Prague - Jiri Dienstbier, Czech minister for human rights, equal opportunities and legislation (Social Democrats, CSSD) today refused to further work on the closely watched civil service bill now that the cabinet has struck a compromise on it with the right-wing opposition.
He told CTK that the compromise will prevent civil service from being depoliticised adequately.
Prime Minister and CSSD chairman Bohuslav Sobotka reacted saying that it is logical that Dienstbier will not work on the law any longer.
Dienstbier said he would not bear responsibility for the compromise, which "spoilt" the governing coalition´s original bill, drafted by his office.
Dienstbier also said he will ask the government to relieve him from his duty to negotiate about the bill with the European Union. He cannot guarantee that the law, if passed in the compromise wording, would meet the EU conditions Prague needs to meet to be able to draw money from EU funds.
On Wednesday, representatives of the governing CSSD, ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) decided to meet the opposition´s request and delete the planned establishment of the Civil Service General Directorate from the bill. The directorate´s supposed powers will mainly go to the Interior Ministry and a part of them to the Finance Ministry.
The general directorate was to coordinate steps in civil service. Once abolished, it will lose its key power to assist in choosing the state secretaries at individual ministers and guarantee that they are personalities striving to depoliticise the staff, Dienstbier said.
On the contrary, personnel policy will get fully politicised now, Dienstbier pointed out, referring to the compromise agreement under which state secretaries will be appointed by the government on the proposal of the respective ministers.
In reaction to to Dienstbier´s decision not to further work on the bill, Sobotka said he and Dienstbier had agreed on it on Wednesday.
"The responsibility for the preparation of the bill based on the government-opposition deal has been transferred from the Government Office [where Dienstbier is seated] to the Interior Ministry. As a result, it is logical that its supervision will no longer be up to Jiri Dienstbier but up to Interior Minister [Milan] Chovanec (CSSD)," Sobotka told CTK.
ANO chairman and Finance Minister Andrej Babis said Dienstbier "is probably unable to cope with his defeat, which, however, is marginal from the point of view of the civil service law that the country urgently needs."
"I believe the prime minister shares my view...All of us have made concessions in favour of the Czech Republic," Babis said.
According to Dienstbier, the compromise wording meets the demand for depoliticising far less than the government´s original bill.
"This damages the Czech Republic, which will not have a good civil service law," Dienstbier said.
Unlike him, Sobotka today hailed the compromise as a victory for the Czech Republic and common sense.
Earlier this week, however, Sobotka spoke about the Civil Service General Directorate as an indispensable part of the bill in question, whose passage the opposition threatened to block by obstructions in parliament unless its demands were not met.
Dienstbier said he will ask the government to relieve him of his duty to negotiate about the bill with the EU and to put Regional Development Minister Vera Jourova (ANO) in charge of the negotiations.
Jourova, the Czech candidate for EU commissioner, has repeatedly said that Prague´s negotiations with the European Commission will be no problem.
Sobotka said he is not afraid of the EU´s reaction.
"We will successfully defend the law in Brussels. The EC, too, will welcome the law´s passage in time and by the votes of a majority of political parties. This gives a chance to the civil service law not to be changed after every elections," Sobotka said.
Dienstbier, on his part, said "it has turned out that the political culture [in Czech parliament] further declined."
"Blackmail has become a standard practice. The blackmailers, i.e. [opposition TOP 09 deputy chairman Miroslav] Kalousek and the Civic Democrats (ODS), have succeeded, unlike the remaining two opposition parties, which did not blackmail," Dienstbier said.
The other two opposition parties are the Communists (KSCM) and the Dawn of Direct Democracy. Both are opposed to the compromise bill, while TOP 09 and the ODS said they are ready to back it.
Kalousek reportedly previously indicated that TOP 09 would block not only the civil service bill but also the government´s tax legislation, unless the governing parties nod to the above compromise.
Dienstbier admitted that the compromise is better than the present situation where no civil service bill exists in the country.