therefore we must to arrange a meeting and to decide on the next steps. I have a mandate to require 2,8 – Mr. Janota, following the rate of exchange change, corrected this figure to 2,6 billion crowns for those "top-ups". This meeting, and the Prime Minister will oppose, was arranged late. We have been negotiating with the government for three months if we include the negotiations with Minister of Finance and we have not reach any results up to now. Now, there are certain promises of the Prime Minister here. It is necessary to say that the transfer from the Land Fund would have to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies. So, my procedure is to arrange immediate meeting and then we will publish a press release and we will inform the public and the Prime Minister. It is necessary to know that now it is Friday 10 o'clock in the morning and that action is prepared for Monday at seven o'clock. I am really convinced that the negotiation should have been arranged sooner. That is all.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: I thank Mr. Veleba. Now the Prime Minister would like to add something.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: It is rather surprising statement in the era of cellular phones. That strike is possible to cancel in a few minutes. The negotiation was very friendly and we had been searching for resources till the last moment. It was arranged in time. Everybody knows that the first reading of the state budget in the Chamber of Deputies will be held only in the week which follows the elections. It means that there is no problem here until the first or the second reading. It is a problem of the Agrarian Chamber that it decided to organize such a protest action. After the offer of ours the action is groundless and I ask the agrarian public to understand it. I do not think that everybody wishes to have transport in the Czech Republic blocked, especially now before elections. We have been really trying to do our best to meet requirements of farmers even in time of financial crisis in Europe and in time of threatening spread of the crisis to our country. For me it is much more important to fulfil our promise that we had given after our appointment, in a situation when we did not know anything about the economic development in Europe.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: I thank the Prime Minister and now Stanislav Němec, the Chairman of the Association of Private Agriculture has the floor.

Stanislav Němec, Chairman of the Association of Private Farming of the Czech Republic: Good afternoon. I would have some brief comments. As an introduction I should say that we, as the Association of Private Agriculture, did not join those prepared protests or blockades as we found more purposeful to negotiate these issues at authorities where there is possible to make a decision on them; not during a blockade of some motorways. So, we have been negotiating for several months and we were perhaps better negotiators than those who wanted to block our roads, because after negotiations with Mr. Minister and with the Prime Minister this week, both of them heard our arguments. We certainly take the existing situation of our economy, and not only our economy but the global economy, into consideration. Neither farmers nor citizens of this country want to blow the state money as it is money of all of us. We were informed on certain solutions or on their outline on Tuesday and after further negotiations between the Office of the Government and the Ministry of Finance we heard here a counter-proposal which was much more satisfying than the Tuesday's one. Therefore we are very content and if the Monday's action of the Agrarian Chamber takes place, then we, on behalf of the farming public that we represent, disassociate from it as resolutely as possible. That is all. Thank you.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: Thank you and now Milan Boleslav, the Chairman of the Union of Marginal Areas of the Czech Republic has the floor.

Milan Boleslav, Chairman of the Union of Marginal Areas of the Czech Republic: Good afternoon. I will be speaking on behalf of marginal areas – on behalf farmers of less favourable areas of this state. As you could hear, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Minister Janota presented here after today's meeting proposals which were absolutely new. We wanted to reach at least one or one and a quarter of billion crowns and to negotiate some more money. Of curse those 2,8 billion crowns which have been promised does not meet quite our desire but it is maximum possible proposal and we agree with it at present, if those top-ups are paid out for all farming land so that all farmers would be satisfied. That is all I can say on it.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: Thank you and now Pavel Moulis, the President of the Young Agrarian Society of the Czech Republic has the floor.

Pavel Moulis, President of the Young Agrarian Society of the Czech Republic: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen I think that everything has been said in fact. I would just like to state that our organization is satisfied with the proposal which was presented today because it guarantees in fact the same level of top-up payments as it was in the current year. But it is necessary to say that in the context of the current financial situation or that economic crisis which is around us, we regard it as a compromise solution, and what we regard as a very positive aspect, is the promise of the amendment to the Act of Property Tax which can bring farmers far higher long-lasting financial effect in the future. And what is also very positive, it will create equality of conditions with regard that property tax because if municipalities can decide on those coefficients, they would be unequal conditions for farmers created. Thank you for your attention.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: Thank you, the President Veleba would like to add something.

Jan Veleba, President of the Czech Agrarian Chamber: I do not think it is such an unambiguous situation, because as you could hear yesterday or this morning, I suppose it was yesterday – there was a trailer on TV and they used the Děčín region as an example, and this region is a marginal area. Děčín region is prepared to act in this matter and so I do not know who Mr. Boleslav represents.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: Ladies and gentlemen, now there is time for your question concerning this topic.

Vojtěch Janda, Deník: Does it mean that in the framework of those top-ups or in the framework of those payments, farmers are to gain more than two billion crowns?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: As Eduard Janota said they can get potentially more than two billion crowns; nevertheless, we guarantee one billion which will be given from the state budget and those financial means which are accumulated there – it is difficult to be estimated if it will be one billion or 1,4 billion. Perhaps the Deputy Minister will specify it; nevertheless, I guarantee top-up at the level which is similar to 100%. There is a possibility here of course, to differentiate between the individual commodities so that the sensitive commodities would have 100%, but it is a matter of the Ministry and it is such a special issue which I do not want to comment. I regard this offer as correct.

Petr Gandalovič, Minister of Agriculture: In 2007, during the preparation of the state budget, the agricultural budget was not completely covered as well. I guaranteed to gradually add those items in compliance with the development of the state budget drawing and in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance. I suppose that all participants present can confirm that if there is a promise to use those reserve funds in the course of 2009, then it is a promise which will be met as well as promises in the past were met.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: Is there any further question?

Z1 TV: I have a question concerning the murder of Mr. Kočka as it happened in a situation when there were certain speculations on possible connection of politicians with underworld.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: You must know that whatever I would say, it might be interpreted as a pre-election matter. I said one sentence on it, which I published as a press release. In spite of the fact that I expressed lots of statements concerning friends of Jiří Paroubek in the past, I express my sympathy to the Kočka´s family and I do not have a feeling that I should add something to it. It is a deplorable matter and it is up to Jiří Paroubek to assess it.

Jakub Stadler, Deputy Head of the Press Unit: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, in case there are no further question, thank you for your attendance and good-bye.

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