Ministries jockeying for EU funding for next generation data network

Jan Mládek, photo: Filip Jandourek

The Ministry of Industry and Trade is set to divide up CZK 10 billion of a total of CZK 14 billion in European Union funding for the development of a fast digital network in the Czech Republic, according to a government plan quoted in Wednesday’s edition of Mladá fronta Dnes.

Jan Mládek,  photo: Filip Jandourek
However, there is still some dispute over the idea of establishing a national coordinator to oversee how the money is used, the daily reported.

Under the latest draft of the National Plan for Development of Next Generation Networks, CZK 4 billion of the CZK 14 billion up for grabs would be channeled through the Ministry of the Interior.

Mladá fronta Dnes said that Industry Minister Jan Mládek and Interior Minister Milan Chovanec had been jockeying for control of the large fund.

Mr. Mládek has had some success in undermining Mr. Chovanec, a Social Democrat party colleague, the newspaper said. The Ministry of the Interior had previously been slated to get its hands on CZK 6 billion.

Mr. Mládek said there were reasons that country’s e-government and non-public digital network needed to be strengthened. The Czech Republic is among the weakest states in the European Union in this regard, he said.

However, Mr. Mládek is strongly opposed to another aspect of the plan: the creation of a national coordinator, a state enterprise under the Ministry of the Interior that would have a marked influence on where the EU funding goes.

The minister said the new office would combine elements of a business and a regulator overseeing the division of the funds and called on the Ministry of the Interior to drop the idea of setting it up.

The Ministry of the Interior, meanwhile, is sticking to its guns. Its press spokesperson told Mladá fronta Dnes that the role of the national coordinator would be essential as it would map existing infrastructure, aiding the preparation of the new generation network.

The two ministers are due to hold talks on the matter with Social Democrat Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka on Wednesday. The sides need to reach agreement – otherwise the country could lose out on the funding entirely.

Meanwhile, existing operators are unhappy about the proposal. The head of the Information Technology and Telecommunication Association (which brings together the biggest operators on the market), Svatoslav Novák, said any doling out of money from such funds for a non-public digital network was a bad thing.

Regional operators are even more strongly opposed, according to Mladá fronta Dnes. The business director of ISP Alliance, Jakub Rejzek, told the daily that the entire plan was nonsensical and ought to be re-conceived completely.