Getting a hold of the Minister of Justice, Pavel Blažek, was no mean feat. Ever since he vowed to come up with a solution that would allow him to implement a ceiling on energy prices, he has been swamped.
Have you found that solution?
Yes, I have. The energy crisis and general mood in society today are putting everything at risk. That is why I called a meeting at our ministry to discuss the potential legal pathways of implementing the so-called price ceiling as one possible solution to the aforementioned crisis. Numerous experts from the fields of economics, energy, and law attended in their free time and I would like to express my gratitude to them. I have provided the output of this meeting, meaning the legislative solutions and legal measures, to the Prime Minister. Including a proposal on how to regulate energy prices in a way that does not violate Czech nor European law. To make sure any potential measures are fiscally neutral. Law favors the prepared.
What are the primary legal hurdles when it comes to the price ceiling?
That is not a simple question. The draft legislative measures proposed by experts across the fields of energy, economics, and law should be in accordance with the practices of the European Court of Human Rights and not go against European law in general. Essentially, we need to find a solution that does not cause losses to those who produce and supply electricity to the extent that they could later seek damages from the state or potentially the European Union. Nevertheless, a solution needs to be found, otherwise, things will not end well. If we do not deal with the ongoing energy crisis, the political system of our country could be in danger. That is why I have been calling on people to negotiate about energy prices posthaste in terms of the EU as well as nationally.
Were you also held back by the fact that certain European directives do provide solutions but have not yet been implemented in Czech law?
I do not think so. This crisis came entirely unexpected.
Would it be easier to implement the solution on a European level, rather than nationally?
We certainly prefer a European solution, but if we do not find common ground there, we want to be prepared on a national level. We have been repeatedly hearing from entrepreneurs that they are not and will not be able to solve these issues themselves. That is why we need a clear solution immediately.
Would some of the proposals coming from the Association of Regions be acceptable?
Some might be, in theory, but the devil will once again be in the detail.
And most importantly, is this all not somewhat of a long run while the need for solutions is immediate? Are there any legally acceptable solutions that could help during the coming winter?
I feel that we could potentially implement a cap on the so-called production margin. That could prevent any future compensation lawsuits. Because there is no legal right to claim disproportionate profits that could potentially destabilize society and the constitutional system, I feel. The law was not created to prevent the implementation of necessary solutions. We may be forced to use extraordinary measures that could possibly be construed as barely legal. The goal of the draft I have shared with the Prime Minister is to cap margins in such a way that energy producers and suppliers do not lose the motivation to do business while also making sure the energy prices do not ruin businesses or people. And also to make sure that the solution is legal in accordance with Czech and European law. Ideally, we will also avoid any instances of compensation claims due to lost profits and the like so that the government is free from having to perpetually stimulate the economy and perform any other feats of financially taxing policy. Capping the prices is certainly not the only solution out there. I will support any solution that improves matters and calms down the people and entrepreneurs alike.
When we spoke prior to last year's election, you also talked about the need for an amendment to the Public Prosecution Act. Have you had time for that at all?
Yes, I have had the time. We finalized the proposed amendment to the Act this July. We first provided a draft to the prosecutor general and the Public Prosecutors' Union and asked for their notes. It was then shared with the chairs of the ruling coalition's parliamentary clubs. The amendment proposes several potential solutions to the issue of the prosecutor general's term and the way they can be removed from office. As for the removal from office, there are three different possibilities. First, the current state of affairs remains unchanged, meaning that the prosecutor general can be removed by government decree at the motion of the minister of justice without the need for an official reason. The second one proposes a list of reasons for the removal. And the third possibility is that the removal from office happens following a disciplinary hearing. As for other high-ranking officials in the public prosecutor's office, the amendment would implement a hiring process where the public prosecutor who will be the applicant's direct supervisor would have a majority representation on the hiring committee. They would have three deputies on a five-man committee, while the prosecutor general and minister of justice both would have one. And last but not least, the amendment also sets limited terms for current high-ranking public prosecutors.
Besides energy and the public prosecution, what else is a priority in terms of your ministry's jurisdiction during this election term?
We should focus on compensation for expert witnesses and make sure they receive better pay, otherwise, we may have a shortage on our hands, which would mean longer court proceedings. Unlike pay for other court staff, the wages of judges and public prosecutors are set by the law. We must not allow any glaring disparity in pay to manifest in the same building as it could lead to a shortage of court staff. That is why the Ministry of Justice has drafted a regulation that will increase the compensation for expert witnesses, interpreters, and court translators as of January 1, 2023. We also launched a second wave of the Merciful Summer program, which will last until the end of November. I feel that a second wave of Merciful Summer is needed due to the current energy crisis and rising inflation. It can primarily help those who did not have a chance to partake in the program last year. It could have been because they had to use their otherwise free finances to cover increased energy costs which rose due to the collapse of numerous energy providers. And last but not least, we have to make sure that we successfully handle the Czech presidency of the European Union.
Pavel Blažek (born April 8, 1969, in Brno) is the minister of justice and MP for the ODS.
He graduated from the Faculty of Law at Masaryk University and later attended a course on European culture, politics, and law at Utrecht University.
Between 1992 and 2002, he worked as a teacher at the Faculty of Law at MU in Brno. He started practicing law in 1996. He joined the ODS in 1998 and became a Brno-Center district representative the same year, holding the post for 16 years. In the years 2002 to 2014, he also served as a representative of Brno and for four of those years as its councilman.
In 2013, he was elected MP (which he remains to this day) and served for a year as the minister of justice in Petr Nečas' government at the time. Between 2010 and 2014, he was also the vice-chair of the ODS. He has taken up the mantle of minister of justice once again as of December 2021.
He likes to spend his free time reading and listening to music.