From left to right: Radek John (Public Affairs), PM Petr Nečas (ODS) and Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek (TOP 09)
The leaders of the three ruling coalition parties failed to agree to a new coalition agreement after four hours of talks on Sunday. Public Affairs (VV), the smallest of the three, still says it will leave the coalition if amendments to the coalition agreement are not endorsed by June 30. Center-right TOP 09 says the current coalition agreement is still valid and it will not negotiate any personnel changes.
“Unfortunately, Public Affairs does not have a clear program and substitutes this with various demands. … We consider the negotiations on the [policy] program declaration closed. It’s difficult when the smallest party continuously comes with new demands,” TOP 09 chairman Karel Schwarzenberg, the Foreign Minister, told reporters following the negotiations, adding that his party would no longer discuss personnel changes. At the same time, he said that the three parties had agreed on main policy points.
Addressing the media alongside Schwarzenberg, Prime Minister Petr Nečas (Civic Democrats, ODS) also said the sides had mostly agreed on all policy issues: “Nevertheless, we’re not entirely sure what Public Affairs is after. But that’s the better scenario. The worse scenario is that we know what they want all too well.”
Nečas said that VV had come forward with new demands including pledges on budget spending. “It’s absolute nonsense to renegotiate the budget at the K9 [meeting of the leaders of the three ruling coalition parties] and change its structure … the demand is, let’s say, more than bold.” ‘We agreed on 95 percent, but the devil is in the details, and we have found that devil.’
“We agreed on 95 percent, but the devil is in the details, and we have found that devil,” head of Public Affairs’ club of MPs Karolina Peake said on Radio Česko, on Monday morning.
Both Peake and VV’s chairman, Radek John, denied they had presented new demands. They say their policy requirements are clear: Kč4 billion extra for teachers in the 2012 budget and Kč 14 billion for the transport infrastructure fund to finance the completion of motorways and for the repair of roads.
Finance Minister and TOP 09 deputy leader Miroslav Kalousek was less diplomatic with his criticism of Public Affairs. “At 9:30 pm we said: we’re finishing, this is just continual blackmail. It was originally aimed at dealing with the issue of Public Affairs not having ample representation in the government and we let ourselves be dragged into talks about new demands,” Kalousek said.
Nevertheless, the ODS and TOP 09 did agree to implement VV’s demand that a new tax for betting firms be introduced as of January 2012, and not in 2013 as originally proposed by TOP 09 and ODS, but differences remain over a the income tax law being prepared by the Finance Ministry and its provisions for the betting and gambling industry.
VV’s John said after the meeting that his party’s ultimatum — that it will leave the coalition if amendments to the coalition agreement are not approved by June 30 — is still valid, though he added that the party’s club of MPs will have to meet before announcing exactly what steps VV will take.