Interviews

Jiří Havránek: Everything was absolutely natural

Published: 4. 10. 2022
Author: Luboš Palata
Photo: Photo archives of Jiří Havránek
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Jiří Havránek being elected into the Chamber represents a perfect arc for the ODS. He is one of the three youngest MPs, while his fellow party member, Bohuslav Svoboda, is the eldest. And while Bohuslav Svoboda is from Prague, with its almost 1.25 million inhabitants, Jiří Havránek hails from a municipality of fewer than four hundred people.

How difficult was the journey from being a representative of Bratčice, where fewer than four hundred people live, to the Parliament, all the while being only 29 years old?

The journey was beautiful, first and foremost! I learned the ropes in politics as a municipal representative. Experience in municipal or regional politics is invaluable. And you can believe me when I say that when I am stuck late in the Chamber due to a filibuster, I am truly happy that we are doing well on a municipal level. Otherwise, things can often make one feel like they are going a little crazy. The last four years taught me a lot; I had the opportunity to work with ODS MPs in the Central Bohemian Region, and subsequently as part of Petr Fiala's team for two years. As for my age, I have a very humble approach. Things were perhaps a little easier for me in this regard since I am used to being the youngest wherever I go. I have been in charge of the local ODS cell since I was twenty-five, making me the youngest in the country in this role as well. I feel that age is not the most important thing. Nevertheless, I am happy to be able to represent the youngest generation as well as one of the small municipalities.

You are a member of the Czech Association for Countryside Restoration. What do you see as the key issues that need addressing to make sure that people do not leave the countryside?

There are several such issues. Everything naturally ties into quality infrastructure. Be it roads or railways, facilitating work travel, or utilities. And I do not mean "just" high-speed internet, but also sewage and water supply. Some people may be surprised to hear this, but the Central Bohemian Region, for instance, still has more than ten percent of households without a water supply network, meaning they have to depend on their own wells that often dry up in the summer. Quality infrastructure goes hand in hand with more jobs because companies want to be present in attractive, well-connected areas.

Czechia must be the place with the most chalets and cottages in the world. How should the relations between locals and cottage owners work in order to benefit the villages?

There is no easy answer to this question. In Bratčice specifically, this synergy works quite well. To use a bit of a pejorative term, the "townies" and the locals are able to go grab a beer together. Community groups help a lot with this. When people can meet up at a football match or go dancing on the weekend, connections form much more easily. Community group activities have a lot of other upsides, too. Such groups are often the only thing nurturing social life in small villages, organizing activities for the young. The country simply could not work without local football players, firemen, hunters, and others!

Besides being an MP, you also work at a university in Kutná Hora. What does a university bring to a city such as Kutná Hora with its 20 thousand inhabitants?

I must admit that when the talks about moving the University of Political and Social Sciences from Kolín to Kutná Hora were initiated, I was rather skeptical. Nevertheless, I only truly understood the benefits that this institution has for the Kutná Hora region when I started working there. Besides the "common" accredited college education, the university runs debate workshops, works with local high schools alongside the Central Bohemian Region administration, and organizes courses for the elderly as well as pre-election discussions. In short, a wide array of services. And I am glad to be able to play at least a small role in that.

Last year's parliamentary election was a nail-biter. When did you personally start celebrating?

I started believing in the success of our coalition in the election sometime in early summer, and by September, I was already proclaiming that we were due to win at least nine seats in Central Bohemia. So, I actually underestimated us by one! As for the election weekend itself, that is a different story. To be honest, looking back, I am glad that I got a flat tire on the Troja Bridge in Prague and that my car did not have a spare but only a repair kit that is practically useless in such cases. I had to take care of that and had no time to focus on the election. I went to vote on Saturday and then I just watched the results. When I saw that we were doing well in even the smallest of municipalities, I stopped worrying. I had a small campaign staff in Kutná Hora; friends and family members who helped me in the campaign came by, and around five I got in my car and drove all the way to join the central election staff in Prague. I will never forget the moment when we got ahead of ANO in the results. In fact, that was the moment when I started celebrating and responding to the congratulations messages I was getting. Just talking about it to you now gives me goosebumps. That day to me was absolutely wonderful because I could celebrate with both those closest to me and my colleagues in Prague, whom I worked very hard with on the election campaign that year, making them feel almost like my second family. That kind of emotion is indescribable, you would have to be there.

The SPOLU coalition meant the joining of the citizen's right wing with two other parties. How hard was adapting to such a setup for you?

I will admit that, due to the experience I had from the 2020 regional election where we came up only a hair short of the regional presidency for Martin Kupka, I was in favor of going into the election together. In that regional election, we were also in talks about a coalition up until the last moment, but even I was not very excited about the whole idea. And so, KDU-ČSL teamed up with STAN in the election, and the result, well, that I already mentioned. But things are as they should be today, Martin Kupka is a successful minister of transportation. The collaboration between ODS, KDU-ČSL, and TOP 09 worked before and still does after the election. What is more, Mr. Chairman Fiala, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, and Marian Jurečka just clicked. Everything was absolutely natural, and I feel that it is exactly that natural and genuine feeling that is key to having a successful campaign and collaboration.

You are a member of the Committee on the Budget. From a financial standpoint, are the times we live in relatively normal, or are we at war alongside Ukraine and so should be on a wartime budget?

A proper wartime budget is not something we have to worry about for some time still. That does not mean, however, that Putin's war has no impact on us. Be it in the form of budget implications due to refugee aid, weapons being sent to Ukraine, or last but not least, the government's way of dealing with the impact this has on people's finances. Unfortunately, it is impossible to engage in an economic war with Russia and not feel the impact. That is one of the reasons why the national budget had to be amended in terms of expenses.

How should Czechia keep helping Ukraine and its people?

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who has been helping Ukraine and its people here in Czechia. The wave of solidarity that has welled up is incredible, and it proves to me that Czech people are well aware that the Ukrainians are fighting and dying not just for their freedom but for ours as well. The government has been doing a great job in this regard too, but I really do not feel like listing everything out. I would rather like to point out the things ahead. There are ongoing discussions about adapting the Marshall Plan to the situation in Ukraine. It is now quite clear that Ukraine will need help in getting back on its feet. And the large sums of money coming in from the EU, USA, as well as other countries, represent a big opportunity for Czech companies and suppliers. We are already seeing demand that local suppliers can meet. The sooner we seize this opportunity, the better suited Czech companies will be not just to help but also to benefit.

As for your hobbies, besides football, you also mention loving your wife. How has your marriage withstood high politics and late-night sessions due to opposition filibusters?

We appreciate each other that much more. Nevertheless, my wife has been by my side ever since I started out in politics at the age of eighteen. That may be one of the reasons why she is so understanding of all things politics, be they late-night sessions or conferences all over the country. And of my bad moods as well, when things are just not working out and I bring work home with me so to speak. If I were to sum things up in one sentence, the saying really applies in our case: Behind every successful man is a strong and loving woman.

The author works as a European editor for Deník

Jiří Havránek (born December 23, 1992) is an MP in the Czech Chamber of Deputies, businessman, and occasional university lecturer. He was elected into the Parliament from the 6th position on the SPOLU Central Bohemian ticket.

He graduated from the Faculty of Economics at the University of Economics and Bussiness Prague, where he later worked on his PhD. He then started working externally with Academia Rerum Civilium – University of Political and Social Sciences in Kutná Hora.

Havránek has been trying to bring the goings-on in the Chamber to the people in the form of short and, where appropriate, funny videos.

He likes history because, as he says, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes without knowing it well enough, and he is happy to be able to pass his passion on to others thanks to working in academia.

He and his wife Lenka live in Bratčice in the Čáslav area, where he works as a representative.

He is a diehard fan of the Sparta football club and a beer lover. When he has free time to kill, he spends it playing video games, especially football manager simulators.

Apartments

Jiří Havránek is actively working on the issue of apartment construction in the Chamber. Apartment construction subsidies have been a hot topic for many years in Czechia, but the supply has not increased so far, only prices have. What does he see as the solution?
“Speeding up and simplifying the construction process is paramount. That is the main step we can take towards balancing supply and demand,” he says. “I keep saying that the government is the last one that should go out and start building housing. It should only make the rules. Still, the government can help by providing the atrophied buildings and lands it owns. Those could be passed on to municipalities for construction. And not just municipalities; banks and insurance companies are showing great interest in PPP projects in affordable rental housing. The only thing they need is land. So, let us make use of that idle land which is owned by the government.”

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