Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says the Czech Republic doesn’t want a new president of the European Commission that would bring back migrant quotas. As he left for a summit in Brussels, he also said he would not now be discussing a Commission audit finding him in conflict of interest with its outgoing chief.
The Senate has established a special commission to assess the European
Commission audits concerning Prime Minister Andrej Babiš's suspected
conflict of interest which could mean that the Czech Republic might have to
return close to half a billion crowns in EU subsidies.
The commission, headed by Zdeněk Nytra from the Civic Democrats' senators' group, does not have the status of an investigative body, it will merely analyse available information on the case.
The two EC audits, which are both preliminary, claim that the Czech prime minister has a conflict of interest due to continued influence on the agro-chemical business conglomerate Agrofert which he established and later put in trust funds in order to comply with a strict new conflict of interests law.
Prime Minister Babiš has denied any wrongdoing, saying he fully adhered to Czech law.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has launched a massive counter-offensive to the preliminary EU audit concluding that he has a conflict of interest due to strong links to his former business empire. While he refuses to meet with the organizers of the street protests against him, he has taken every opportunity to present himself as the victim of a targeted smear campaign intended to drive him out of politics.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš remains defiant in the midst of a storm following the leaking of a preliminary EU audit which states that he has a conflict of interests and the country many have to return close to half a billion crowns in EU grants as a result. The prime minister insists that the country will not have to return anything and has refused a call for him to ask the lower house for a vote of confidence in his minority government.
Last week’s leaked preliminary EU Audit, which found Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to be in a conflict of interests, continues to make headlines across the country. Mr. Babiš has denied any wrongdoing. Civil servants are now waiting for an official Czech translation to be sent after which they will send their state’s reply to the findings. I asked the director of the Transparency International’s Czech branch, David Ondračka, whether he thinks there is any chance the findings of the preliminary report will change in the final version.
The heads of opposition parties in the lower house met to debate the
results of the European Commission’s audit on Friday.
The Civic Democrats, TOP 09, the Pirate Party and the Mayors and Independents issued a joint statement calling for the matter to be discussed in a special session of the lower house, the immediate suspension of all further subsidies to Agrofert companies, for the Czech response to the European Commission’s audit to be drafted by government ministers who are not in the prime minister’s ANO party and for the audit to be made public.
The opposition party leaders agreed that the responsibility now lies with Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček of the Social Democratic Party. Mr. Hamáček said in reaction to the news that if Agrofert had received any subsidies in violation to the law they should be returned.He also said he was in favour of the audit being made public if it were legally permissible.
The European Commission has preliminary found Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in conflict of interest over EU funds paid to the Agrofert holding he founded and placed in a trust two years ago. The confidential audit reportedly concludes that millions of euros in EU subsidies Agrofert companies received last year must be returned.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said in reaction to the news that he had not
violated any Czech or European laws and rejected claims that Brussels had
asked for subsidies granted to Agrofert to be returned.
Babiš said he was shocked by the reports in the Czech media, stressing that the audit was a preliminary draft which the Czech Republic would respond to.
The spokesman for Agrofert, the agro-chemical business empire that is at the center of the case, said that the conglomerate, comprising more than 200 firms, had proceeded strictly according to the law in the matter of all European and national subsidies received. He said the conglomerate had not been contacted by the European Commission over the matter of returning subsidies.
Agrofert is one of the biggest recipients of both EU and national subsidies in the country.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has a conflict of interest due to
prevailing links to his former businesses despite having placed them in
trust funds, according to the results of a European Commission audit which
was sent to the Czech Finance Ministry on Friday.
According to the Czech media Brussels is demanding that, on the basis of these findings, all EU subsidies granted to the Agrofert conglomerate since 2018 be returned.
The Czech Finance Ministry has confirmed receiving the English-language draft of the audit and says it is waiting to get the Czech version before responding to it, for which it has a two months deadline.
It moreover points out that the draft includes a disclaimer stating that the report is based on preliminary findings and recommendations by the Commission’s auditors and may be amended on the grounds of additional information from national bodies.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has confirmed that his party would support
Věra Jourová for the post of EU commissioner. However he said his party
would prefer for the Czech Republic to get a different portfolio,
preferably that of commissioner for internal market and services.
Mr. Babiš said he would discuss the matter with his coalition partner, the Social Democrats, and was ready to consider any candidate they would put forward.
Věra Jourová has served as EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.