Should there ever be an energy crisis, go to Jaroslav Větrovský, Senator and Mayor of Mladá Vožice. He has so much energy that Temelín could be his middle name. He talks enthusiastically about his hobbies and his work and it’s just obvious that he could never do a sloppy job.
When we talked about a year ago, privacy issues and GDPR were a particularly topical problem. And it was just in this area where you, the Senate, managed to push through major changes...
Yes, it was a huge success. I would like to mention and highlight the collaboration with my colleague Michael Canov, who is, among other things, also the Mayor of Chrastava. Together we worked on a proposal according to which municipalities and towns should not be penalized for offenses that might arise from GDPR. We succeeded in pushing it through the Chamber until they finally agreed with us. I think it was a major success from the legislation making process point of view, and I am very happy it happened. I think that this is perhaps our national sport - to get stressed out about various unnecessarily high sanctions quite unnecessarily.
Was it possible that when the Chamber of Deputies determined a one-million fine, as was the case with GDPR, they failed to realize that such an amount could represent even a half-year or annual budget for some municipalities?
This is not for me to judge. However, I follow laws imposing such sanctions very closely. As I am the Mayor of a small town and I am in contact with other colleagues from small municipalities, I can see that we are sometimes unnecessarily punished for small technicalities that can be corrected in five minutes. It made me really allergic to all sanctions; because, in the end, it’s like when an inspector comes and penalizes you for a complete nonsense, along the lines of "Comrade, we are here today to check the notice boards." It really makes me angry.
Why did you oppose in the Senate the abolition of the tax on property acquisition?
Because first, it was part of a broader bill, and second, I had found out that the abolition would have caused a substantial slump of income in the state budget. Moreover, I think that the Senate, which does not decide on the state budget, should not be involved in such activities. In short, systemic tax matters should be subject to a debate at the level of the government and the Chamber of Deputies, and should not be dealt with in an unsystematic and random manner, by initiatives like that.
In the Senate, you were one of those who supported EET. What reactions have you encountered from small municipalities?
Let me give you an example. I like skiing in Austria, and when I have a beer at 2,500 meters above sea level, the waiter automatically brings me a receipt. And I never had the feeling that it bothered him. In our municipalities - if some village shops or pubs had to close because of EET, I certainly do not know of a concrete instance of this. If it happened somewhere, I'm sorry for it. However, I think it a normal thing to issue a receipt and record everything in the accounts.
Well, let’s talk about “your” South Bohemia. I have relatives there and I go there quite often, and I am surprised how many of even small municipalities there are really nice, in comparison with other regions: tidy, well kept, with good roads...
The South Bohemian countryside is simply healthy. I go there very often, visiting a lot of sometime even tiny municipalities. I must say that I see their Mayors as heroes and that they are the best in our field. Of course, it is just my constituency that I know so well, and there, the municipalities are taken great care of. And if the people see that self-government is at the forefront of the peloton and gives impulses, they start to care, as well. As a result, the villages in South Bohemia are truly magical. Certainly, it is also related to the state of regional roads, which in my opinion are in great condition in the South Bohemian Region, renovated and repaired. Well, one thing leads to another.
Is it mainly the municipalities that should take the credit, or does the region play a major role, as well?
I am of the opinion that mainly the municipalities themselves are excellent. Moreover, the South Bohemian Region was not badly managed at all. If I should mention any fundamental mistakes, I would be at a loss. Therefore, I believe that the new regional representation, which is prepareing for this year's elections, has a lot to build on, a lot of good work has been done. That’s why I think there is no need to make a revolution at all.
Do you personally think about participating in regional elections?
No, I won't play any significant role in them. There was a talk that I should run for a Governor, but I won't.
Aren’t you interested? It is obvious from your Facebook profile, as well as from your travelling to the region very often, that you enjoy working with municipalities.
Yes, I do, immensely. I am far from being burnt out after the twenty years of working as a Mayor and I love being among people. However, I like working in the Senate as well, especially due to the fact that as a Senator, I have a great power to help the region, which is excellent. A Senator is the representative of his constituency.
However, people do not think that a Senator represents a certain region. It's more about the regional level.
A Senator's work has two tiers. The first is legislative, this is undeniable. The Senators sit in Prague and approve or do not approve bills presented by the Chamber of Deputies. But then, there is the second tier, which is being and ambassador of your region in the capital. It is this sphere where you can do a lot of good in. You can assist the Mayors, non-profit organization and the like, opening doors to people who need it.
What, in addition to the already mentioned GDPR, would you consider crucial in the Senate’s work last year? And what are the major problems it will face this year?
Let’s start with the future. I believe the debate on the Building Act will be very important, absolutely essential. It is a core legal norm that will have impact on the development of the whole country. I monitor its emergence, and I look forward to the discussions, which are certain to be challenging. However, I believe we will be able to find a solution that will advance the Building Act. As for last year … I personally consider the law on the promotion of sports very important. I have sports background, I was involved in the establishment of the National Sports Agency, which is criticised by many, but of which I am a supporter. I think it’s good that we now have a separate budget chapter for sports.
Do you think it will help municipalities where sports are quickly disappearing?
I believe so. As there are fewer children in the villages and sports are organized by enthusiasts. For example, I consider rural football a great and wonderful phenomenon. It is amazing because of the environment, the atmosphere. However, the clubs are increasingly fewer in number, they have lack of members. It’s a terrible pity. In the past, there was a football pitch in almost every village, each with its own team. People met there, had a beer and a sausage and supported their team. Very often it wasn't so much about the result, but rather an opportunity to come together. It was actually one way of socializing. I always say that rural football and volunteer firefighters are huge phenomena.
If, after all, you were nominated for a Governor, would you be able to manage it alongside your work in the Senate?
It is possible. Jiří Čunek can be an example of how it is possible. He is a very successful Governor and a very active Senator.
Wouldn't you like it?
I admit that I find regional politics rather attractive. Even after twenty years in communal politics, I think I would have something to offer to the region. Anyway, that's not on the agenda right now, so we'll see.
Last time, when we talked, I wondered how many things you can do, and it seems to me that if anything, you have increased your pace...
Really? Maybe you're right. Anyway, I was at the Regional Assembly in Jindřichův Hradec recently, where they asked me to share a negative character trait of mine. I said it’s hyperactivity. I think it could be too much sometimes, it can be bothering to some people. The truth is that I have no problem with my energy (he laughs).
Have you been always like that? Were you a hyperactive child?
No, I don't think I was an extremely naughty or difficult child. I am just very energetic. It's definitely related to what I said - I still don't feel burnt out, I still tremendously enjoy working with people.
Which is surprising, one might expect that after so many years of working as a Mayor, it will become a rut.
The truth is that I have been a councillor for over twenty years and I have been sitting in the town hall for the fifth parliamentary term, now I am starting the nineteenth year. Yes, it is clear that after such a time there are things that became a rut, although I would rather call it craft. I still enjoy it, I still feel satisfaction, I love visiting towns and communicating with the Mayors. Maybe I'm drawing energy from it.
By the way, is your son still studying medicine?
Yes, he's in the fifth year of medical school, he will finish it next year.
So maybe he will be able to treat you for your hyperactivity...
He might be, but he is no different. If you talked to him, you would find his pace of speaking is even faster than mine (he laughs).
Jaroslav Větrovský (born on 31st July 1968 in Tábor) is a Senator and the Mayor of Mladá Vožice near Tábor.
He graduated from the Faculty of Education of the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice. He then started as a teacher in the primary school in Mladá Vožice. From 1996, he worked as the director of the primary school and kindergarten in Ratibořské Hory for six years.
He joined politics in 1998 when he was elected to the Mladá Vožice local council. Four years later, after the election, he became a part-time vice-Mayor, and after another four years, got elected to the post of the Mayor.
In 2014, he became the best Mayor of the South Bohemian Region for the period 2010-2014 in the competition of the Union of Towns and Municipalities of the Czech Republic.
In 2016, he succeeded in the elections and became a successful candidate for the Senate for the ANO movement.
He is married and has two sons - Jan (22) and Jaroslav (19). He enjoys sports, mainly football, tennis, skiing and cycling. He also likes to read, especially non-fiction, historical books and medieval philosophy.
Jaroslav Větrovský understands his role in the Senate as being an ambassador of his region. However, do the people see him like that as well, turning to him as to their emissary? "Thanks God, they do, and I'm so glad for that," he says resolutely. “If they didn’t, it would mean I was doing something wrong. This is the essence of being a Senator - helping the municipalities through negotiations and the like. Moreover, since I am in politics, I have got to know all the Mayors in my region personally, so they address me directly, which is a proof that my work makes sense. Because, everyone can just sit in Prague.”
Jaroslav Větrovský is a great fighter for the freedom of municipalities. "We should let them breathe, trust them more, burden them less with unnecessary bureaucratic regulations and measures," he says. “Because people in villages know very well what to do, what their communities need. There is no political rivalry among them, that's just not possible. When I was in Oslo recently, the Mayor came in overalls because he went to help to exterminate the bark beetles immediately afterwards. At the moment, it doesn't matter what party are you member of. Neither the beetle wears no party shirt.”