Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors

Ivan Bartoš: English-speaking city staff, better facilities for foreign residents

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Table of Contents

In an interview with Prague Daily Monitor, Ivan Bartoš, the leader of the Pirate Party, explained what the Pirates have in store for Prague’s many foreign residents and the party’s agenda for the upcoming communal elections.

What are the highlights of the Pirate’s agenda for Prague?

We can summarize our agenda into four pillars. 1) A transparent and professional city council 2) A digital metropolis 3) A clean and healthy city 4) Services for a modern family.

Let me explain each of them in more detail.

We need a transparent council since public institutions deal with public money and therefore should keep their information public and transparent as well and not in the hands of hidden puppeteers. A part of the process is naturally introduction of transparent bank accounts to show where money really ends up. We will enforce transparent selection procedures into city owned companies to ensure that real experts are deciding, not friends of politicians.

A digital metropolis is a place where bureaucratic hassle is reduced to the minimum. We will create a user friendly website where you can resolve your queries or book an appointment with an official. We will strive to eliminate actual visits to the council so that people don’t waste their time queuing. Through the same website people will be able to submit their feedback and suggestions for improvement of our service. You can only stay the course with continuous innovation and improvement, and the Pirates believe that the voice of the citizens is the best source of suggestions. It is them, after all, who need quality service.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a healthy city? More than half of our planet lives in urban environments, sometimes in terrible conditions. Prague is a very beautiful and liveable city and we plan to keep it that way. In order to make cities liveable, you can’t make them denser and build higher. We will ensure conservation of green areas such as parks and strive to increase the number of green roofs and trees in the streets, along with a strategic solution for water management to keep the city cool. The last summer has proven that concrete jungle is just too hot to survive and AC units aren’t the solution. Equally, waste management needs to be comfortable and sustainable. Accessible recycling bins are one of our top priorities.

Centres of cities must not become laden with office complexes and turn into ghost towns by night. We want normal people to be able to live in the city centre, and have amenities like schools and kindergartens available. We plan to repair and reconstruct unused housing and brownfields from Prague’s industrial past into affordable council housing for young families and starters. We realize the need to build, and we must to build for everyone, not just for the top-tier income class.

Airbnb and international speculators are causing havoc in the property markets. Most foreign residents, who live in Prague, are affected by high rents and property prices, and many are only able to survive, not save. Do the Pirates have a specific plan to deal with this menace?

Prague, just like any other European capital has expensive property prices. A Prague resident would have to save for 15 years to buy a flat here. In Amsterdam or Berlin it’s only ten. This also comes down to our lower wages compared to the western neighbours.

Since 2015 the prices of flats have grown by 30%. This situation is unbearable for Czechs and less affluent foreign nationals. Like I answered in the previous question, we will strive to build affordable council housing that will be accessible only to certain income groups. The housing situation is constantly under our scrutiny. Recently we filed a criminal complaint against the current mayor of Prague 1, Oldřich Lomecký (TOP 09) after we noticed that a number of lucrative properties owned by the city have been sold and suspiciously low prices. This has cost Prague 1 upwards of 50 million CZK. It could be just the tip of the iceberg and audits have begun at other city councils as well.

Airbnb is in my opinion, influences the prices of rental apartments more. To property owners, it makes a lot of sense to rent their apartment on Airbnb and get a lot more cash out of it then from a long-term rental agreement. There are about 7000 hosts in Prague, with 50% of them renting our year-round. The latter case has nothing to do with shared economy. It’s a profitable business and currently, there is no available legislation to reasonably deal with the issue. We have prepared a document to amend the current legislation, so that Airbnb with its shared economy spirit remains legal, but limits abuse.

Are there any specific parts of your agenda that focus on foreigners in Prague? Prague has close to 200,000 foreign residents and this number is only growing. Do the Pirates have a serious plan for their integration into Czech society, both at the communal level in practice and a national strategy?

To be honest, I am pretty surprised by this number! I have many foreign neighbours, but never realized, that Prague is so international.

The Pirates are a liberal party and welcome any foreigners, who are willing to integrate into the Czech society. Although Czechs are somewhat conservative, and not as accommodating to foreigners as some of our neighbours, we’re moving forward in massive leaps. I think that the next step is for foreigners who are EU nationals to participate in the council elections and exercise their right to vote, only then, the right steps can be taken to make the situation here more pleasant.

We’re aware that communication in English is not commonplace at public institutions and we will strive to alleviate that. This step goes in line with our pillar “Digital Metropolis”. In simple terms, it’s easier to create an English website or a form than provide sufficient clerks proficient in a foreign language. We will also ensure that every relevant office has an available English speaking clerk, who can attend to foreign nationals, provided they book an appointment – how else than through a Digital Metropolis interface. This will make issues like registering for a residency or a voting permit a piece of cake.

Sen. Jiri Dienstbier when he was Human Rights minister proposed voting rights in communal elections for all foreigners with permanent residence (not just EU citizens). What do the Pirates have to say on this? Is this part of your agenda? Do you think it is fair that (Non-EU) permanent residents who pay taxes and contribute to the social system here are not allowed to have a say at the local level on issues that affect their lives, like parking, transportation, housing etc.?

According to f § 4 of the Act on elections to the local authorities (No. 491/2001 LD), only nationals of countries in that the Czech Republic has signed the relevant treaties with, will be eligible to vote. These treaties are so far in place only to EU countries, but can be extended as has been the case with e.g. Spain, which has extended voting rights to Argentinians, Chileans and Uruguayans.. Many other EU nations for example Estonia, Sweden and Slovakia, require a 3-year period of residence before granting local voting rights. I believe this a relevant path to follow also for the Czech Republic.

For a modern, open-minded and liberal party, you do not have many foreign-born candidates, or naturalised Czechs running as candidates? Why is this? Is this a systemic problem where most foreigners find it hard to naturalise, and are hence unable to participate politically?

As mentioned earlier, Czechs are in some respects a conservative society and foreigners may find it harder to join in and naturalise. One of the potential barriers is also the complexity of our language, which is hard to master, unless you have been here since your childhood. I believe, what we are about to see, are children born to non-Czech parents who came to the CZ in the 90’s; join politics, whether it be the pirate party or any other. It is simply the case of waiting until they reach the right age to start participating. I am aware of several foreign born candidates, but what is also important, many pirates live in mixed relationships, and as such, are able to better understand and act upon the needs of the growing international community.

most viewed

Subscribe Now