Interview with Mgr. Ondřej Benešík

The Czech Daily was in Hotel Baltaci in the Zlínský kraj region on Sunday, October 10th. There, candidates and members of the SPOLU coalition in the region were gathered to watch the final results of the elections. Mgr. Ondřej Benešík, a member of the Chamber of Deputies for the Christian and Democratic Union-Czechoslovak People’s Party (KDU-ČSL) since October 2013 and head of the European Affairs Committee within the Czech parliament, answered all the essential questions about the Czech Republic’s next day.

By tonight, you will know the final results of the national elections. People would like to know what the feelings of a politician are on a day like this?

Every election is crucial for every political party. Of course, tonight we want to feel victorious, but at the same time we feel a lot of responsibility because the nation will be on our shoulders, and especially as far as the finances of the state budget are concerned, the Czech Republic is in a very bad state, so we need to fight for consolidating the national budget. I am here with my wife, who is basically the most important part of my life. On such a day, there are intensive moments, but at the same time, we feel responsible for the challenge ahead of us.

How important are these specific elections for the nation and why?

It is extremely important because of the future. It is a fact that people, especially older people, feel that it’s not only about the current state of the Czech Republic but very much about the future, about leaving a better place for their kids and grandkids.

What would be the first thing you do after the elections? 

We will have to speak with our national counterparts about the composition of the next coalition.

What do you think was the worst and best thing that happened during the Babiš administration in the Czech Republic?

Well, it is pretty difficult to speak about something good that happened during his administration. Maybe it’s the revelation of the inability of this current government to solve people’s problems. Well, the worst thing basically is the same, the fact that this government was unable to foresee the future and what this country really needs to be successful in the long term.

The SPOLU coalition is made up of three different parties: TOP 09, the Civic Democrats (ODS), and the KDU-ČSL political party, which you lead. What is the common ground, and what are the parties’ greatest difference across the spectrum of political agendas?

Consolidating the state finances, which is extremely important, is the key challenge for all the parties in our coalition. As far as foreign policy is concerned, we have very similar views of where the Czech Republic should stand, which is the legacy of Václav Havel

If tomorrow SPOLU has to form a government, do you think that a combination of different ideologies can work out for the Czech Republic? What is the most critical agenda that your party, KDU-ČSL, will try to impose?

We will focus on family policy, a critical topic. Families with children need more solid support than they enjoy today, and housing is closely linked to family policy. Unfortunately, it is so expensive today in the Czech Republic and we need to find ways to improve this.

What are the three most critical challenges in terms of the economy in the Czech Republic?

First of all, the increasing depth of the Czech national budget, second, housing policy, as I mentioned before, and third, pension reform.

Ordinary people want to see someone who will fight against tax evasion, companies that are located in tax havens, especially after the publication of the Pandora Papers project. Is this actually possible to happen and how?

 I believe it is possible, and it is a perfect chance to achieve that shortly.  As you know, the Czech Republic will essentially hold the presidency of the European Council, so tax evasion and any illegal companies financed from the nation’s public funds should be at the top of the agenda of our presidency.

It is well known that climate change has also started to play an important role in politics.  I want to ask you if your party has some specific plans for dealing with the future problems climate change will bring.

The Czech Republic has fully complied with the green deal and with the Paris agreement, but of course, the details behind the big statements on climate change have to be debated.

What is your personal opinion when it comes to the immigration problem? Do you think that the Czech Republic should soften or tighten its immigration policy?

The Czech Republic has a sophisticated immigration and asylum policy system, and we will stick to that. It is difficult to say what legal and illegal immigration is, but we are ready to help according to our obligations under international law. I don’t believe our policy is strict. It is pretty common for all countries to follow the official procedure when someone is in jeopardy and applies for asylum. Their application will be processed, and if he is found legitimate, the Czech Republic is ready to help.

What is your vision of the Czech Republic’s place in the European Union?  Should the Czech Republic adopt the Euro? 

The Czech Republic is supposed to adopt the Euro because that was part of our legal obligation after entering the EU. Currently, we should speak about whether this specific time is right or wrong for the country to take such a decision. Still, in my opinion, the dilemma of whether we should adopt or not adopt the Euro generally is not real. We definitely should. It’s just about timing and a campaign that would make the advantages and disadvantages clear to the people. 

Our coalition is definitely in favor of opening a discussion on adopting the Euro. It’s about timing, and it’s about speaking with people about this matter. It should not be a political issue but an issue that has more practical significance.

With whom would you go for a beer from the ANO? 

As far as ANO is concerned, I communicate well with Jaroslav Bžoch, my fellow member of the committee on European Affairs. I think he is very knowledgeable about the European Union. I believe that he is a person who is ready to fight for the Czech Republic regardless of our political preferences.