Press Conferences

20. 9. 2007 12:53

Regular Press Briefing Given by Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek on Monday, September 17, 2007

Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Good morning, let me welcome you to this regular press briefing given by the Prime Minister to whom I now give the floor.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: I would like to welcome you too. Since we are pretty busy today, I have to start straight away taking up my topics one by one. In the first part, as you surely know, I´ve grown accustomed to speaking about various unprofessional types of behaviour. Last time I handed out chocolates, which some of you didn’t seem to like too much, and today you’re down on your luck. The only things you’ll get today are some documents to study. As the saying goes: if the cap fits wear it. Namely it was MF´s reporter Mr. Kmenta who had criticized me for what he called my bad attitude to journalists. I must say that Mr. Kmenta himself ranks among the people who take a lion’s share in creating bad relations between the press and politicians. He is precisely the kind of journalist who abuses illegal leaks of information from police sources on a long-term basis, who keeps violating the principle of the presumption of innocence and who publishes one-sided information. I think this is quite obvious. Well, I needed to mention journalist Kmenta mainly for the purpose of finding a mechanical link leading up to my following subject, a practice which I often criticize myself, to have an opportunity to talk about the police state. I believe that the worst that the Czech media have managed to do recently was to create a feeling, an atmosphere in which whoever just points an accusing finger at somebody who happens to be investigated means that the person must be guilty. As soon as a state attorney discontinues someone’s prosecution, this is branded as suspicious. But in actual fact, the exact opposite is true. In an interview with the afore-mentioned newspaper MF, Attorney-General Renáta Vesecká said that a state attorney is not the one who stalks and chases his or her victim just to run it down and bring it to court. A state attorney must also be a guarantor of the rule of law during investigations as well as a guarantee that all the acts attesting not only against but also for the benefit of the accused. I must say that following the Czech media one does not get this impression at all. A state attorney who must uphold and protect the rule of law, discharges the function of the former prosecutor, and naturally also the role of the defence counsel by defending the rights of the accused. I would like you to interpret those words very carefully so that we should finally get rid of the manners so typical of the 1950s, when comrades prosecutors, working hand in hand with communist police officers, eventually with StB agents and officials, reigned supreme. We should get rid of the manners introduced during the past eight years when the ruling party routinely set the police to spy on their political opponents. And more than that. Unconstitutional phone tappings adversely affected innocent, ordinary people who were just unlucky to be around. I would like to ask you - if not for the sake of politicians then for the sake of the citizenry - to be very careful and attentive indeed before blackening anyone. I think that you’d surely like to ask me later today, during the third part of this briefing, whether I am prepared to recall Education Minister Kuchtová or not. To jump ahead a bit, I would like to say a few words that I regard important. Firstly, Spain - as a large country - has just one operating program, while the Czech Republic has as many as 24. And this, quite definitely, is not the fault of this Government and certainly not the fault of Dana Kuchtová either. We have inherited that problem and the last chance to do something about it may have offered itself in the first half of last year. So much for the second aspect. For the first nine months, until September, when the outgoing government handed over the Ministries, that cabinet did nothing at all. That caused such an enormous loss (of time or delay), and the decision to change operating programs or eventually join them together, which has been a key problem in negotiating with the European Commission for the new Government since September, would be extremely difficult, if not outright impossible. Dana Kuchtová came to the post of Education Minister after the New Year, and that is the reason I want to mention in defending her. By that time it was absolutely impossible to change anything. The other thing I want to stress is this: if I ever decide to change my ministers, I definitely won’t do it in a live transmission, and I will never send them such a decision via the media. And thirdly, I never judge people around me according to what other people say or write about them, according to other people’s judgements of their political background or private lives. The only important factor for me is how they work, what sort of results they achieve, what kind of managers they turn out to be. So much as a general outline. Now specifically to the problem you are certainly interested in. I think Vice Premier Bursík put it quite clearly when he said: a technical problem has emerged. In a way, the drawing of the funds is jeopardized within the terms we originally anticipated. And the Minister of Education will either put that right, and if she doesn’t, she’ll lose her job. I believe this is absolutely clear, nothing more, nothing less. At this moment, it actually does not matter what kind of solution to the problem she is going to find and offer. I am only concerned with one thing - everything should function properly and we should be able to start drawing the funds as soon as possible. It even doesn’t matter too much what are the names of the programs, how they are going to be implemented, and who will be monitoring them. I perceive this as a technical problem emerging along the way, so to say. I will talk about this in greater detail in the next part of my briefing when presenting the Government agenda. Another cause you have managed quite well, I must way, was the restrained approach the media assumed to the exchange of our Ambassadors in Brussels. I think you have not swallowed the bait in the shape of Jiøí Paroubek´s one-sided criticism. As I can readily understand, he doesn’t like to see his own party member being replaced by a nonpartisan person. But in this particular case, professional qualifications were the key consideration. Milana Vicenová is a professional, a specialist in negotiating the Structural Funds, and that’s a change we needed. Nevertheless, Jan Kohout´s mandate would have transpired anyway, and the new Ambassador should be given time to prepare for our presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2009. And I am glad you have approached the cause in the way you have. The fourth matter on which I feel I have to express my opinion is the declaration of the European Socialists opposing the location of the US radar base in the Czech Republic and Poland. I must emphasize here that I do respect anyone’s right to express his or her opinion on this issue, eventually to disagree with the decision to locate the radar. Nevertheless, I have to object to the misleading rhetoric used in this matter. We do not want any new missiles in Europe, and we do not want new missiles being dropped on us from risk territories. And this (declaration) seems to suggest as if we were moving in new SS-20 missiles with nuclear warheads, that is what I would like to object to very strictly indeed. Even those missiles that are used within the anti-missile defence system are weapons using kinetic energy and having no warheads. I am well aware that the declaration by the Socialists was approved with an eye to the general public, that it was not meant absolutely seriously. Because many of those who have signed the declaration were Premiers of the NATO Member States, countries that are known to support the anti-missile defence system very strongly and on a long-term basis. Seen in this light, I view the declaration as a kind of political proclamation, but I have to condemn its Cold War rhetoric, which reminds one of the communist propaganda in the 1980s when we all were officially declared to be fighting for peace. The fifth problem area is associated with that. And here I must say that - seen from a long-term perspective - I very much dislike the way you are reporting on the foreign policy of this Government. Let me describe just the last three working days in my office. The Vietnamese Premier spent two days in this country, Bavarian Interior Minister Mr. Beckstein was here on a visit, the Socialist chief mentioned earlier was here. Also the Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate Mr. Beck stayed in the country, and so did a Mongolian delegation, headed by the Chairman of that country’s Parliament. As for today, Iraq´s Foreign Minister is here, and so is President Tadiè. Another red-letter event is the great reunion of the Mother and her Child, if I may put it that way - Our Lady, the Brazilian patron saint, and the Prague Infant Jesus. There is a large banquet held to mark Brazil’s national holiday. And I must that - judging by what I read in the Czech newspapers - you seem to be towing Jiøí Paroubek´s rhetoric line that this Government has no foreign policy. But I have to counter by saying that our foreign policy is consistent and far more clear-cut and legible than ever before. And I would like to see - and would like to single that out to you as well - such a reflection (of our foreign policy) in the media. And now to the specific topics of today’s press conference. I would like to introduce you to a certain technique, a specific project I have brought to this Government. A certain system designed to evaluate the work of the Government, a specific system aimed at running this Cabinet more as a well-functioning company. I have only a few examples, later on we’ll proceed to specific applications. I do not want to present in any greater detail the individual priorities I have outlined as key goals for the functioning of this Government. We could already see behind those objectives some specific projects: sound public finances, zero stage of the process of stabilizing public finances, a modern and efficient state, which - in fact - is the project we came up with already before the last elections. Needless to add, the vision of a secure citizen in a secure state is related to three areas, to lifting barriers to free enterprise but - generally speaking - this has become the keyword of the Czech presidency of the Council of the European Union and its support of science and education, an area I would like to single out in particular. More or less, those five priority areas cover the ten main programming blocks on which we have agreed within the framework of the coalition agreement and which are part and parcel of the Government’s Policy Statement. Lying behind those ten areas of the Policy Statement, there are as many as 190 projects approved by the Government. I do not want to argue whether this is too few or too many. Roughly 93 percent of those projects have already been launched or eventually completed. 14 projects are ready for start-up according to a timetable, which is naturally dovetailed with the Government’s legislative and non-legislative plan. This, in turn, is connected with what I wanted to show you only as an output, namely that we are now able to coordinate proceedings not only at an interdepartmental level, that is just one of the outputs in the field No. 7, which shows whether a project has already been launched or has not been launched as yet, whether it has been delayed, to which area it belongs, what are its specific problems, what risks are involved, what are its bottle-necks. We can leave that now. What I want to say is that I have a truly detailed overview of the projects which are spread over a period of four years and which are more or less ad hoc, projects that are marked by certain interconnectedness of the interdepartmental character, as well as projects that may be delayed, and I am therefore able to respond (to such delays) at the Government level. I would now like to touch, in greater detail, upon one specific priority associated with what has been said previously. This is the field of research and innovation, an area I regard as one of the greatest challenges facing not only this particular Government but the Czech Republic as a whole. I announced at the last press briefing that I take this as a matter to be tackled by myself as the boss, as a cause to which I intend to devote myself personally and to have it under my own supervision. First and foremost, I would like to reject those political games that are staged around the money from the European funds earmarked for innovation, science and research. If I wanted to go down to the smallest detail, I would have to say that after 2013 the Czech Republic will be, quite undoubtedly, a net payer into the European budget. Everyone knows that but only precious few are getting ready to face that deficit situation. Few people realize that after 2013 we’ll be among the wealthier countries who will be expected to contribute to the poorer Member States. This is associated with a change in the Structural Funds and their amount that will flow into the Czech economy, into Czech science and the like. Those attempts to scare the (Czech) general public that if we happen to fall behind in drawing the funds by three or six months, we’ll lose the money altogether, is senseless. If I wanted to give a graphic illustration and describe the funds as a drug, then - after 2013 - the M+3 mechanism, i.e. the drawing period prolonged by three years, will enable us to engage in detoxification treatment, to wean us from the Structural Funds because we will no longer receive so much money in the forthcoming period. Talking specifically about innovations, science and research, it is not so much important who will get control of which domain, which particular party or group will get a bigger clout over the distribution of the funds. To get access to the money at all it is important to be able to prepare projects, to be able to divide them efficiently, even though you should realize that it is not an optimum method of allocating money, if and when decisions are taken by a commission, by officials on the basis of criteria that cannot be exhaustive. We want to prevent waste and we want to prevent corruption or quasi-corruption in this field. Because I view as quasi-corruption also allocations of resources that are not made in an optimal manner. I have to think as a manager, as a manager I have identified mistakes and as a manager I had to intervene in a project, and have taken the whole matter very personally, under my personal supervision. I must say that over the weekend we succeeded in eliminating many areas of disagreement, solving many problems. Chances are we may go for this check, this compliance audit, ready at least to such an extent that the whole program won’t be delayed. As you know, I chair the Council for Research and Development. Within a record time, this Council, and I have to thank for that its Director Blažek, has finished the VAVPI program - or Science and Research for Innovations, so that it can now be submitted to an audit of its preparedness today. I have that document here with me. The document is important for us to be able to submit this particular program, and Synergie projects have also been prepared together with the other programs because another deadline would be in mid-January. And I must say that would be very serious indeed. If we want to manage the first wave of negotiations in Brussels, and I’m saying that quite openly, we have to meet the October 15 deadline. So - in a way - there is a sword of Damocles hanging over the Education Minister and, by extension, over myself as well, because otherwise we would have to move the project to next year and that would naturally pose a problem. I dismissed such a possibility as unacceptable and that is why I intervened. It is quite clear that the program will have to be negotiated within the framework of partners in the working group at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Physical Training. Equally evident is the need to set up a well-functioning implementation structure, which the Minister of Education has, in the meantime managed, to destroy in way. In addition to the necessity of urgently salvaging the program Science and Research for Innovations, there is a team of experts, headed by my advisor, former Education Minister Kopicová, working on the task of providing support to the field of science and research as the Prime Minister’s key priority. I want to submit to the Government a draft resolution that would enable me actively to coordinate the programs concerned. There are not only European funds involved in those three programs, i.e. Free Enterprise for Innovations, Science and Research for Innovations, and Education for Competitiveness. Naturally there are also funds from the state budget, which are today managed by the Council for Research and Development. We are preparing - and here we go beyond the outlines of this topical issue in hand - a reform of what are called 7+1 objectives, which is expected not only to rationalize the funding of science but should also lay accent on the setting up of top-notch workplaces, Excellence Centres, as provided for in the programs of the Structural Funds whereby the Czech Republic’s innovation capability will be enhanced. The fact that we only come up to the EU average, although leading the list of new EU Member States, is not enough. We are still lagging behind the top of the EU, and if we want gradually to replace all those assembly shops that had emerged in this country, we have no other chance but to raise our innovation capacity. In the meantime, the presentation featured - and I won’t repeat it, you’ll get the data - some basic terms and goals and certain solutions which are necessary as part of this kind of activity pursued by the Prime Minister. Today we are launching the work of the so called Innovation Forum. The first major event to be held in November will be a conference of the Innovation Forum, where we expect dozens of experts, Czechs and naturally also our countrymen who have succeeded abroad and our foreign guests. I would also like you - and possibly this links up to the first part of my presentation - to devote considerable attention to this particular area since if we fail to raise, by bounds and leaps, the innovation capacity of Czech companies, of Czech universities in cooperation with those firms by the year 2013 with an overlap of three years, if we do not change by then our legislation to allow for co-financing universities from research results, then we’ll be at a great disadvantage, and I take this matter very seriously indeed. This is what I wanted to present today. Needless to say, I´ll leave some other topics for future press conferences, and I want you to know that I am prepared to work with you any time in this kind of presentation or promotion - and I would call it adult education and edification of the public, the specialists included - of the Czech Republic’s innovation capabilities. Thank you, I’m yours...
Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thanks to the Prime Minister, now it’s time for your questions. Go ahead, please.
Journalist, Lidové noviny: Good morning, Mr. Prime Minister, how do you personally perceive the problem facing Mrs. Kuchtová in the matter of drawing the EU funds for science and research?
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: Well, I have answered all the questions, haven’t I? At this moment in time it is quite evident that a lot of work has been done over the weekend on two key issues. The first one was actually resolved by the Science and Research Council itself and that was the completion of the program, specifically Chapter 3, the program Science and Research for Innovations; we have succeeded in doing that. And the other problem - the one being solved within the jurisdiction the Ministry of Education in conjunction with the Ministry of Industry and Trade - that was precisely the Synergie problem, in a linkup to those programs. Both matters have been prepared to such an extent that we will now be in a position to submit them as documents for compliance auditing, and in the following months I expect very intensive work to be done by (Education) Minister Kuchtová and her team or teams she will set up to tackle that particular issue. I believe that anything I may further say about this particular cause goes beyond the framework of what I want to say or what can be said. As I have already indicated, the best answer was given by Martin Bursík. I think Dana Kuchtová´s problem also lies in her Deputy, she will have to find a personnel solution but that is her own problem, an issue for this Government, and at this particular moment I am not announcing anything in live transmission.
Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you, Mladá fronta next.
Josef Kopecký, MfD: Good morning, Kopecký, Mladá fronta…An incomprehensible question.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: Naturally, Mr. Kopecký, I have been following that very closely. There are many programs, some have already been approved, some will be approved, and they are facing much smaller problems than the Ministry of Education with the implementing agency of those programs. I myself view the issue as an elementary matter and that is no attack on Jiøí Èunek. There is a lot of work ahead before we manage to coordinate the entire activities of the Ministry for Regional Development, and I see the whole matter in a very urgent light as lying precisely in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Physical Training. I believe that we have finally succeeded in agreeing on coordination of the program Free Enterprise for Innovations and Science and Research for Innovations through the agency CzechInvest along those priority lines the Government Ministers had agreed upon in the past. That is a correct approach to take, and in this sense it is CzechInvest in the first place that can become a basis for a successful implementing agency. I cannot see any other urgent problem anywhere else, if a problem is signalized, if it emerges, I will solve it equally vigorously, I can assure you.
Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you, Blesk and then Czech Television.
Journalist, Blesk: An incomprehensible question.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: I must that this time the first question is smarter than last time, but not the second one, Mr. Huštík. The first question is, of course, taken out of its proper context, and Mr. Kubera probably wants to imply that the salaries of constitutional officials should be dependent on a wage scale in the state - eventually public - administration sector. That they should cover all the costs and all the emoluments connected therewith, eventually all the duties a Senator has, such as setting up an office and so on. Which is neither a new nor a surprising proposal, and I would say that your question and the kind of press you represent wants rather to scandalize the issue than seek a serious solution to it. That is a problem nobody is capable of solving at the moment because there is no political will for its solution. This Government proposed to freeze the salaries of the constitutional officials at this very moment, and that may be an answer to your question.Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you.
Journalist, Blesk: And the other question?
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: I really don’t know what to add. I have to say that private lives of other people cut no ice with me, that’s just their problem. That is also why I would like you to respect my own private life.
Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you. Czech Television next.
Jana Šimùnková, Czech TV: What do you say to Mr. Pithart´s decision not to run for the post of the President of the Republic?
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: Well, if he’d decided to run, you would have probably asked me what do I say to his decision not to run. Both facts leave me equally unimpressed. Petr Pithart had lost in the past, and if he now found out there would be no support for his eventual election, I regard his decision as logical.
Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you, Mladá fronta next.
Journalist, MfD: Who is the owner of the Volvo that you drive? Doesn’t it belong to Lucie Talmanová? Why have you refused to answer the question posed by Týden magazine?
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: Well, you’re actually saying the car’s owner is Lucie Talmanové, so I don’t know why you are asking the question. That is the answer. Nobody has talked to me about it and I have not refused to give any answer. Possibly it was someone from the people around me who simply refuse to answer similar queries because they do not regard them as important for the Czech public. The car’s owner is Lucie Talmanová indeed, and it’s good we have a car at our disposal. As for the first question, I don’t view that topic as a key subject of the month, it’s an artificial theme reintroduced by Jiøí Paroubek, and you seem to be swallowing his bait. I believe that the right time for such a discussion will come some time in November, possibly in December, and everything I have said about that topic has already been written. I think it’s futile to emphasize that in any way. An eventual failure to re-elect Václav Klaus is bound to complicate the governing of this administration. It doesn’t have to mean 100 percent end of this Government, I’ve already said that. It’s also true that I think that the Christian Democrats and the Greens should realize this. And that’s about all that can be added to that.
Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you, TV Prima.
Tomáš Drahoňovský, TV Prima: Could this be connected with your government?
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: Well, that will be topical next June but until then the situation might deteriorate very much indeed. I’ve already mentioned the dates. The first deadline is today and tomorrow, and we are in a position to submit for a compliance audit both the program Science and Research for Innovations and naturally also the Synergie project or their absence, which proved to be one of the main points of the criticism - and I would say justified criticism - by the European Commission. If the European Commission, working thorough its negotiators, accepts our state of preparedness, then the key deadline will be October 15, a date by which we have to negotiate and sort out - and that is, once again, a standard procedure - all the problems the European Commission and DG Regio may have with those documents. And that is a standard way to go ahead, and the procedure will last for some two or three weeks. If we are capable of negotiating all those matters and signing appropriate documents, then October 15 is the deadline when we can say whether we’ve been successful or not. Since I announced that date, taking a page out of Tony Blair´s book, for next June I think that the solution had to come earlier.
Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you, any more questions? Právo.
Jitka Götzová, Právo: Why has the Volvo you are driving an out-of-Prague number plate?
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: You are very wrong there, it has a Prague number plate. Quite typically, Právo seems to have wrong information again.
Jana Bartošová, press spokesperson of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic: Thank you, any more questions? In that case, thank you for you attention, and have a nice time.
Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek: I would like to thank you, too, and say that I’m looking forward to meeting you next time. Hopefully, I will be able to prepare for you some interesting information. Good bye.

print article   email   facebook   twitter