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An interview with Jiří Pospíšil, Member of the European Parliament

Considering the Size of the European Parliament, Legislative Procedures Function Very Effectively Here”

One of the most popular politicians, Jiří Pospíšil, moved from
the domestic scene to the European last autumn. The former Minister of Justice, Vice Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies and local representative in Plzeň celebrates his 40th birthday this year. What are his goals in the European Parliament and why is he active in the Meda Mladek Foundation? 

Dear Dr. Pospíšil, how is your “life” in Brussels? How often are you actually there?

I strive to be in Brussels and Strasbourg for all meetings of the European Parliament, which means half of every week. My life here is still purely about work; I spend all day at the meetings or in my office, then I go to the hotel and fall asleep immediately. Unfortunately, I even did not have a chance to visit the main Brussels galleries and museums, which is my great hobby. I spend the other half of the week in the Czech Republic, either in The Kampa Museum or lecturing somewhere, trying to give people insight into the workings of the European Parliament and European Union, and at the same time I am interested in their opinions on the Czech and European policies. I do not want to be a politician who loses touch with his country and voters because of his career in Brussels.

What are your personal priorities for your work in the European Parliament? And do they fully match those of your party?

It would not be fair to claim that as a newcomer and MEP from a smaller member country I may influence the European Parliament in a substantial way. Therefore, I see my top priority of a Czech MEP in the active representation of Czech citizens. That is why I strive to consider all proposals on directives and regulations coming to the Parliament mainly with regards to the interests of the Czech Republic and Czech citizens. In addition, I try to pay attention to the issues of human rights; I find it important that Europe also supports the protection of human rights in other parts of the world. In my opinion, it is really essential to support partnerships with the countries of the former Soviet bloc, which want to cooperate with the EU and conduct a foreign policy independent from Russia. The EU must support such countries because Russia obviously tries hard to enhance its influence even outside its territory.

What is the biggest difference between the work in the European Parliament and our home “chamber land”?

The main difference is the fact that in the Chamber of Deputies each deputy may speak out on a certain topic basically at any time, but in the European Parliament it is very difficult to get a chance to speak out at the plenary session. It is no wonder, with as many as 750 MEPs, it is really complicated to let everybody speak out. Therefore, active work in committees and at the meetings of factions is important.

Did you manage to get oriented in European law before coming to Brussels? And what was the biggest surprise for you in this aspect?

Yes, I think I may say that thanks to my work at the position of the Minister of Justice at the time of the Czech presidency, I was quite well informed about European law. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that considering the huge size of the European Parliament, legislative procedures function very effectively here.

How much does it represent a commitment for you that you are one of the most successful politicians as far as elections are concerned?

It is an enormous commitment for me. As I have publicly said many times before, at the moment when voters stop supporting me, I will withdraw from politics and I will fully focus on The Kampa Museum – The Jan and Meda Mladek Foundation. Unlike some Czech politicians I am lucky not to be fully dependent on politics, which means I can leave any time. I think it is quite a tragedy when a politician becomes a slave of his salary and he is not able to make a living outside of the parliamentary seats. I have met such people during my career, and I must say that their opinions were often influenced by their effort to appeal to their party and not lose their position.

Do you follow the developments surrounding a new Civil Code and its possible amendment?

Of course I do, like everything else connected to the affairs of The Ministry of Justice. I am unhappy about the developments surrounding the Civil Code. I am convinced that in spite of some partial flaws, which the code has, its objective was successful until now. No legal collapse, anticipated by its opponents, has come. It will be possible to evaluate the benefits of this code only after some time, but I really think that in a few years, Czechs will be happy that it was possible to push the code through. I consider the current efforts of the Ministerial management to amend the Civil Code at any cost a political game, furthermore encouraged by personal motives, rather than a serious outcome of professional discussion on how the new Civil Code should be changed.

The media largely discusses the meeting position of the Czech Republic in Europe. What does your experience tell you?

In my opinion, unfortunately, the position of the CR in Brussels is not very good. We do not always act as a reliable partner in Brussels, which respects its obligations. Since the moment when during our EU presidency in 2009, the opposition under the leadership of Jiří Paroubek threw down the government of Mirek Topolánek, our reputation in the Union has not been very good. And as usual, regaining lost trust is much harder than losing it.

Our disunited foreign policy is criticized as well, right?

Yes, that is right. Our recent foreign policy is perceived controversially, mainly because of the statements of some of our representatives regarding the events in the east of Ukraine. Trivializing this crisis from the side of our president definitely did not contribute to a good reputation of the CR in Europe.

How much interest from Czech media do you experience about developments in the European Parliament?

Unfortunately, the European agenda is not very interesting for Czech media. Maybe because developments in the European Parliament are not so full of conflicts or even scandals, as is the case with our national politics. With a bit of cynicism I dare say that Czech journalists are most often interested in the MEP´s salary, rather than current happenings in the Parliament.

Are you glad that Věra Jourová became an EU commissioner? Moreover in the area that is so close to you…

From the options that were gradually offered, the choice of Věra Jourová is the most suitable. Due to the weak position of the Czech Republic during negotiations, unfortunately we did not get the portfolio which our government wanted, and thus Věra Jourová dealt with issues which she has not dealt with in the past at all. However, the area of judiciary, consumers rights, and equality of genders is very complicated, and I only wish that our EU commissioner finds her footing in her position quickly, so that she can become an active member of the Commission.

Don´t you miss the work of the executive power, concretely at the Ministry of Justice?

I would be lying if I said no. I enjoyed working as a minister very much because I was actually convinced of its meaningfulness and I saw clear results of our work. During the time of my service we successfully pushed through two important codes – Criminal Code and Civil Code – then more than 40 bills and amendments, which in my opinion led to an improved quality of legal environment in the CR. The work of deputies is interesting too, of course, but you do not see the results of your effort so clearly there.

How do you perceive the current development around the state prosecutor´s office? After all, you were a source of the principles discussed today.

I am really sorry that the current management of the Ministry, even though they officially took a draft from 2011 (prepared, when I was heading the resort, as the basis for the new law on the state prosecutor´s office) has vastly degraded the original draft. By making their amendments they have gradually relativized its creators´ efforts for strengthening the independence of the state prosecutor´s office, as well as limitations on the influence of the political power of prosecutors. I am beginning to be very afraid that under the reign of this government there are not conditions for passing a meaningful law on the state prosecutor´s office.

Over the last few years, you have intensively engaged in The Meda Mladek Foundation. Have you become an art fan?

I dedicate all my free time to The Jan and Meda Mladek Foundation and Museum Kampa. It has been my great honor that Mrs. Meda Mládková entrusted me with the administration of the foundation, which means I can contribute to the development of her artistic visions. I would be glad if Museum Kampa remained a prestigious fine arts address in the future as well, visited by both Czechs and tourists alike. I am pleased that the museum is still very successful in this respect, and that last year we reached 85 thousand visitors, who we prepared 14 interesting exhibitions for. The Museum also carries out an important public service by offering free special programs for students, which, to my delight, are vastly used by basic and secondary schools. 

What activities with the Foundation are you planning?

As I already said, currently I connect with the foundation during all my free time and when I leave politics, I will do that full time. There is a whole range of planned activities, besides organizing important exhibitions. For example we are also trying to acquire tenancy at Werich´s villa, where we would like to create an interesting place reminiscent of the life and works of this Czech genius.

You are going to celebrate your life jubilee this year in November. Do you have any personal goals to fulfill until then?

An interesting question.. :) I will be 40 this autumn, and even though I try not to look into the past too much, on such an anniversary you might not completely escape this. I have been satisfied with my life so far and I will remain satisfied in the future as well, if my health serves me well and I am happy in my private life. I am not planning more, we will see what the future brings.

By: Jaroslav Kramer

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Source: Prague Leaders Magazine     

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