Press Conferences

17. 1. 200711:28

Press conference of the Prime Minister of the CR, Mirek Topolánek after the meeting of the government on Wednesday, 17th January 2007

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the first press conference after the first regular meeting of the government of the CR. And now I give the floor to the Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek, who will inform you about the agenda of the meeting.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Good afternoon. Today was a normal working day of the government, it debated number of issues. Apart from other issues, one of the points was the Programme Declaration of the government, which was after amendments based on proposals of the individual ministers, approved. Amendments did not concern principal matters, but they were rather of formal character and concerned formulation of the individual tasks and objectives, so that wording of the declaration, after linguistic proofreading, could be submitted to deputies. This Programme Declaration has been approved unanimously. So, it will be, based on the custom law, submitted to deputies of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the CR in connection with the vote of confidence. The government has debated two formal issues, which are unfortunately atmosphere of the meeting, they concerned approving state obligation programme for coverage of the deficit of the state budget for 2007 and the government also approved eventuality of operations with these medium-term and long-term obligations, which enable better decision-making process regarding the state debt. The government expressed its opinion regarding three deputies´ proposals, the Educational Act, Criminal Code and the Communities Act. It debated number of points. Two points, which have been suspended, concerned the material that had been submitted by Minister Stehlíková. One of them concerned Convention of the Rights of the Child and the second one concerned the recommendation of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. In case of both materials, the government asked the minister to submit more concrete specification, which would result from these two institutions or rather from these two reports. We also debated the amendment of the Rules of Order of the Government and we debated certain competence problems concerning new government. This is all, in fact. There were more points on the agenda, of course, and you can ask questions about them or my colleagues will add information on them.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Now, I will ask the Deputy Prime Minister Čunek, or other Deputy Prime Ministers whether they would like to add information or whether they would like to wait for your questions.

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: I would just add one matter and it is that the government immediately started to decrease the administrative burden, which I regard as very positive aspect, because in connection with issues that concerned the European laws, and not only the European laws, it was shown that the government debates materials, which do not concern us, for example call-up or using children as soldiers and such like. These are matters that are submitted to the government, all officers must comment on them. There are tons of paper and a lot of work of officers and therefore we, in the very beginning, decided on certain reduction of these matters. That was the reason of suspension of two materials that were on the agenda of the meeting of the government; we wanted to reduce the administrative burden, which is really, not only concerning these issues, extreme.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Ladies and gentlemen, now there is time for your questions. I would just like to request to ask all your questions because, in compliance with common rules, the Prime Minister and ministers will not answer questions individually after finishing the press conference. So, your questions, please.

Marek Miller, Bloomberg News: I would like to ask, if you can comment on these concessions made for deputies of the social democracy; what they concerned and give some details on them. Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: With regard to the fact that you know their statements regarding what they had gained, I can say that not in all cases there were significant concessions, as sometimes the intentions of deputies were even drawing near to what the government had wanted to do, anyway. It means that when we are speaking about the Act on Non-profit Hospitals, that it must be substituted by a legal norm conforming to the Constitution, some European norm on non-profit organizations that was an intention of this government in spite of the fact that it was not mentioned explicitly. Therefore, we have no problem to satisfy this request. The fact that certain tasks, which were contained in the Programme Declaration, were stated, perhaps against our effort on universality of the Programme Declaration, in a more detailed way, that they are substituted by the sentence saying that social benefits will be assessed individually according to their purposefulness and that an effort will be aimed at transparent and addressable allocation – it was not against the philosophy of this government, either. And we have agreed in number of spheres finally; some matters were not included in the Programme Declaration, but they have connection with general tendency, e.g. better performance of courts and justice, solution of problems concerning the Police and in prosecuting attorney's offices; and these were matters regarding which we agreed that we would not amend the Programme Declaration of the Government, because both we and deputies of the social democracy, who are willing to tolerate the government, have the same interests, in fact.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: The Deputy Prime Minister Nečas wants to add something.

Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: I would call those formulations as formulations aimed at specification and assurance and we have no problem with them, because when we are speaking about tax changes, tax reform, we regard the act that everybody must make a profit on them as an absolute condition and nobody had to push us to accept it. Therefore, we can see any problem if this formulation will be stated there. And similarly, addressable character and effectiveness of the social system, as the Prime Minister mentioned, it is a formulation that specifies details again.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Mladá fronta Dnes, please.

Josef Kopecký, MfD: Good afternoon, I would have two questions. The problem was debated at the session that was lively broadcasted last week, but still, what is your idea of cooperation between the government and the opposition regarding pushing ahead certain key intentions. And the second matter, if the right of the CSSD to nominate the Chairman of the Chamber of deputies will be a part of cooperation with the opposition, or a minimal cooperation, at least? Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I regard as very cheerful that you take seriously the session held last week, which Jiří Paroubek organized himself, he himself determined the place, composition and even presentation for media. Nevertheless, I think that whatever the result on Friday will be, and I suppose that the government will gain confidence, there are no changes regarding offers that had been done in the framework of that session for the opposition. And it is one of obligation that we have to the deputies of the social democracy, who are willing to tolerate the government, and it is that each key reform legal norm will have to be consulted with the opposition before its submission. We will propose those tools of communication, which I had offered. Whether Jiří Paroubek accept them or not, it is a great mystery for me after his caustic statements; I am not quite sure about it. But there will be some offer from our side, anyway. The fact that the so called Bezděk´s Commission for discussion on the pension reform proved its ability; it is a matter that perhaps everybody agree with. We will want to offer similar tool in case of healthcare; we have it even in our Programme Declaration. I do not want to make any obstruction regarding the opposition, as numbers of deputies in the Chamber of Deputies do not allow us any forcible solution. Therefore, we will have to communicate and we are prepared for it. I do not think it is an immoral matter, minority governments work in various countries in Europe, I would say, they became a standard recently and their performance is very good. They even succeed in implementation of more reform objectives than one could have expected. And I could mention number of examples; therefore I will wait until hotheads will be calmed down and I will propose standard mechanisms of communication and tools, which were proposed during that session last week.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: The Deputy Prime Minister has concrete information to add again.

Petr Nečas, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: I would like to emphasize that there is a tradition in culture of democratic states - an effort to reach as broad political consensus in concrete spheres as possible. Undoubtedly, the security policy, reform of the security and intelligence system, these are matters that should be seriously debated with the opposition and principal steps should be taken in compliance with democratic opposition; and this government will strive after it. It can be documented in the Programme Declaration that there exist steps that are to be realized during tens of years, as the pension reform for example. When you read the part, which concerns the pension reform, you will find that it is word for word identical text, which had been agreed before 13th December with the social democracy. In other words, there is procedure described there, which had been agreed by the ODS, the Social Democracy, the Green Party and the KDU-ČSL in December. There is an effort here to reach as broad political consensus here as possible, because we are convinced that these matters are done for years regardless what concrete government will govern in the future; these solutions should be stable ones.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: To answer the question in a more precise way, I would say that one thing is to enable formation of a government, the second thing is to push ahead reform plans, which require broader consensus.

Josef Kopecký, MfD: Excuse me, regarding my second question – are you going to renounce prospective right of the Social Democracy to decide, who will be its representative at the head of the Chamber of Deputies, or will it be changed somehow?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I would leave it until further negotiations. For the present we are witnesses of rather tragicomical attempt to replace Vlček by Vlček, which is an attempt that everybody regards as an obstruction. We will be waiting until hotheads are calmed down and then we will try to reach an agreement on the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies. We have never doubted the right of the opposition to have its Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, but it is not automatic right. I suppose that negotiations on this issue will start later on.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Are there further questions? Bloomberg.

Marek Miller, Bloomberg News: I have one more question that concerns the Programme Declaration. Do privatization plans of the new government differ from those in the coalition agreement, which had been concluded some time ago? Can we speak about identical documents? Can you say something about it?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I repeat what I have said several times – the programme declaration is different genre than a coalition agreement and its programme part, but their content, their factual character is identical. They differs only in their form, in genre, i.e. there are certain matters added, which three coalition parties regarded as self-evident and three was no need to include them into the coalition agreement. But they were added to the Programme Declaration; they are non-conflicting matters. Some matters were just specified or added following negotiations with deputies of the ČSSD who are willing to tolerate the government. Nevertheless, as to their content, these documents are identical.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Does the TV Prima have a question?

Helena Šulcová, TV Prima: I would like to ask whether you have information on threatening of deputies Pohanka and Melčák. Do they have bodyguards at their disposal?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: They are under huge stress. It is not stress from the side of the ODS or triple-coalition, as we have learnt in some papers. They themselves have a feeling that they are spied, that they are illegally tapped. There is great pressure put on them and I think that this question is for them. They have not asked for bodyguards.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Are there any further question? Mladá fronta Dnes, Mr. Dolejší.

Václav Dolejší, MfD: Good afternoon. Prime Minister, I would like to ask – you said in summer to cite you exactly – defectors are always suspected of corruption and extortion. If these men are defectors – does it hold true or not? Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I regard these media attacks on defection as infelicitous in case of the agreement, which we openly and publicly concluded with certain deputies. I venture to claim that perhaps one quarter of deputies of the ČSSD is of similar opinion as Mr. Melčák and Mr. Pohanka; that the party should stay in opposition that it should be a hard opposition that it should not struggle for government chairs at all costs. The fact that only some of them have displayed great courage rather indicates situation in the social democracy. Those open negotiations and finally also those programme concessions show that they are not defectors. A defector might be Mr. Kott, who supported governments of Jiří Paroubek and Stanislav Gross with his one vote, and it is rarely mentioned in newspapers. He was true defector from one side to the political spectrum to the other. Nevertheless, neither Mr. Melčák, nor Mr. Pohanka indicate change of their political attitudes and even their tolerance does not mean automatic support of every legal norm, which will be submitted by the coalition. I suppose it results clearly from their statements. I do not regard them as defectors. And, by he way, read the Constitution – the Constitution suppose vote of individuals in compliance with their own conscience, not vote of political parties in case of vote of confidence. I regard as greater defectors those, who vote against their conscience and vote based on a decision of a party presidium in spite of the fact that their opinions are different. I regard as greater defection, when somebody wants to govern with communists and to discredit the development in our country after November revolution. This is defection, I would say. I regard the act of these two deputies as very courageous and it means rather improvement of political culture in this country, than the opposite. They declared publicly before the vote of confidence and explained why they would tolerate the government, under what conditions and from what reasons. It could not be made more openly, I think and I regard those media commentaries as infelicitous.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Further questions, please. All of us hurry to the Chamber of Deputies, I know.

Petr Vašek, Hospodářské noviny: I have a question for the Prime Minister and the Chairman Čunek. What do you regard as greatest concessions made in the agreement with Mr. Melčák and Mr. Pohanka?

Jiří Čunek, 1st Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Regional Development: I negotiated neither with Mr. Melčák nor with Mr. Pohanka, I just, together with my colleagues Bursík and Nečas was doing final proofreading of the Programme Declaration of the government. I want to emphasize that there were much more comments from the side of our coalition deputies that we had to consider. Of course, there were professional opinions from ministries, because each of us wanted to complete the Programme Declaration after coming to a ministry. I would even say that certain specification in the social sphere suit me or the KDU-ČSL better, as they exclude different interpretation of their real sense. It means, I will give you an example, which has already been mentioned by my colleague Nečas. When talking about determination of flat rate of the VAT in the range from 17% to 19%, it is evident that the lower the rate will be it will have greater influence on socially sensitive items. So, I think that the reduced rate of the VAT will be in case of items, which effect underprivileged citizens. I think that this was an obligation that all parties aimed at and it is specified in the declaration. Regarding other matters of social character, which are socially sensitive and which are specified, we have no reasons to change them. It is all right.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: I would like to say that requirements of deputies were close to matters that we negotiated with the social democracy in December. For example in case of doctors´ fees, Jiří Paroubek required and he had presented several times, social differentiation – and that was one of requirements of deputies Melčák and Pohanka in negotiations with the triple-coalition. Perhaps they are details, but they were very important for them and we accepted these changes, becase they are not against the sense of the coalition agreement concluded.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Ladies and gentlemen, are there any further questions, please? Česká televize, then Mladá fronta Dnes, Mr. Dolejší.

Daniela Písařovicová, ČT: I would like to ask whether you debated the report on the motorway network and on the way how to increase safety on motorways. It was to be debated today, it was stated on your websites.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: That was just information. I think that it was not a point, which was to be debated and which was to change anything significantly. The material is of course at your disposal, as it is just information.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: If you want information on what the government debated or on points that it did not debate, you can ask after finish of the press conference Mrs. Júdtová from the press unit, as usual.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Some points have been suspended.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Now, Mr. Dolejší.

Václav Dolejší, MfD: I would like to ask if you really believe in pushing ahead reforms, when both deputies, and also Jiří Paroubek in fact, cannot make a promise regarding their support. Or, will the government keep its promise to initiate early election in case of failure? Thank you.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the CR: Mr. Dolejší I will arrange a scholarship in Denmark for you, where just such a minority government has enforced relatively decisive reforms, which had not been enforced neither by left-wing coalition nor the right-of-centre government before. It is true that it is possible, it requires a lot of patience, a lot of meticulous work, seeking for support for the individual laws by means of methods I stated, by means of communication tools. But in case I would not believe in enforcement of those matters on which we were able to make an agreement with the social democracy, I would be really faithless. And it would be nonsense to form a government in this case. Moreover, an instrument exists and I want to draw your attention to it, it is the Article 10 of the Coalition Agreement, which stipulates that in case we will not be able to approve pro-reform state budget, we will do our best to finish our governance and to initiate early elections. It shows the way and basic principles in forming this triple-coalition; it means reform laws, reform government, or early elections. I repeat again, it is above board solution and if you are of different opinion, as some of commentaries of yours indicate, it is your matter, but I think that you are mistaken.

Martin Schmarcz, head of the press unit of the Office of the Government: Are there any further questions? If there are not any, thank you and we will meet next Wednesday, when you will be able to check the work of the government, if it really enforces its programme or not.