Czech President’s Refusal to Sign Pension Reform Causes Controversy

Ondřej Deml

The recent decision by Czech President Petr Pavel not to sign a pension reform bill in time for it to take effect on September 1 and his consideration of a possible veto has surprised politicians across the political spectrum. Martin Kupka, Minister of Transport and Vice Chairman of the Civic Democratic Party, has warned that this move could severely affect the state’s finances. Aleš Dufek, Chairman of the Christian Democratic Club, considers the president’s decision unfortunate.

President Pavel’s decision not to inform the government and the public of his decision earlier was not evaluated by Kupka. “I do not want to comment. It is the full right of the president. I know he is signing a whole range of legislation this week, and I do not want to give rise to any pressure,” added Kupka.

Dufek, however, was more critical. “I think this action by the president is unfortunate. When I narrow it down to legal predictability, he should have known his stance on August 31. I am a lawyer by profession, and I think the stance should have been clear within the framework of legal predictability,” he told Právo.

The opposition is also confused about the president’s position. Aleš Juchelka, Shadow Minister of Labor for ANO, said, “I did not understand it. Either he confirms it with a signature, or he vetoes it? We would welcome it if the president vetoed it. Then, other issues could be addressed within the framework of pension reform. Then we could deal with it in the Chamber of Deputies at the end of September,” he told Právo after remarks by the president’s spokesperson, Markéta Řeháková, who informed about Pavel’s decision.

Juchelka is unsure if the government could overturn the veto by the end of the year. “Of course, we would meet as a club. We would not leave it just like that,” he indicated, suggesting further lengthy negotiations in the Chamber of Deputies. However, he will wait for the president’s press conference on Friday, where the head of state is expected to clarify his next steps.

Tomio Okamura, Chairman of the SPD, called Pavel’s action “inappropriate alibism”. “In these fundamental matters, the president should be clear,” he told Právo, adding that Pavel should veto the norm.

“The law deprives pensioners of money they were entitled to. It fundamentally worsens the conditions for early retirement, which is especially important for physically demanding professions,” Okamura reminded.

According to Okamura, the president’s reasons are important. “If what Seznam Zprávy said is true, that Pavel is disturbed by the mildness of the law and that it saves too little public budgets, it is a manifestation of absolute misunderstanding and complete asociality of the president and his surroundings aimed against pensioners,” he told Právo.

The president’s spokesperson, Markéta Řeháková, announced the head of state’s position after Pavel’s evening meeting with Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS). She said that Pavel has specific objections to the proposed changes in pensions. “He is considering deciding by veto or signature in the coming days. That means the amendment would not take effect on September 1, as the government assumed,” she said.

The amendment tightens the rules for early retirement and slows down regular valorization. According to Seznam Zpráv, Pavel thinks the adjustments are too mild and the “reform” saves too little on public budgets.

Fiala went to the meeting with Pavel with a reminder of the arguments with which his government prepared this amendment.