The threat of media abuse in the Czech Republic will persist until ANO leader Andrej Babiš sells the media (Mafra media group) which he acquired in 2013 and put in a trust fund in order to meet a strict conflict of interest law, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told journalists in connection with the European Parliament debate on the issue. Mr. Sobotka noted that the fact that the matter had been debated on a pan-European platform could only damage the country’s reputation. The prime minister recently dismissed Andrej Babiš from the post of finance minister on suspicion of tax dodging and attempts to influence media coverage. The move caused a drawn-out government crisis.
Former finance minister Andrej Babiš, whose ANO party is widely expected to win the autumn general elections, has said the Czech Republic should not join the Eurozone. In an interview for the ctk news agency, Babiš said that adopting the euro would only burden the country with foreign debts and strip it of the crown which is an effecting instrument in managing economic crises. Babiš also spoke out in favour of the Czech National Bank retaining its independence. If the country joins the Eurozone it will have fewer opportunities for independent decision-making, Babiš said.
The European Commission and European Parliament are examining complaints put forth by Czech MEPs and free press advocates that ANO leader Andrej Babiš’s influence over certain media outlets pose a threat to Czech democracy. Also under the microscope are recent comments made, supposedly in jest, by President Miloš Zeman to Vladimir Putin about the need to liquidate journalists.
The recent government crisis has not significantly impacted support for individual Czech political parties, suggests an opinion poll carried out by the CVVM agency from May 8 to May 18. The ANO party of now former finance minister Andrej Babiš enjoyed the backing of 33 percent of respondents, a similar figure to other polls conducted in previous months. The Social Democrats, with whom ANO clashed during the crisis, garnered 14 percent support, the survey indicates. The right-wing Civic Democrats placed third on 13 percent, climbing above the Communist Party on 11.5 percent.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has criticized the 2018 draft budget, outlined by former finance minister Andrej Babiš shortly before he was dismissed from office. At a press briefing in Prague on Thursday, Prime Minister Sobotka said that several ministries had complained they were short of funds for previously approved projects. For instance, the Labour Ministry is reported to be short of 6.2 billion crowns necessary for promised wage hikes in social services, the construction of old age homes and higher state contributions for caregivers. The health, education and interior ministries also say they are short of funds. Mr. Sobotka said the draft budget had clearly been drafted in haste and he expected the newly appointed finance minister, Ivan Pilný, to go back to the drawing board.
ANO nominated regional development minister Karla Šlechtová has clashed with the ANO leader and outgoing finance minister Andrej Babiš over the ministry’s proposed budget for next year. According to the proposal, the ministry’s budget will fall from 16 billion crowns to 4.7 billion. Most of the fall is due to European funds. Without those, the budget would only fall by 2.0 billion crowns. The minister has said that the proposal does not take adequate account of regional development of the country and will hurt councils in particular. The budget for most ministries and government agencies should rise under the 2018 budget proposal.
The lower house of parliament has agreed to create an investigative committee to look into the possible leaking of police documents in connection with outgoing finance minister and ANO leader Andrej Babíš. The seven person committee will focus on suspicions that police documents were leaked in connection with tapes which purportedly showed Babíš talking with a former reporter on one of his national newspapers about how to use information discrediting other politicians. Babíš, who stepped down as finance minister on Wednesday, described the move as part of an ongoing campaign against him.
President Miloš Zeman is set to dismiss Finance Minister Andrej Babiš
from his post on Wednesday, the president’s spokesman Jiří Ovčáček
announced at a press conference on Tuesday. Babiš will be replaced by Ivan
Pilný, the head of the lower house’s economic committee.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka had proposed the dismissal of ANO party leader and billionaire businessman Andrej Babiš to the president over continuing corruption allegations and unexplained financial dealings. Mr Babiš has persistently denied any wrongdoing.
Higher pensions, wages for state officials, increased spending on health and social payments as well as boosted defence spending will take the proposed budget deficit for 2018 to 50 billion crowns, finance minister and ANO leader Andrej Babiš said on Monday. The figure represents a 10 billion crown cut in the budget deficit already agreed for 2017. Babiš complained that exact calculations are difficult because many ministries announce targets for revenues from European funds but these turn out often to be exaggerated.