Mertlik: Zeman didn't give me 'appropriate' degree of support

Pavel Mertlik

News of the resignation of Finance Minister Pavel Mertlik broke on Tuesday. But it was not until Wednesday afternoon that Mr Mertlik held a press conference to explain the reasons for his decision, Vladimir Tax reports. Apart from - in his view - unnecessary delays in key privatisation projects, Mr Mertlik complained of a lack of support from Prime Minister Milos Zeman.

Pavel Mertlik
"The position of minister of finance in any cabinet is very much related to the support from the prime minister. I didn't feel an appropriate degree of support to be able to materialise in practice our economic policy over the past few months and I, in the end of the day, decided that this will probably not change, so I resigned."

As Mr Mertlik explained, his decision to quit also stemmed from long-term disputes with some of his Cabinet colleagues, mainly Trade and Industry Minister Miroslav Gregr, whose economic proposals have frequently been given priority over Mr Mertlik's. Mr Mertlik also cited disputes with other Cabinet members over austerity measures for next year's state budget.

"It's the situation of public finance. We have negative development trends here and it is necessary to consolidate the structure of public finance which, of course, is a very complicated process related to various budget cuts. It seemed to me that some members of the cabinet did not feel appropriately the importance of this task."

Mr Mertlik's resignation as finance minister was followed almost immediately by that of Deputy Finance Minister, Jan Mladek, and the head of the Czech privatisation agency, Jiri Havel. With the possible impact on the Czech economy in mind, Prime Minister Milos Zeman acted swiftly to resolve the situation. Despite predictions that it would be hard to find a decent replacement for Mr Mertlik, within just two days Prime Minister has already chosen a successor.