The right to be offline and pay only in cash. Politicians want to change the constitution

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Deputies and senators have now met in committees and commissions to discuss two proposals to amend the Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. In this election period, it was already the seventh, and thus the eighth, proposed constitutional amendment.

The Ministry of the Environment would like the constitution to better protect water, and the senators are trying to sneak into the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms the right to be offline and also into the constitution a sentence about the obligation of the Czech National Bank to issue coins and banknotes, which would guarantee the right to cash .

Protection against data boxes

Although politicians thoroughly justify their intentions and explain why their proposed change should take place, constitutional law experts tend to be rather skeptical in the long term.

“There is a timeless opinion here, namely that it simply does not touch the Charter,” constitutional lawyer and adviser to the president Jan Kysela told the senators. He is also the secretary of the Senate Standing Committee on the Constitution during the debate on the introduction of the right to be offline and use cash.

The proposer of the proposal, conservative senator Jitka Chalánková (without PP for the ODS club and TOP 09), states in the documents for the change that there is already an effort to weaken the right to pay in cash as much as possible. The original press that wanted to introduce only the protection of cash into the constitution, but now it has expanded to the right to be offline.

“It also includes protection against the mandatory and unlimited establishment of data boxes or the widespread imposition of electronic records of sales,” she explained in the proposal, adding that the proposed regulation protects human freedom, but does not bind it.

The right to cash has not passed the Senate once. Some senators and members of the commission for the constitution are skeptical even of the current proposal. “Changes are to be made in truly urgent cases, should the need arise that what is the basic need of the people is not sufficiently protected. Many of these things can be solved at the level of laws,” explained former senator and committee member Jiří Dienstbier (ČSSD).

Kysela, who compiled the opinions of constitutional law experts for the commission, also reminded the senators that they should realize whether the potential good they want to achieve by interfering with the Charter will not be compensated by the Charter losing its nimbus as the country’s legal foundation.

This opinion is shared by the former president of the Constitutional Court, Pavel Rychetský. He formulated it in December 2022 at a meeting to mark the 30th anniversary of the writing of the Czech constitution: “The fact that some ‘good’ is important, discussed and worthy of protection does not mean that we have to write it into the constitution without broad discussion and as quickly as possible,” pointed out the then President of the Constitutional Court.

He added that in the past three decades, he often witnessed sighs that everything should have been written in the constitution, but was not. “But it’s all there, you just have to read it with a slight distance, with understanding and above all with common sense,” he pointed out.

According to Rychetský, the less the constitution is interfered with, the more stable and resistant it will be to political and populist pressures.

Senators smuggled weapons into the constitution

However, politicians from both chambers of the Parliament, as well as from the government, are constantly trying to do this with the Constitution and the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms. Proposals for changes are submitted regularly, although only a minimum of them are brought to a successful conclusion.

In this election period alone, the Chamber of Deputies had seven proposals on its agenda. Only one was passed – the government’s proposal regarding anchoring the date of regional, senate and municipal elections to the end of the first week of October.

In the last election period, a group of senators managed to sneak a somewhat controversial right to self-defense with a weapon into the Charter. In 2021, the sentence that “the right to defend one’s life or the life of another person, even with a weapon, is guaranteed under the conditions established by law” was added to the Charter.

The deputies then have another constitutional amendment before the second reading, which this time relates directly to the text of the constitution, specifically its article 7, which currently reads that “the state takes care of the careful use of natural resources and the protection of natural wealth.” Article 7 should now read: “the state takes care of the careful use of natural resources, especially water, and the protection of the environment”.

“It’s unnecessary, nature protection is in the constitution. Water is a part of nature,” said Hana Kordová Marvanová, a member of the Senate Committee on the Constitution (without PP for the ODS club and TOP 09).

However, Environment Minister Petr Hladík (KDU-ČSL) sees the incorporation of water protection directly in the constitution as an important step, because the depletion of water supplies is a global problem and its lack or deteriorated quality will have an impact on the entire society. He also mentioned possible water wars.

“Emphasis on the careful use of water in the constitution can therefore be of general importance in administrative decision-making in specific cases, and especially in the justification of specific administrative decisions. For me, anchoring water protection in the constitution is an inevitable step, either because of recurring droughts or the pollution of water resources,” explained Hladík.

Other proposals are stuck in various stages of discussion.

Before the second reading, the entry of marriage as a union of only a man and a woman into the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms is pending in the lower chamber. The government gave a neutral opinion on the parliamentary proposal, and the guarantee committees and commissions suspended the discussion on the point.

The government’s amendment regarding the amendment of the constitution regarding the sending of Czech soldiers abroad with the approval of the Parliament is also in the same state. The intention was created in 2022 after the attack of the Russian Federation on Ukraine, and the reasons given were Russian aggression, but also a greater number of security threats, an increase in the number of actors threatening peace and democracy, and the like.

“It is necessary for the state to be able to react flexibly, quickly and effectively in these new conditions, even considering that the warning period has been shortened substantially,” the proposal states.

Since last January, when the proposal passed the first reading, the proposal has only been discussed by committees and no further progress has been made with its approval.

The article is in Czech

Tags: offline pay cash Politicians change constitution

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