A controversial law: a dispute over pension reform was also signed in the Czech Republic

Signing a controversial law

Status: 03/17/2023 10:37 AM

Not only in France, but also in the Czech Republic, there is a heated debate about pension reform. President Pavel signed the law despite his own misgivings. The mood in the country is already feverish.

Written by Marian Elwes, ARD Studio Prague

Petr Pavel has only been in office for a week – and the Czech president already has the current government’s most controversial project on the table. “I decided to sign a law reducing the increase in pensions,” he says.

“It was a difficult decision because apparently none of the possible avenues are good — good for everyone.” He agrees with the government’s and economists’ arguments that slower pension growth is necessary.

Unlike in the past, inflation should not be fully offset. It is currently more than 17 percent. In the past year and a half, the level of pensions in the Czech Republic has risen rapidly – from less than 40 percent of the average wage to 48 percent. However, the wages of the working population did not increase.

The former general said the government had expressed this badly. He understands the objections of the opposition that the government has applied the law in an unconstitutional manner. “For two reasons: because of its potentially retroactive effect and because of the questionable legislative emergency measure,” Pavel said.

The law must be published within a few days for it to take effect for the next pension increase in June. The opposition tried to prevent the hasty decision in parliament by giving marathon speeches for hours. ANO party chairwoman Alina Shilerova brought her sleeping bag to the all-day meeting – to no avail in the end. “I’m disappointed — even if Act One was a difficult decision for the president to make,” she says. “He could show that he’s everyone’s boss and not a signature machine.”

The left-wing populists announced that they would sue for the pension adjustment. Non-partisan President Pavel is also calling for a review by the Constitutional Court. This move can help calm the residents’ hot temper. A few days ago, thousands of people demonstrated in Prague on Wenceslas Square against the liberal-conservative government.

“We are gathered here today to take a stand against poverty,” Jindrich Rajshel of the Law Respecting Competencies Party said outside Parliament. One protester complained: “Everything is so expensive, everything is getting more expensive, how are you supposed to do that?” One protester added: “Energy is very expensive. I am amazed that our energy prices are the highest in Europe.” And, according to many, the European Union is responsible for this – expensive subsidies for Ukraine.

Thousands demonstrated against the government in Prague.
Jindrich Rachl’s party organized the protests.

Not only citizens gathered at the demonstration, but also well-known far-right activists. Some tried to make their way to the National Museum. Their goal was to raise the Ukrainian flag there. Interior Minister Vet Rakosan said that while he understood the fear of poverty, “suddenly these people’s fears were forgotten. Suddenly the tone was pro-Russian and anti-Ukrainian. We can’t afford it.” The PRO party has already announced the upcoming demonstration.

Chairman Pavel says that the planned pension adjustment is only a small first step. He called on the government to continue working on comprehensive reform. The debate over a higher retirement age hasn’t really started in the Czech Republic.

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Controversy over pension reform in the Czech Republic
Marian Elwes, ARD Prague
03/16/2023 6:10 PM


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