Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has hailed the EU compromise on nominations for the bloc’s top jobs as a big success for the Visegrad Four grouping which fiercely opposed the system of Spitzen candidates and particularly the candidacy of Frans Timmermans for EC president. But, while the prime minister is cheering, there have been mixed reactions from Czech MEPs, some of whom have criticized the fact that the deal reached does not reflect the outcome of elections to the European Parliament.
The Communists (KSČM) leadership has chosen MEP Kateřina Konečná as the
party’s leader for the European Parliament elections in May 2019. She won
a clear majority of the votes in a secret ballot of the party’s central
committee, according to the Czech news agency ČTK, citing unnamed sources.
Her rival candidate, MEP Jaromír Kohlíček, received about 25 percent of the vote. Konečná, who is the Communists’ deputy chairman for European affairs, had been the favourite to win and has already been preparing for the EP election for several months.
The KSČM leadership also approved their election programme on Saturday morning. The party wants to call for changes in key EU treaties with the aim of giving more power to the member states. In particular, the Communists want a greater say on what legislation will be agreed on the European level.
The senior opposition right-wing Civic Democrats' (ODS) election leader will be Jan Zahradil, who is also the leading candidate of the EP's European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR).
The junior government Social Democrats (ČSSD) board has proposed MEP Pavel Poc for the centre-left partys election leader, while the opposition Christian Democrats (KDU-ČSL) have chosen MEP Pavel Svoboda.
MEP Petr Ježek has announced that he is breaking ties with ANO, the party
for which he was elected to the European Parliament. Mr. Ježek said that
he had made the move because of ANO’s support for Miloš Zeman in the
Czech presidential race and the party’s cooperation with the Communist
Party and Freedom and Direct Democracy. In a letter to the party’s
leadership he also said he had different ideas from them as regards the
requirements to be prime minister.
Last year another MEP for ANO, Pavel Telička, severed ties with the party, citing a divergence of views. Mr. Ježek’s decision to quit means that only two of four MEPs elected for ANO in 2014 are still associated with the grouping.
Right-wing party TOP 09 was one of the biggest casualties in the elections in October squeaking by with 5.3 percent of the vote, securing seven mandates and losing 19. Now the party has begun the process of turning things around, electing a new leadership at the weekend. MEP and former justice minister Jiří Pospíšil has taken over from Miroslav Kalousek.
Euro MP Pavel Telička has said he sees no reason to give up his mandate
despite his departure from the ANO party. He said that he would continue to
meet goals he ran on in 2014. He told journalists on Friday there were no
signals from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe that he
should step down.
Mr Telička said that originally he had seen eye-to-eye on many issues with ANO party leader Andrej Babiš but made clear their paths had since diverged on issues such as the adoption of the European currency and EU integration.
The lower house of Parliament has stripped two deputies of their immunity opening the way for charges to be filed against them in connection with involvement in suspected EU fraud. The two deputies in question are Josef Novotný of the Social Democrats and Communist Party deputy Jaroslav Borka. The case relates to distribution of EU funds within the Regional Operational Program North-West. The assembly voted in accordance with the recommendation of the Immunity Committee of the lower house.
The European Parliament has confirmed that it has scheduled a debate on the possible abuse of the media in the Czech Republic on June 1. The debate is not expected to conclude with a final resolution. The debate has been sparked in part by the release of tapes purportedly featuring ANO leader Andrej Babiš and a journalist about the release of material to his Czech newspapers discrediting other politicians. The European Commission would normally be expected to take a position over the issue. Babiš owns two of the country’s biggest national newspapers as well as the country’s biggest commercial radio station. The tapes appear to discredit his pledge that his does not involve himself in editorial coverage.
Czech MEPs are trying to get a planned debate on possible abuse of the media in the Czech Republic off the European Parliament’s agenda. The debate, initiated by the leadership of the EP’s strongest faction, the European People’s Party, is planned for June 1st. In a letter to Manfred Weber, chairman of the European People's Party group, Michaela Šojdrová of the Christian Democrats and five other Czech MEPs argue that although the situation gives cause for concern, the Czech Republic is addressing the problem and will resolve it. Czech MEPs have slammed the Czech finance minister, Andrej Babis for putting the country in this shameful position.
The future direction of the European Union is one of the main questions for government leaders and ordinary citizens across the continent. Some of the latter expressed their views in the Brexit referendum. The pluses and negatives of the current political and trade bloc are also at the top of the agenda of the ongoing French presidential elections.
Proposals for stricter European gun rules achieved almost the impossible by uniting Czech MEPs and creating a broad front of domestic opposition to the plans. While backers of the changes maintain they are clamping down on terrorism, opponents say the new rules are wide of the mark and merely make life difficult for legitimate and licensed gun holders. And Czech lawmakers have pledged to fight on.