Saturday, 25 November 2017

Babiš for church issue's transfer from culture to FinMin

ČTK |
14 November 2017

Prague, Nov 13 (CTK) - Czech ANO leader and probable new prime minister Andrej Babis wants church-related affairs to be transferred from the Culture Ministry to the Finance Ministry, and tourism to newly fall under the Culture Ministry, server iDnes wrote on Monday.

Babis discussed the situation in culture at a meeting with top representatives of several cultural institutions on Monday. One of the participants, Czech Philharmonic (CF) orchestra director David Marecek, confirmed for CTK that they discussed ways to boost interconnection of tourism and culture.

The debate did not touch on the personnel filling of the post of culture minister in the new government that Babis, whose ANO won the October general election, is expected to form, Marecek said.

In reaction to the meeting's agenda, Prague Archbishop Dominik Duka's spokesman told CTK it is not that important which ministry will be in charge of paying state subsidies to churches.

"We want tourism to be a part of the Culture Ministry's agenda. On the other hand, church-related affairs should newly fall under the Finance Ministry," Babis told iDnes.

Tourism has been supervised by the Regional Development Ministry so far.

Last week, Babis, who was finance minister in the outgoing cabinet, proposed to impose a tax on the financial compensation churches have been receiving within restitution for the property that cannot be returned to them.

Out of the other parties in parliament, the proposal has been supported by the Communists (KSCM) and the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), but criticised by the Civic Democrats (ODS), the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL), TOP 09 and the Mayors and Independents (STAN).

Based on the restitution law from 2012, churches will be returned land and real estate worth 75 billion crowns, confiscated from them by the communist regime, and given 59 billion crowns plus inflation in financial compensation for unreturned property during the following 30 years. Simultaneously, the state will gradually cease financing churches.

"For the Prague Archbishopric, the observance of valid laws and agreements is crucial. The question of whether the task of paying the slimming [state] subsidy to churches will be up to the Culture Ministry or the Finance Ministry is unimportant from our point of view," the Archbishopric's spokesman Stanislav Zeman told CTK.

The Culture Ministry "feels no need to comment on Babis's plans," its spokeswoman Simona Cigankova said.

Apart from Marecek, Monday's meeting with Babis was attended by National Museum director Michal Lukes, National Technical Museum director Karel Ksandr and National Theatre director Jan Burian.

"The discussed priorities included a plan to make culture better interlinked with tourism and to be well financed," Marecek said.

He said culture's representatives pushed for the state to earmark 1 percent of GDP for culture, which has been the Culture Ministry's goal for long.

In the previous election term, the ministry was controlled by the KDU-CSL, a junior partner of the centre-left cabinet also comprised of the CSSD and ANO.

Commentators expect Babis to form a one-colour government of ANO members and independents in the weeks to come.

According to available information, Babis's offer of the post of culture minister has been declined by Ivo Medek, rector of Brno's Janacek Academy of Performing Arts (JAMU).

Documentary film maker Eliska Kaplicky Fuchsova said she had been offered the post, but Babis dismissed the information.

He said he wants to complete the new government's lineup by November 20, when the lower house's constituent session is to start to elect the house's leadership and receive the outgoing cabinet's resignation.

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