PM Fischer outlines government's priorities for remainder of period in office

Photo: CTK

The caretaker government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer – originally set up for a brief five-month period – is now set to rule the country until regular general elections scheduled for May 2010. On Wednesday, Mr Fischer addressed the lower house of the Czech Parliament, and outlined his cabinet’s major priorities for the coming months.

Prime Minister Jan Fischer on Wednesday outlined his government’s programme priorities in the coming six months and more. Initially dubbed the “summer” cabinet, the caretaker government’s protracted time in office is the result of thwarted early elections originally scheduled for October. Now it is clear that Mr. Fischer’s seventeen member team of non-partisan experts will have to hold the fort until May of next year and resolve some tough domestic and foreign policy issues.

Mr Fischer told the lower house that his cabinet will not undergo any personal changes and will continue to rely on Parliament and political parties for support. One of the priorities at the top of the list is the EU agenda. Minister for European Affairs, Štefan Fule, says the cabinet is confident the Czech Republic will ratify the Lisbon Treaty by the end of the year.

“Yes, the confidence is shared by all members of the government. We are doing our best so that the promise, the commitment we made together with our European partners at the European Council summit in June to finish the ratification process in such a way that the Lisbon treaty enters into force by the end of the year, so that it stands and is kept by the Czech government.”

Other priorities include an exit strategy for the economic crisis and gaining better access to EU funds. The government will also go ahead with the privatization of Czech Airlines, and start a debate on the country’s energy strategy. The head of the Social Democrat party, Jiří Paroubek, says the cabinet’s outlook respects his party’s priorities, too.

“I think it was realistic from the prime minister’s point of view, and Social Democrats support this caretaker government. We gave the prime minister our conditions for the government, and of course, many things are missing, but I think that the prime minister and the whole government is open to new ideas, and I think other things can be negotiated.”

Ivan Langer
Former interior minister Ivan Langer is deputy-chair of the Civic Democrats. He says that for better or for worse, the country currently has no alternative to Jan Fischer’s government.

“Well, there is no other choice than Mr Fischer’s cabinet. The prime minister’s speech was really realistic, and I think we can support the government and wait until the elections in the spring of 2010.”

But other politicians were more reserved. The fourth biggest party in the house are the Christian Democrats. Their leader Cyril Svoboda would like the government to be more active between now and next year’s general elections.

“We have a lot of time before the coming elections in May, and we need to have a government which is stronger, and perhaps more courageous in their proposals. But generally speaking, this government is acceptable, and it’s the only possible government and we are ready to support every single positive decision of the government.”

And for the head of the Green Party, Ondřej Liška, the prime minister’s policy statement was way too vague.

“I haven’t heard anything concrete from the prime minister about how this government is going to fight against corruption or how to make the Czech political system more transparent. We are therefore not very happy about what Mr Fischer presented today. But at the same time, we are expecting in the coming weeks the government to come up with concrete proposals, and only then will we judge whether the government deserves trust or not.”

The government of Jan Fischer has not requested another vote of confidence, since the major political forces were concerned it might not turn out well, and the country would have to go through a period of difficult negotiations to find a new cabinet. Jan Fischer’s government is therefore set to remain in place until the general elections in May 2010.