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Czech Human Rights Minister and Czech President discuss changing the Constitution and other laws

24.2.2017 8:16
Czech President Miloš Zeman (left) and Czech Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka (right), 2017. (COLLAGE:
Czech President Miloš Zeman (left) and Czech Human Rights Minister Jan Chvojka (right), 2017. (COLLAGE:

Czech Minister for Human Rights and Legislation Jan Chvojka (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) met on 18 February with Czech President Miloš Zeman and his advisers to discuss the position of the Government's Legislative Council, which Chvojka has chaired since December. The two men also held a lengthy debate about the law on social enterprises.

Chvojka told journalists after the meeting at the presidential residence in Lány that he "essentially agreed about everything" with the head of state. "We covered many topics," he said.

"We probably spent the longest time on the law on social enterprises. Then we touched upon the position of the Government's Legislative Council, and we also reviewed the Constitution and possible changes to it," Chvojka reported.

"After that we spent rather a long time on the law about lobbying, and the last matter was whistleblower protections," the Human Rights Minister said. "Mr President is a big fan of the idea that a special type of business could be created here to employ people living with disabilities or social disadvantage and that such businesses might get certain benefits from the state, such as tax relief," Chvojka said of the law on social enterprises, which the Government is supposed to discuss in the spring.

Another very important component of the meeting, reportedly, was the position of the Government Legislative Council. "The President is of the opinion that the Government Legislative Council is a very important body that should focus on the tidiness of the legislation itself," Chvojka said.

He and Zeman also discussed eventual changes to the Constitution and the round table the minister will be convening with experts on constitutional law. Reportedly Zeman, like Chvojka, believes changes to the Constitution should be undertaken comprehensively after deep discussion among experts.

The planned law on social housing was also discussed. Zeman reportedly supports legislation that would provide housing to single mothers, to those who are transitioning out of children's homes, and to victims of domestic violence, as does Chvojka.

"President Zeman would like a broader circle of people to be affected by this law than the ANO movement would, for example," the Human Rights Minister said. The two men also discussed regulating lobbying and the history of the negotations of the law connected to that issue.

"The President is of the opinion that there is just a very short time in which to get the law adopted, and he's right," Chvojka said. Morevoer, the President apparently believes efforts to get lobbying under control will once again be shipwrecked.

The so-called "Lex Babiš", which would restrict Government members from doing business and which the President filed a complaint against with the Constitutional Court, was also briefly touched upon.  "I believe it won't be successful," Chvojka, who co-authored the law, told the press.

The Human Rights Minister reportedly also touched on the fact that the Hate Free Culture campaign is ending with the President, although "just very generally" . "Certainly I would not like to abandon that agenda, some amount of money from the state budget should always be allocated to it, but the question is whether the Hate Free project was the right one," the minister said, adding that previous Governments have expended money on campaigns against hatred and racism, including Zeman's cabinet when he was Czech Prime Minister.

Chvojka said he was satisified about his meeting with the President and after debating the issues with the participation of the presidential advisers the two men spent another half an hour in private. "Mr President expressed the opinion that the personnel change to the post of the Human Rights Minister was a good one and said he would be very glad to see me again," said Chvojka, who had already made a point of mentioning to the press upon ariving at the residence that his predecessor, Jiří Dienstbier (ČSSD) had never been invited to the Lány chateau.

The President holds meetings between his own advisers and various ministers roughly once a month. The last one was in mid-January on the topic of foreign policy with the head of Czech diplomacy, Lubomír Zaorálek (ČSSD).

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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