“Unfortunately, it does not look as though we have yet reached the end of the crisis in Ukraine, but hopefully we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
The Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies John Hamáček will head the lower house of the chamber for one year. Is he still devoted to “his subjects” – foreign policy and security? And what are today’s entrepreneurs, who are focused on Russia and Ukraine, interested in most? In this interview for Prague Leaders Magazine, Jan Hamáček also says that politicians should act professionally, and men who pursue a life in politics should do so in the right way.
Mr. Chairman, after a summer break, the meeting of the Chamber of Deputies now continues. Which upcoming tasks do you consider the most important?
“I would like to emphasise that we proceed according to the legislative plan of the government to ensure that the key laws are approved in time. This enables us to fulfill our electoral program. The Chamber of Deputies in recent weeks has undergone a number of crucial tax laws, and also health and social laws. The fundamental law for the following days and weeks is of course the state budget. It is important that we have reached an agreement within the coalition, and thus there should not be serious problems with its approval. ”
You recently attended the meeting of The Chairmen of Parliaments of forty-seven European countries. What topics currently prevail in such a venue?
“Such events have several aspects. The first is the official theme of the conference. This year it was focused on more general issues, such as security in Europe, the sovereignty of nation states, the fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms, and on these topics there were associated public debates as a condition of functional democracy.
Another aspect consisted of individual interviews with partners – where Chairmen of the Parliaments talked about current issues. In Norway, we met with colleagues from Austria, Azerbaijan, Norway and Slovakia. It is also necessary to emphasise that all the interviews and themes of the conference were mingled with today’s largest contemporary international political problem – the Ukrainian crisis. ”
How is the Czech Republic perceived in similar international summits? After all, political commentators recently tend to downplay the role of the Czech Republic…
“The Czech Republic is a medium-sized European country, and in my opinion our voice in Europe and the EU is proportional to our size. In the previous answer, I mentioned individual interviews with partners, and this is something I consider really important. We call that parliamentary diplomacy, which I am trying to strengthen during my mandate, as this also helps to strengthen our position in international relations. The cooperation within the V4 group of countries is functioning very well, and we have excellent relations with Germany and Austria. The change in our European policy is very positively perceived across the EU. Czech Republic has returned to the mainstream of the EU, and that is good. ”
The main topic during the summer months was the current situation in Ukraine. Czech political leaders took different attitudes to that – sometimes it seemed contradictory. Do you think that Czech diplomacy handled the “Ukrainian crisis” well?
“First, it should be noted that although the situation in eastern Ukraine has been calmed, it unfortunately does not look like the end of the crisis yet, but hopefully we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
But back to your question, I have a contrary feeling that finally, after a long period of discord, the Czech Republic now speaks uniformly and thus comprehensively – unlike under the previous governments and former president. Our policy is responsible. We are honest partners of our allies, and at the same time we have the interests of our country on our minds. ”
You are certainly meeting many entrepreneurs in your profession, who focus on Russia and Ukraine. What topics are they currently most interested in? And is it appropriate for the Lower Chamber to help them in uncertain times?
“Today, of course, the most important EU economic sanctions are falling on Russia, and especially on Moscow. I’m trying to be active on this issue, because the Czech Republic is a pro-export country and now, due the Ukrainian crisis, we are seeing limitations on exports to Russia. Thus we have to help entrepreneurs find new markets. In the Chamber of Deputies, which I consider a good venue for supporting export, I have initiated several steps – e.g. a seminar on the financing of Czech export, which took place in the middle of September, and featured both the representatives of exporters and government institutions. The result of that workshop was a number of specific recommendations, especially to the government, ČEB (Czech Export Bank) and EGAP (Export Guarantee and Insurance Corporation). In August we had a debate about the impact of sanctions on the Czech economy and I discussed the current situation with exporters. Of course we cooperate on these projects with partners – the Chamber of Commerce, the International Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of Industry and others. ”
The President of the Senate will be replaced after the autumn elections. How close is your collaboration? And is it important for the chairmen of both chambers to find a common dialogue?
“I communicate very intensely with Milan Štěch and I feel that cooperation between the two chambers is working perfectly. This is crucial, especially for the legislative process to run smoothly. I’m glad I was able to set up regular meetings of the Presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies with the President of the Czech Republic, where we inform each other about affairs that affect our institutions. I hope it will be the same in the future. ”
You have been focused on foreign policy and security for a long time. Can you also solve this agenda from your current position? Do you prefer it?
“When I assumed the office as the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, I had promised myself that I will try to strengthen its foreign policy. I’ve already talked about the fact that I consider parliamentary diplomacy as one of the important tools of active foreign policy. I regularly meet with my partners, with heads of foreign parliaments. I deal with heads of states and Ministers of Foreign Affairs during their visits to the Czech Republic. I regularly receive members of the Prague Diplomatic Corps and Czech ambassadors abroad. Regarding security policy, I am in regular contact with people from the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces of the Czech Republic, and I participate in international security conferences and other forums on this topic. I believe that the position of head of the Chamber of Deputies can be well and effectively linked with a focus on foreign policy and security. ”
In terms of defence and security, do you want to move from the legislative to the executive branch in the future?
“It’s not on the agenda. As I stated earlier, I try to focus on these issues even in my current position. I highly appreciate the great trust that I receive from my colleagues, and in the position of the Chairman of the Chamber of Deputies, and I do not want to disappoint them. ”
These days social networks an inherent part of communication with voters. Do you have a profile? And what is your opinion on this model?
“Yes, I have a profile and I use it quite actively, in addition to Facebook I am also on Twitter. Since I belong to a younger generation of politicians, I consider social networks as a natural tool of everyday communication. Moreover, I think that this provides a very valuable direct response to the public, as it is a more authentic voice than that provided by the traditional media. ”
Are you a professional politician? And how do you imagine a professional politician?
“I like working in politics, although I would be able to make a living in a different field. However, I believe that politicians should act professionally, and men who pursue a life in politics should do their best at it. Therefore my motto is “decency and professionalism”. Those should be the values of any serious politician. ”
Mr. Chairman, who do you consider a typical leader?
“Different times require a different type of personality. There is no single definition, in my opinion results are important. ”
Author: Jaroslav Kramer