MEP KATEŘINA KONEČNÁ: Czech citizens need to see concrete positive results. Only after that, they may overcome their scepticism vis-à-vis the European Union.
After graduating from Masaryk University she became the youngest member of the Czech Chamber of Deputies in 2002. As a Member of the Czech Communist party, her long-lasting interest in politics brought her first through her membership in Foreign Affairs Committee and later in the Environment Committee of the Chamber of Deputies. Coming from Moravian-Silesian Region, which has long suffered from poor air quality, she saw an urgent need to deal with environment regulation. She is a Member of the Trade Union Association of Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia and works very intensively with young people through children’s holiday camps. Kateřina Konečná was elected in May European’s elections to represent Czech Communist party in the European Parliament.
MEP MARTINA DLABAJOVÁ: We need to understand that we cannot change anything through pure criticism and negative attitudes towards the EU. Since we are a part of the EU, we need to take an active approach.
After the EU studies at Padova University where she obtained title Dott., she dedicated her professional life to business and international consulting. Since 2012 she has been the Chairwomen of the Zlin regional Chamber of Commerce. She is active as president of Zlin Rotary Club and Director of Zlinsky zamek project. Martina Dlabajová was elected in May European Parliament’s election to represent ANO party in the European Parliament.
- What will be your key priorities in the European Parliament?
Kateřina Konečná: Key political priorities of our manifesto are unemployment, quality of food, equal treatment of all member states without distinction whether they are small or big, new or old. We would also like to raise the issue of a ban on tax havens. Companies should tax their incomes in the country where they produce revenue. The ban on tax havens can bring additional tax revenues for social programs in all member states. The curb of unproductive expenses can be started from abolishing constant movements of the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg and back, this could save more than 200 million EUR a year.
Martina Dlabajová: I am prepared to fulfil our political programme based on professional experience and knowledge, skills and contacts. One of our goals is to set up fair business environment and reduce administrative burden. We place a great emphasis on the improvement of educational opportunities, especially within vocational education and training, and interconnection of education with practice. Another goal is to ensure better communication between the government and business sector. I will strive for greater awareness of European funds that will enhance our country’s economical development, especially in the fields of industry, education, sports and culture. Our citizens need to understand why the EU membership is so important, how the EU affects our lives and how we, as citizens, can influence the functioning of the EU. Thereafter our country can become a confident member of the European Union.
- Which Parliament’s committees will you seek to join?
Kateřina Konečná: I would like to be a member of the Committee for Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, because of my experience from the Czech Parliament where I have been active for many years in the Committee for Environment. The reason behind is that I come from Moravian-Silesian region which is affected by polluted air. Nearly 70 percent of the Czech legislation in the area of environment protection comes from the European legislation. My mission is therefore to contribute to better legislation that will protect our environment.
Martina Dlabajová: I will seek to join committees that correspond to our programme. First, we will take particular steps towards integration in selected European groups in order to take strong position in the EP. Second, we will look closely across individual European topics at the issues of subsidies and their efficient utilization, transportation and infrastructure innovation, but also agriculture and digital agenda. Personally, I will intensively address the issue of the elimination of unnecessary administrative burdens for businesses and more effective learning opportunities to enhance the competitiveness of our citizens within the EU.
- In your opinion, are there any areas that need to be liberalized in the EU? If yes, please mention which areas you suggest to liberalize.
Kateřina Konečná: I think we have had enough of liberalization. The result of liberalization tendency was the crisis of the financial sector followed by the economic recession. What we need now is more social Europe and to concentrate on creating jobs and enhancing economic growth.
Martina Dlabajová: I will support the completion of free market in areas where liberalization has not yet been systematically completed or where it is necessary to ensure full implementation of the rules and remove administrative obstacles. This is an issue especially for service area or energy sector. We will also strive for liberalization in rapidly evolving field of new technologies, such as telecommunications, e-commerce and the whole range of digital agenda.
How could the EU legislation protect Czech companies against unfair competition from third countries?
Kateřina Konečná: The European Union should conclude trade agreements with third countries and trade blocks that will protect all European companies and guarantee them equal treatment.
Martina Dlabajová: We shall proceed in accordance with the rules of the World Trade Organization. It is important to focus on the issue of dumping or export subsidies. More attention should be paid to the differences in the regulatory environment in the EU and those third countries that produce goods at much lower standards than the EU, which disadvantages our industry. The solution is to create a supervisory authority, or at least a mechanism based on a directive that would support the work of already functioning Directorate-General for Competition of the European Commission. On the basis of a thorough monitoring the EU could adopt appropriate measures.
- What can we expect from the TTIPs negotiations? What will be the opportunities or disadvantages of this agreement for the Czech Republic?
Kateřina Konečná: The opportunity to have a free trade with the U.S. can be positive for employment and economic growth in the European Union but such a progress should not be achieved at the expense of weaker social standards for employees in the European Union and reduced health standards for foodstuff being usually lower in the U.S. I absolutely disagree with any expansion of disputes arbitrations as proposed in the TTIP. In the Czech Republic, we have very bad experience with arbitrations; they are beneficial only for lawyers and strong multinational companies.
Martina Dlabajová: The TTIPs can bring benefits to both parties and strengthen both economies in the transatlantic area. It is assumed that due to these negotiations, the EU GDP shall increase by 0.5% by the year 2027. Speaking in short terms, the common regulatory framework based on shared values should help to reinforce democracy, freedom, respect for the environment, healthcare, etc. Our Ministry of Industry and Trade has also recognized potential benefits of this agreement stating that it is a unique opportunity to enhance export oriented economy and deepen political and interpersonal relations across the Atlantic. Though, during the negotiations the Czech Republic needs to call for high customs reduction or cutting red tape related to the differences in certification, technical standards and homologations. The negotiations are in the competence of the European Commission, but as MEPs we want to lead active negotiations with key EU institutions, striving to improve conditions for our businesses.
- What is your opinion on the new EU goals in area of climate and energy?
Kateřina Konečná: I think that the new EU goals in climate and energy policy are very ambitious. Without any coordination with big polluters such as India, China and the U.S. these goals will rather chase EU industry from Europe than having a real positive impact on global climate. The renewables are definitely the future of energy production. However too ambitious targets can lead in an increase in electricity prices for citizens and companies and endanger jobs and economic growth in the European Union. We have to be very careful in setting up these targets. On the other hand, we need to invest more financial resources into research and development of renewables so that they become more competitive.
Martina Dlabajová: EU energy policy must be balanced with respect to specificities and needs of different countries. An important issue is the safe nuclear energy and coal mining. We will oppose to disadvantaging nuclear energy and to the use of strategic reserves of coal in our country. We would like to promote environmental technologies used for the carbon dioxide capture and storage. As we declared in our programme, we will do our best to help to solve the problem of sudden electricity overflows from German renewable sources, which threatens the security of the Czech distribution system.
- What role should the Czech Republic play in the EU within the next five-year institutional mandate? Which portfolio in the Commission should we aspire?
Kateřina Konečná: The Czech Republic should play more active role. Last years of centre-right wing governments were in sign of an unproductive euroscepticism. We definitely need better public administration to review Czech interests and better politicians to identify opportunities for giving the civil servants the right direction. Unfortunately, the disputes in just new coalition government don’t give us much hope regarding the improvement. As for the second question, I am glad that you are asking about portfolio not about the person as such as the most journalists do. We have to decide first which portfolio is the best to strive and then choose proper person for it. I think that the Czech Republic should aspire for environment portfolio, because environment legislation in the Czech Republic is substantially influenced by the European legislation and it would help to give the EU more positive image in the eyes of the Czech citizens who wish to see concrete positive results. Only after that, the Czechs may overcome their scepticism vis-à-vis the European Union.
Martina Dlabajová: We need to understand that we cannot change anything through pure criticism and negative attitudes towards the EU. Since we are a part of the EU, we need to take an active approach. Through our effort and interest we may positively influence conditions not only in our country but also in Europe. Through our involvement, pro-active attitude and constructive suggestions, the Czech Republic can become a respected EU member. It is crucial to find a suitable candidate for the position of Commissioner. He/she has to have an extremely strong personality with a professional and moral credit; shall be able to cover the whole range of various topics and also needs to be extraordinary skilful in discussion and negotiation. I don’t think it is realistic to target a specific portfolio. This would be possible only if the leadership of the European Commission unambiguously ensured the selected resort for our country. In general we should consider a strong portfolio in terms of importance and competence or at least portfolio of medium importance. Based on discussions with colleagues it would be optimal portfolio of internal market, transportation, energy, industry or agriculture.
Thank you for the interview!
Alena Mastantuono, Director of CEBRE – Czech Business Representation to the EU