Minister of Finance Andrej Babis has extended the list of state companies whose bank account surpluses could be used to help the state budget. Babis told journalists that Czech Post, oil pipeline company MERO, fuel distribution company ČEPRO, and the State Institute for Drug Control could all contribute to the state coffers. He has already said that almost 70 percent state controlled power company ČEZ could pay out its total profits for 2013 in dividends and that he is counting on around 4 billion crowns from the state forestry company. Former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek on Tuesday attacked Babiš for raiding the accounts of state firms saying that funds should be left with them to develop the firms.
Czech political party ANO launched its campaign for European Parliament elections on Tuesday. Former EU membership negotiator Pavel Telička is heading the ANO list of candidates. He said that some of the main themes of the campaign will be completion of the internal market, promotion of Czech food products and protection of consumers, rational pumping of EU funds, and promotion of exchanges for Czech students. Party leader Andrej Babiš said that three or four of the party’s members in the lower house of the Czech parliament had sought to stand for the European Parliament but the party leadership stopped them from doing so.
The country’s Finance Minister Andrej Babiš has responded sharply to an earlier statement by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka suggesting he should give up all business activities. In a radio broadcast, he said the prime minister was free to recall him from his post or even to find a new coalition partner. Mr Babiš has stepped down as the head of the Agrofert Group, a food, agriculture, chemistry and media conglomerate, to avoid potential conflict-of-interest. However, he retains full ownership, which critics charge is still highly problematic.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has urged Finance Minister Andrej Babiš, who has repeatedly come under fire for conflict of interests, to give up his business activities and concentrate solely on politics. Mr. Sobotka made the statement just hours after CDU MEP and member of the European Parliament's budget control committee, Ingeborg Grassle, brought up the subject at a press conference in Prague saying that Mr. Babiš as finance minister represented such a danger of conflicts of interests that in her opinion cooperation with Prague would be difficult. Mr. Babiš, whose firms have received 2.6 million euros from European funds, said he fully adhered to the conflict of interests law and was not actively involved in running a business but merely owned the Agrofert company.
ANO leader and Finance Minister Andrej Babiš is the most trusted politician in the Czech Republic, according to the results of a March poll conducted by the STEM agency. Mr. Babiš got a 62 percent trust rating, followed by the Social Democrat Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Jiří Dienstbier who got 57 percent support and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka who received 56 percent.
Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš faces a serious conflict of interest which could put strain on the Czech Republic’s cooperation with the EU, according to German MEP Ingeborg Grässle. The Christian Democrat European deputy, who is in Prague to review the Czech Republic’s use of EU funds, has also called on Czech lawmakers to investigate rampant abuse of EU money.
The ANO party of billionaire Andrej Babiš, a member of the centre-left ruling coalition, is fast gaining strength. According to the results of a March survey of voter preferences conducted by the STEM agency the party would now win general elections in the country, by far outstripping the present coalition leader –the Social Democratic Party. ANO, which got 18.6 percent in October’s early general elections would now get 28.9 percent of the vote, trailed by the Social Democrats which would only get 20.5 percent, a tenth of a percentage point less
A German Christian Democrat politician has expressed fears that Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš represents such a danger of conflicts of interests that cooperation with Prague will be difficult. CDU member of the European Parliament and member of its budget control committee, Ingeborg Grassle, expressed her concerns during a press conference, adding that Babiš’ companies have been paid 2.6 million euros from EU funds. She added that the Czech Republic’s system for pumping EU funds laid them open to massive abuse. The head of the budget committee later said she was expressing a personal opinion. Concern have frequently been expressed that billionaire Babiš’ media, agricultural and chemical interests make it difficult for him to make objective decisions as finance minister.
Finance Minister and ANO party leader Andrej Babiš on Thursday apologized for his attack on the news website echo24.cz. Earlier this week, Mr Babiš said the website’s investor was a front, and indirectly threatened to audit his tax returns. His comments came after ANO’s Justice Minister Helená Válková suggested in an interview for the website that conditions in Bohemia and Moravia under Nazi rule were not that harsh. Mr Babiš said the interview was not fair. The outlet, which has also expressed critical views of the finance minister and his party, was founded by journalists who left the daily Lidové noviny after it was acquired by Mr Babiš last year. In a statement for another of his papers, Mladá fronta Dnes, Andrej Babiš apologized for his remarks and said it was not his intention to check the media outlet’s finances or to silence anyone.
The ANO party came first in a new survey of voters’ preferences by the STEM agency. ANO would now receive 28.9 percent of the vote and win 72 seats in the 200-member lower house, the highest support ANO achieved in any poll. In October’s general election, the party came second with 18.7 percent. Second in the poll came the strongest party in the house, the Social Democrats, which would win 20.5 percent, the same result it had in last year’s election. The Communists would get 13.3 percent, followed by the TOP 09, Civic Democrat, Christian Democrat and Dawn parties.