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An Interview With Milan Chovanec, Minister of the Interior

I would love to achieve a situation where policemen would not do as much secretarial work, rather that they could spend more time doing fieldwork.
 The interior minister and member of parliament of the Czech Republic, Milan Chovanec, has been in politics since 1997. He worked mainly at a regional level in the Pilsen region for fifteen years and was head of this area for four years. He became vice-chairman of Czech Social Democratic Party last October and later a parliamentarian too. He is heading the Ministry of the Interior since January.

“Dear Minister”, have you already got used to this salutation?

“I prefer a less formal salutation. Anyway I came to the Ministry of the Interior after thorough consideration and in order to do something good for this country. This salutation is obviously not offending me.” 

You took over the Ministry in times when the media were keeping a close watch on a situation around police presidents. Have you ever considered this as a disadvantage?

“Truth is that I haven't had time to get used to the office and i had to solve an unpleasant situation in the police's top-management immediately. I have never taken it as a disadvantage or even thought about it this way.
As the minister of the interior I have the responsibility for running the police, as a citizen and as a politician I have an interest on stabilisation and the independence of the police and better conditions for their work. I am used to working hard so i started my first day in the Ministry with it.”

How detailed an overview have you had on other issues of the Ministry of the Interior before you got into office? And what surprised you the most from this point of view in the early days?

“I have already had certain overviews about the situation in the Ministry of the Interior. But is also true, that i could not know everything in detail Conditions of some things, e.g. The situation in semi-budgetary organization Service Provider for Ministry of the Interior or Czech Post forced me to send the controllers into both of these organizations.“

If you had to choose three problems which you would like to solve as soon as possible and three others which you know, you can not manage to solve in the course of the mandate, which would that be?

„Most needed is to stabilise Czech post and police force, which were decimated due to previous governments. I also considered collaboration between Ministry of the Interior and Police divisions with the Ministry of the Finance and Financial analytical unitas an urgency and to get back the ability of our state to fight against tax evasions consistently. There are also problems beside these, whose solving is going to take a long time and one mandate is not sufficiently long for them. E.g. the drug-related crime. I made a decision to pursue the destruction of the drug underworld and to win the fight against drugs.”

What do you imagine when you hear the term “modern security service”?

“First of all, it is an operational Police and Fire brigade readiness for action. A modern security service is service which needn't be distracted by any artificially created political scandals. It's personally stable and has adequate resources for it's own work. The basis is to have professionals in both services and we do have them. We as politicians have to ensure this.”

What would be a success to you as the head of the department?

“There are many issues and actual topics which are important to deal with, e.g. stabilisation of security forces inclusive of salary increase, heading of Czech post or to achieve really effective functioning of public administration. However I would like tocooperate with minister of justice and simplify criminal procedure and allow policemen to spend more time in the field. I would be very glad, if we can start the ability of the state to deal with tax evasions.”

You have the experience from both the public administration and self-governance. How appropriate is this combination in your actual position?

“Long functioning in local government is of course a good background for politics. Personally, I think is suitable for politicians that before they come to “big” politics they should get used to the conditions in this area. In local government the relationship between politician and voter is a little different and you are able to see problems of people in different context.”

The agenda of your department is truly very wide. Which area have you studied at first? And what interested you the most?

“Firstly I had to study the issue of heading the policy due to circumstances. After solving this situation I started to study other issues of the department more deeply. I have already said, I was surprised by the Czech post issues. But hopefully this is slowly going to be better.”

Your grandfather was a politician too. Do you use his experiences?  And would you approve your children to pursue you in politics?

“I hold my grandfather in high esteem, his experiences and advice which I obtained in my youth, I use a lot. It is not just that he was a politician. I loved to listen his stories from Second World war in my childhood. He actively participated as a resistance fighter. Harsh interrogations, prison, concentration camp formed his attitudes. And thank him, I respect what our ancestors had done for our freedom. Now it is our turn to keep and protect the freedom for our children and grandchildren. However, what my children decide about their future, I will obviously support.”

Which advantages and disadvantages have your experiences from self-government for leading such a large office? And won't you miss local government?

“Practically all my working in local and regional politics I consider a very good grounding for national policy. I can not see any side effects which could bring any disadvantages. Truly I have to say, as a citizen of Pilsen, I feel nostalgic sometimes for local government. Anyway I am not sure there is time to have those thoughts with this workload. “

By: Jaroslav Kramer
Source: Leaders Magazine 
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