Interviews

Jarosav Faltýnek: I was never interested in power or influence

Published: 7. 7. 2022
Author: Šárka Jansová
Photo: Photo author and archives of Jaroslav Faltýnek
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Freshly sixty, Jaroslav Faltýnek welcomed me in good spirits at his office in the ANO parliamentary club. Similar to the paintings adorning the walls, he came across fresh, “colorful”, and radiated positive energy. Stepping down from high politics seems to have done wonders for him, and he himself said as much.

Do you feel that turning sixty was a big milestone in your life?

No. The big milestone for me was the last parliamentary election when I decided to step down from high politics. It was a difficult eight-year period, or rather a ten-year one because I have been with Andrej Babiš since the beginning, having founded ANO 2011 alongside him. Throughout those years, I have been called so many things – a godfather, mobster, that I am actually the one running ANO and god knows what else, which is what made me decide to leave. Defending yourself against such accusations is pointless, but somebody had to manage all those MPs, and I have always tried to find common ground with everyone to make sure that the bills we proposed would pass. However, with the help of the media and the opposition, there were all kinds of pseudo-stories and smear campaigns and the whole thing turned against me. That is all. I tried to do my best, and I am happy that Alena Schillerová took over when I left. I am rooting for her, I think she is doing a good job.

You never regretted losing the power and influence?

People often ask me that question. What power and influence are you talking about? I was never interested in either, I just did my job, which was politics. I truly never regretted the decision, quite the opposite. I got my health back in order, I have more time to spend with my family and to work in my favorite field – agriculture – as deputy chairman of the Committee on Agriculture. What is more, there are now up-and-coming politicians such as Karel Havlíček, Jana Mračková Vildumetzová, Patrik Nacher, Radek Vondráček, and others who have good prospects and want to keep working in politics.

You used to have a lot of health issues. Are you better now?

Thank you for asking. I feel good, and I hope that the health issues I used to have are now gone. I underwent cardiac ablation surgery. My heart used to beat very fast but the doctors solved that. Knock on wood, my heart is working well now. I go to regular checkups at IKEM. Even the stomach ulcer that burst on me five years ago is fine now, I believe.

Did you do a proper celebration for your sixtieth birthday?

The idea initially was to just do a small event with a couple of friends, but seeing as I painted a lot during Covid, I decided to turn the party into a viewing of my paintings. It took place in the Topič Salon at Národní Třída. It ended up being a wonderful event where I displayed sixty of my new paintings. About 350 people showed up – family, colleagues from the Chamber, friends, business acquaintances. A cymbalo band from Moravia played there which was great. Throughout the event, I drank about three glasses of red wine and did not even have a chance to try the food as I was doing the rounds, trying to get at least a few words in with each of the guests.

So you made sixty paintings for your sixtieth birthday. The older ones were very vibrant, while the new ones seem to have some darker color tones. Is the Covid darkness to blame?

I have been painting ever since I was a child, I enjoy it and it calms me down, as it did during Covid as well. You are right, the paintings are a little darker, I started using black more. I just felt like it. I do not consider myself a professional artist, I just paint because it brings joy to me and to others. I usually give my paintings away as presents. A landscape, even if just an abstract one that I can see in my own mind, is a present fit for anyone.

How was the trip to Spain that you got for your birthday?

Incredible, my wife fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams. She organized a quick trip to the wine regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero where we visited several vineyards. It was a beautiful trip that we will look back fondly on for a long time to come.

Let us turn back to work now. ANO 2011 was in the government for two election terms but it is now in the opposition. How do you see the work you have done looking back?

I would like to preface this by saying that I never wanted to be a minister and I have never been in the government. My role was managing the parliamentary club. During the first term, our coalition partners were the social democrats and KDU-ČSL, in the second one we formed a minority government together with the social democrats and support from KSČM. I consider the fact that I managed to hold the parliamentary club together during both terms to be a personal success. Especially the second one was very fruitful in terms of the bills we managed to push through that helped our citizens. I was in talks with all the clubs at the time, and I managed to find support in all of them. That was my role, the reason I was in politics.

What was your main goal?

For eight years, I was the chairman of the Committee on Agriculture, and I was trying to give our farmers the right tools to be competitive in terms of the EU. Our neighbors such as Hungary or Germany provided much more funding to their farmers. The goal was to improve the conditions for our farmers, to make things easier for them.

You were a great help for Czech winemakers for instance...

We managed to implement a bill that stopped the unlawful importing of wine from abroad. Foreign importers decimated the market by labelling their wines as Czech ones. We allowed the Czech Trade Inspection Authority to oversee illegal wine imports, which in turn protected local winemakers. Czech winemakers are incredible, they do really well in competitions worldwide. They have invested large sums into new technologies and they make excellent white wine, and even the red. I might mention my friend here, Jaroslav Springer from Bořetice, who owns the Stapleton-Springer winery, and whose Pinot Noir I have been drinking for years. That wine is on par with wines from the fabled Burgundy region.

What other areas did you help the people in?

We raised wages for teachers and healthcare workers, increased old-age pensions. Before Covid came along, we were trying to run a balanced state budget, which was going well. While Andrej Babiš was in power, we ran a surplus two times. We were simply trying to work for the people.

The current government has abolished the EET (E-sales) system that ANO worked very hard to implement. Was the system justified?

I certainly feel that it was. And it also meant we did not have to raise anyone's taxes, quite the opposite, they went down. We implemented a lump-sum tax for self-employed people, which comprises not just income taxes, but also health and social insurance, taking away the burden of having to file tax returns. Taxes simply have to be paid, and we wanted to set equal terms. That is why we used tools such as VAT control statements or E-sales, and they really worked. The state budget increased by billions compared to the times past. It is a shame that the current government wants to abolish EET. We, as the opposition, disagree but there is little we can do as the coalition of five has a sufficient amount of voting power. The current government wants to get rid of certain things that are working well just because they were implemented by Babiš.

Your government had its hands full with Covid, the current one is facing issues due to the war in Ukraine instead. How do you feel that it has been treating the people, in terms of the current gas price increases for instance?

I do not envy them this whole Ukraine war situation. What is going on is really terrible! On the other hand, it is true that the current government has not done much for the people. They are still occupied with worrying about going against Babiš, even in these difficult times. Just look at the issue of biological additives in fuel. On the one hand, the government decreed that the additives are no longer needed, which should lower the prices of gas by about two crowns, but on the other hand, what it did not say is that if the biologicals are no longer added, they have to be replaced by diesel. So ultimately, we are buying five percent more diesel “from Putin”... And these “mixers” who sell fuel cannot just “cancel” the biological additives, they could face sanctions by violating EU directives. Directives that all the EU states have agreed on and by doing so committed to a 10-percent reduction of transportation emissions by 2030. And so, biological additives keep getting mixed with gas because there are no alternatives. The government got some good PR out of it, but the prices never went down.

The war in Ukraine has been making waves the world over. Did you ever think something like that could happen just a few hundred kilometers from our borders?

Not at all! And I am not the only one. President Miloš Zeman, who I have been good friends with for many years, said that he is extremely disappointed in President Putin's actions, that he was wrong about him. I feel that the same has happened to many other heads of state around the world. There are no words to describe what is going on right now. Nobody expected that there will be bombs dropped on people in 21st-century Europe, that there will be tanks shooting at them. But I am strongly opposed to any military intervention from our side. We are, however, bound by duty to help those who flee from the war.

With his partner Martina.

CV BOX

Jaroslav Faltýnek (born April 28, 1962, in Prostějov) is an executive and politician, first vice-chair of the ANO 2011 Movement, and MP

#He graduated from the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of Agriculture and Forestry, Brno. In 1984, he started working as an agronomist in ZD Lešany, later as chairman of the Prostějov Chamber of Agriculture, and from 1995 he was a division director at the Prostějov Malt Plants. He also sat on the board of Tchecomalt Group from Prostějov as deputy chairman. He got involved in Agrofert in 2001.

Faltýnek entered politics in 1990, becoming a founding member of the Agricultural Party and was elected a Prostějov representative. He remained in that position continuously until 2018.

After the Agricultural Party dissolved, he entered the ČSSD in 1995 and he was elected an Olomouc representative five years later. In 2012, he joined ANO 2011. A year later, he was elected MP, defending his seat in the 2017 election. He became vice-chair of ANO and chairman of the parliamentary club. From February 2015 to November 2020, he was the first vice-chair of ANO.

He likes to paint, play the guitar and grow bonsai plants. He is divorced and has two sons.

JISTOTA

“None should be excepted, god forbid removed, from the learning of knowledge and educating the spirit.” This quote by J.A. Komenský is a motto for Marie Turková, principal of the JISTOTA o.p.s elementary and high school and kindergarten in Prostějov. Jaroslav Faltýnek, a Prostějov native, has been cooperating closely with this school for 25 years. “I used to auction off my paintings and all the proceeds would go to this school. I never kept a dime, despite the media trying to ferret out where I had something 'tucked away'. They even bothered the principal with such questions. The money I gave to the school helped refurbish the exterior and build a heavy-duty elevator to help the staff move around bedridden children. After my experience with the media, I no longer do any auctions, but if somebody buys any of my paintings, the funds go to the school. I also partake in the school's yearly December auction, always buying something nice to pitch in a little more. And I always put one of my paintings up for this auction,” says Jaroslav Faltýnek.


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