Digitalization, aviation, astronautics. Not only these terms are often connected with men rather than women. M.P. Barbora Kořanová, however, breaks these norms. Even though it may not seem so at first sight of this young, smiling woman.
You are a law school graduate. How is the law looking in Czechia?
I am mainly troubled by its enforceability. We are, without a doubt, a country that follows the Rule of law and I appreciate the work of our authorities. However, court and criminal proceedings do take a long time, and claiming one’s rights is often difficult. I don’t even know if any kind of government could change this situation because it mostly depends on specific authorities which often do not answer to politicians. That is not an issue from a legal standpoint, but they could work more effectively in my opinion.
Were there any improvements in this regard during the last electoral term?
Plenty. Personally, I am proud of the laws regarding digitalization that I have managed to push through, and I am convinced that our movement has done more for this cause than anyone who came before. I am also proud of the government and its ability to improve standards of living for the elderly. This is a sensitive topic for me, as I appreciate our seniors greatly due to what they’ve been through and how hard they’ve worked, and I am happy that they can live out the rest of their lives in dignity. I am pleased that the government has prepared a bill on construction, another thing that seems to not have been a pivotal subject for previous administrations. My colleague, Patrik Nacher, put together several measures regarding distraint legislature that help solve the issue of underage debtors, among others. To sum up, I believe that our parliamentary party group as well as the government can leave the Chamber with heads held high, we did the best we could.
You are also an entrepreneur. Does the government try to help entrepreneurs or does it put hurdles in their way as many tend to say?
This is an issue that every entrepreneur perceives in a rather subjective way. I was in a very specific field, and what I mostly wanted was for the government to not get in my way which was basically the case. Paperwork is another inherent issue, but the aforementioned digitalization is the solution. The authorities have to support entrepreneurs because they form the bedrock of a healthy economy. I feel the government proved that it does during the covid pandemic. Specifically by putting together effective support plans, be it compensation of self-employed individuals and representatives of limited companies, favourable loans for medium to large enterprises, subsidies to cover rent or salaries, and others. I think it really tried and thanks to that, among other things, many entrepreneurs were able to get through this crisis. The help they received was adequate given the situation and the possibilities. On the other hand, there is no way to provide full compensation. We are not just a country of entrepreneurs, but many other vocations too.
In the Chamber, you are the vice-chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation and the Space Programme. What is this committee mainly engaged in?
For instance, we were in charge of transcribing the European regulations regarding unmanned aviation and flight. A very interesting topic for me, as Pilsen is a city of drones. Last year we were also in charge of helping airlines that were affected by the pandemic. We made several visits to certain strategic enterprises that work in the air traffic business. Visiting people who were a big part of aviation history in Czechia was a pleasant experience. The space program was unfortunately marginalized, as the pandemic crippled subcommittee proceedings. There exists an array of interesting topics in this field that we will hopefully have a chance to go through in the future. For one, the expansion of the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (newly the EU Agency for the Space Programme). The EU space programme is a truly intriguing subject. The plan is to devote up to 15 billion EUR to its activities, and nearly two-thirds of that budget will go to projects headquartered in Prague.
Did you have a childhood dream of becoming an astronaut?
I did not dream of becoming an astronaut, or a Member of the Parliament… (laughs) In my very early childhood, I wanted to become a cleaning lady in a church because it’s so peaceful and always smells so nice.
Among other functions, you are a member of the Subcommittee for eGovernment. This area is still perceived as underdeveloped in Czechia…
The state of the actual work being done is not what I would like it to be, but that is not an issue of the Government or the Parliament, it hinges on some officials who still practice a very “Austro-Hungarian” approach in the form of a paper, pen, and stamp. We live in different times now, and this is most obvious in the private sector where a wide spectrum of things has been digitalized. Nowadays, you essentially no longer need to go to a branch for your banking needs, everything can be approved via a text message or an app from your home, workplace, or even during your commute. I believe the Government and the Chamber have done their utmost to jointly prepare an important piece of legislature. The Government has provided a policy and is trying to implement it with the help of experts. On the other hand, this is not an issue that can be solved in a matter of one electoral term. Public officials are protected by the Act on civil service, which has partly allowed them to become a state within a state. Therefore, they cannot be forced to do anything, which is good in principle, but they need to be motivated and educated. In the end, it is also their money and time saved.
What do you feel was achieved in this area, then?
For example, the Law on citizen’s rights to digital service, which explicitly imposes the duty on state administrative offices to allow citizens to conduct a part of their business electronically. It is a person’s right, not a duty as it is sometimes made out to be. I would also like to mention banking identity, which allows for the handling of an array of official business from home through internet banking – used by up to 5 million Czech people. I am very proud of both of these changes as they received the Law of the Year award. I mustn’t forget the digital technical map which helps with the digitalization of construction processes.
Seeing as you mentioned the Deloitte Law of the Year award, you are a two-time winner. Is winning this competition difficult? Would you like to achieve a hattrick, to put it in sports terms? What is the subject that could get you the win next time around?
As far as winning the competition goes, you would have to ask the organizers and judges, but it is definitely a prestigious award. Winning is exciting, but what is more important is when someone writes to tell you that they are using the banking identity and that they are grateful for the possibility. Those are the kinds of accolades I cherish the most. In the upcoming term, I would like to pave the way legislatively for electronic ID documents. I suppose that could be the third award-winning theme, but I don’t think of it that way. I plan to work on this measure either way. Its success in the competition would be welcome, but it’s not the driving force behind it.
You must have had certain ideas when entering high politics four years ago. Have you had to adjust them significantly?
My agenda aside, those ideas did come to fruition to a degree thanks to a great deal being achieved regarding the aforementioned digitalization, for one. I was unpleasantly surprised by the enormous influence that ministerial officials hold. They can sometimes greatly hinder the legislative work of M.P.’s. That may be one of the reasons why I haven’t achieved everything I set out to, it can be hard for me to reach a consensus from time to time. I follow the quote, “Compromise makes a good umbrella, but a poor roof.” I may sound a bit like Margaret Thatcher right about now, but I am not that uncompromising. I will admit, however, that it is difficult for me to adjust the drafts I work on to the opinions of officials with no legitimacy. The Chamber is different, of course. You work with your peers who were also elected by the public. My expectations regarding the feeling in the Chamber were somewhat more optimistic than the reality. I feel as though the political environment has changed, it’s become rougher and there’s a lot more aggression and enmity. At the beginning of the term, there was a fairly constructive general disposition in the Chamber, but now it feels like the opposition is treating it as a platform for its election campaign.
You will be running in the upcoming elections. Should you succeed, what are the essential topics you would like to work on?
In the event that the citizens of the Pilsen region give me their renewed support, I would like to continue my current work in the area of digitalization. I also have drafts of legislation regarding agency employment and employment of foreign workers. That is an issue that has been troubling the region and I am sorry that none of my predecessors have taken it up. I want to refine the employment agency market. Foreign workers should have clear-cut conditions for their stay, they should be recorded accurately so that each municipality knows who is in their territory and why. The measure I am working on will also touch on dormitories, where these workers live. The conditions there are dismal.
You have a twelve-year-old daughter. How difficult is it to work in high politics and raise a child at the same time?
Luckily I have my family helping me, but it isn’t easy. I don’t see my daughter as often as either one of us would like. It’s the price I have to pay for working in high politics, but I believe she understands. She often gets along just fine without us, in these times of modern technology. Of course, I try to spend as much time as I can with her. We always go to Lipno in the summer, where we spend two weeks together. I am pretty sure that by the end of that time she is counting down the days until I go back to work... (laughs)
Barbora Kořanová (born September 27, 1984, in Pilsen), is an M.P. for ANO 2011 and former councilwoman of the city of Pilsen.
In 2011, she graduated law at the Faculty of Law of the University of West Bohemia. During the years 2009 to 2016, she worked in a family business. In 2014 she started her own company.
From January 2016 to October 2018, she was a councilwoman of the city of Pilsen. She is also the vice-chair of the regional organisation Plzeň-město (Pilsen-City district). She ran as fourth on the ticket in the 2017 Parliamentary elections and became a Member of Parliament.
In the Chamber, she is a member of the Electoral Committee and the Committee on Public Administration and Regional Development, the vice-chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation and the Space Programme and a member of the Subcommittee on eGovernment.
She is a single mother of one daughter.
A fight for marriage
Barbora is also known for her fight for the legalization of same-sex marriage. “I follow the principle that equal responsibilities should give you equal rights,” she points out. Doesn’t she sometimes feel that many of the people opposing this notion are bothered by the fact that this union should also be called a marriage? “Right. It feels absurd for someone to hang on one word. I understand why someone would be opposed to it because of their Catholic or conservative beliefs, but using a word, that by the way seems to be losing its value in recent years, as your only argument? That feels disingenuous.”
At the initiation of construction of the new Supreme Audit Office headquarters.