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.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš who defended himself in Parliament on Thursday
following a second preliminary EC audit suggesting he has a conflict of
interest, refused to say whether he would step down if a final audit
confirmed this suspicion.
He said he had fully complied with Czech legislation and repeated that he was certain the Czech Republic would not have to return any subsidies to the EU.
Meanwhile Jan Hamáček, leader of the Social Democrats, a junior partner in the coalition government, said he sees no reason why his party should leave the government in connection with the scandal surrounding Prime Minister Andrej Babiš's alleged conflict of interest.
Following a meeting of the party leadership on Thursday Hamáček told media that the Social Democrats did not join the cabinet in order to solve their coalition partner's problems but to implement the party’s own policy programme.
The Social Democrat leader stressed that if any subsidies had been drafted in violation of the law they must be returned.
The centre-right opposition parties in the lower house have welcomed the
decision of the State Agricultural Intervention Fund to suspend all
subsidies to companies with links to the prime minister and agriculture
The head of the Christian Democrats Marek Výborný said it was essential to ensure that any subsidies that had been paid out in violation of the law would be returned by the entity in question and that the financial burden would not rest with Czech taxpayers.
According to Jan Fárský from the Mayors and Independents Party this case shows how important it was for the Czech Republic to join EU structures. They are now helping us to maintain the rule of law, Fárský said.
The State Agricultural Intervention Fund (SZIF) will suspend all further
subsidy payments for Agrofert group projects approved after February 2017,
when Prime Minister Andrej Babiš transferred the group to trust funds in
order to comply with a new Czech conflict of interest law, the head of the
State Agricultural Intervention Fund Martin Šebestyán said in response to
a second preliminary audit by the European Commission on Thursday. He
confirmed that between 2012 and April 2019 the fund paid out 6.5 billion
crowns to Agrofert companies.
The State Agricultural Intervention Fund will also suspend all further money to the Agrotrade company run by the brother and father of Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman of the Social Democrats. The head of the fund said the steps were being taken as a precautionary measure in connection with the findings of the European Commission’s second preliminary audit relating to agricultural subsidies.
The second report also states that Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has a conflict of interest, though it does not say how much EU funds the Czech Republic may have to return as a result. According to the Czech media a considerable part of the report is also devoted to Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman, whose family runs an agricultural business.
According to the head of the State Agricultural Intervention Fund the EC audit does not specifically state that Minister Toman has a conflict of interests but the Czech Republic has been asked to explain certain matters of procedure in connection with the case.
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.
The embattled Czech prime minister, Minister Andrej Babiš, has refused a
call from the opposition for him to ask the lower house for a vote of
confidence in his minority government. Mr. Babiš made the announcement
shortly after a meeting of the coalition government which discussed the
present political situation in the light of a preliminary EU audit stating
that the prime minister has a conflict of interest.
The prime minister’s coalition partner, the Social Democrats, and the opposition Communist Party, on whose support the minority government relies, have indicated that they would continue to support the coalition government for the present time.
The head of the Social Democrats Jan Hamáček said that if it were confirmed that the companies in the Agrofert conglomerate, established by Babiš and placed in trust funds, had received grants in violation of the law the money should be returned. He said he had continued faith in the “coalition project”.
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 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.
Around 30 scientists and business people from all over the world are taking
part in a conference in Prague on Monday launching the annual Innovation
Week. Among the main guests at the conference are the young American
astrophysicist Sabrina Gonzales Pasterski or Anna Du, a 13-year-old
American who invented a microplastic-detecting robot to help fight ocean
The event, organized for the fourth consecutive year by Prague’s European Leadership and Academic Institute, will offer more than 100 accompanying events across the Czech Republic, including seminars and workshops.
Wondering what a 10 billion Euro investment can do for a village? Dolní Břežany was lucky enough to find out. It now houses an EU research facility containing some of the world’s most powerful lasers. Scientists expect the centre may help in research ranging from star exploration to combating cancer. They are now working on the centre’s most powerful laser yet.