At the age when most young people go to the movies and clubs at night, Monika Oborná (from ANO political party) spent her time at meetings. So when I went to meet her, I was expecting to meet a young intellectual-agitator. Then I met this charming, energetic and witty young lady, with whom could talk for hours.
When you were just twenty-three years old you co-founded the ANO movement. How did you happen to be so politically prone at this age?
It was a coincidence. I studied agriculture at Mendel University, where Mr Babiš, the owner of the largest agricultural empire in the country, gave a lecture once. At one point, he began to talk about how he gets annoyed at this and that, what didn’t work in this country, and that it would be best to start his own political movement. I was intrigued. About two months later, we happened to meet elsewhere, and we came back to the topic. Then it started off.
So, at your age, you are paradoxically one of the oldest ‘serving’ members.
That’s very true. Today, we recall the beginnings with our colleagues with a smile.We founded the movement basically on a green field; we had no experience. But for that too, it was a great school of life for me.
Were you surprised at the speed at which ANO grew and went forward?
Very much so. The first parliamentary election we stood in 2013 was a shock. We predicted a few per cent and wondered if we would ever get to the Chamber of Deputies. The resulting second place was unbelievable. It was a clear message from people that they wanted a change. It gave us a tremendous kick; it was a great motivation.
What did they tell you at home when you told them you were founding a new political party and going to the election? Did they wring their hands?
We never really talked politics at home. I started a new thing this way (she laughs).
My parents were fine with it, and now they still support me in what I do. They are, of course, sad to see me little, which is a price to pay for doing this job. It was more about my school - I actually robbed myself off the usual uni time. My girlfriends would go shopping or dancing while I went to a meeting.I ended up in quite an unusual environment all of a sudden, among grown ups, successful in business. It was quite a turning point.
Did your friends stick?
Fortunately, yes - and some are no fans of ANO. So, we pick on each other, and sometimes I explain that everything is not what it may look like.
You are such a young agitator, aren’t you?
You're right! (she laughs). But that is part of it!
You have been in the Chamber of Deputies for a year now. Is there still something you haven’t got used to yet?
I had the advantage that I didn’t go there with rose-coloured glasses on. Since I had done some politics since 2011, in a way I had anticipated this environment. So it didn’t exactly surprise me. Of course, it takes a while before you understand how it works, but today I feel at home there.
You were probably also lucky for there were quite a few new members of the Chamber when you joined, thus there were more newcomers.
That's for sure. I see the ‘rejuvenation’ of the Chamber very positively; not only in terms of the operation, but also from the perspective of what impact it has beyond it. It is a sign that high politics doesn’t necessarily have to be done only by older club members with lots of experience.
You are also member of the Agricultural Committee. What do you think is the biggest issue of Czech agriculture?
There are various issues - such as competitiveness, self-sufficiency and more. What, however, bothers me most is the lack of young people who are engaged in agriculture. A lot of families want their kids to become doctors or lawyers, so nobody is keen to go farming. What is more, there is still this view that it’s all about forks and manure. At the same time, we have absolutely modern technologies and the whole industry has moved on tremendously. There is future to it and it would be good if the young generation understood it.
It was probably easier back in the day - farms and fields were passed on from generation to generation. But this tradition has disappeared more or less.
You're right. The relationship to the ground is no longer as intense. The practical knowledge that our ancestors had is not there anymore. We need rather badly a public awareness campaign to show that agriculture has moved on.
Would you be able to take care of your own land?
Would you know what to plan, what crops to rotate in the soil every year, and so on?
This is not a cool question from you (she laughs). But I dare say that I would know what to do with a little farming land. You can’t learn agriculture just like that, though. I think you need to have the feeling for it. But I do think I am the kind of person who does. You also need to be able to handle things that directly affect the area, and which you cannot influence - such as the weather
You are also active in the interparliamentary group for Slovakia. What made you join it since you were born just shortly before the collapse of the common state (Czechoslovakia)?
More precisely, I was born a few months before the November Revolution. So when Czechoslovakia split up I was a big girl already (she laughs). But what draws me there is simple - part of my family comes from Slovakia. And there’s something else - I'm sorry that today's kids don’t understand Slovak anymore. Often I discuss it with my parliament colleagues, which has made us come up with ideas how to improve it. Maybe we could promote a production of a kids' series in Slovak or Czech and Slovak, joint camps, exchange stays and the like. I'm still from a generation that understands each other, and it would be a shame if it vanished. I perceive Slovak as my second mother tongue, and I find it wonderful and terribly catchy – when I'm in Slovakia for a bit I completely subconsciously switch to it.
The truth is that the Slovaks understand Czech more, which is probably down to them broadcasting old Czech films and Czech dubbed films.
You are absolutely right. But otherwise, I feel that Slovaks are friendlier towards the Czech language than other way round. I have I visited Slovakia several times in the past year. I have a good relationship with our embassy, and I was there at some of the patronage events. And the Slovaks were very happy that someone came from the Czech Republic, because it is not very common except at big events. When we talked I was surprised at how often Czech and Slovak families are interconnected, how many Slovaks and Czechs have someone on the "other side" or from there.
The Chamber of Deputies sessions are no a parties, and commuting back home to Náměšť can also be tiring.
When you are knackered and your mind keeps on rattling, how do clear it?
I drive home to Vysočina and go for a walk in the forest. That has always helped me. Forest has tremendous strength. It helps me rest from the stress, noise, from communicating. I just take with me my two German shepherds.
Did you bump into the President, perhaps, in the Highlands (Vysočina) seeing him hugging trees?
I didn’t bump into President in the woods, but I come across the bark beetle at times.
In our area - Třebíčsko is the biggest nucleus of the calamity in Vysočina, the forests have been disappearing in front of my eyes and I am afraid they won’t be there much longer. When my mum sees it, she has tears in her eyes. And there is no remedy in sight, because the legislative processes take too long in the Czech Republic. This is why I recently sent an open letter to the Minister of Agriculture, in which I offered help in swiftly changing the barking calamity laws. It could be a parliamentary initiative. He answered to me that he would present the Chamber this year with a bill that would help solve the situation, and will request to have it approved at the first reading. Which is great, but it is not enough to make me happy. Further steps are needed, so I will keep on trying.
You are snowed under duties. Are they telling you at home that you could already get married?
Jesus, who would want me? I'm at work all the time (she laughs).
Maybe some farmer with a farmland
Who knows! After this chat, there may be crowds waiting at the door (she’s laughing).
Monika Oborná (born 2ndApril, 1989 in Třebíč was elected Member of the Chamber of Deputies for the ANO Movement in the last year's election. Since 2014, she has been a representative of the city of Náměšť nad Oslavou and a member of ANO 2011 party. Since January 2018 she has been the regional representative of the ANO Movement in the Vysočina (Czech Highlands) Region.
She graduated from the Faculty AgriSience at Mendel University in Brno, where she was awarded a Master’s of engineering degree. She worked as assistant to Minister for Regional Development Věra Jourová from 2013. She also worked as a project manager at AGRO 2000.
She is a co-founder of the ANO 2011 movement. She was elected Deputy Representative of Náměsť nad Oslavou in the local election in 2014. She stood for the Vysočina Region representation in the regional election in 2016, but she was not elected. Nor did she succeed in the election to the Chamber of Deputies in 2013. She was only elected in the following election in the autumn of 2017 when she got over 2.5 thousand preferential votes.
She lives in Náměšť nad Oslavou. She is single.
About the Countryside
Monika Oborná is also a member of the subcommittee for rural development. And although she doesn’t feel so strongly in the case Vysočina (the Czech Highlands), she can see the country's has been depopulating. "Our region is quite specific as we only have a few bigger cities and the rest is a countryside full of villages. But otherwise it's true - shops, pubs, surgeries, post offices are disappearing. And so are transport connections, which is quite a bit of an issue. But it is mainly a matter of regional councils, what they come up with and how they will assist.Naturally,we can help them too of course. I know that. For example, the Ministry for Regional Development is now doing a programme for the construction of start-up flats and the like. But otherwise it's really up to the councils. If they make sure that there will be frequent bus connections and people will be able to get to work, doctors, but also to go out easier; I believe it is one of the most important things that can keep people in the country.
If you stumble upon Monika’s Facebook, you will see she is active and prompt there as much as she is in her offline life. In addition to the fact that her contributions about 100 years of Czechoslovakia will inform you that she really loves this country, you will be entertained by the following for instance: We have been debating the state budget the whole day, the debate has been fruitful; everything has been said, just not everyone has had their say yet. "Yeah, I wrote that," Monika says." I understand and acknowledge that many colleagues always have something to voice and need to express themselves. I totally get it in the case of my opposition colleagues, as that’s what opposition is for. However, I would prefer a system in which we should have limited time for each ‘performance’. Because sometimes it really happens that some colleagues talk on and on and not quite down to the point; time is running and I think how many other things could be dealt with meanwhile. So I would definitely support such a change in the Rules of Procedure. Even though, I am not quite sure it would be approved. "