The change of course in EU financing being discussed at the summit in Brussels, may see future funds allotted to the Czech Republic cut by 24 percent and moreover tied to new priority areas such as climate change and innovation. How would such a shift impact the Czech Republic, which insists that its main investment priority is still road and rail infrastructure? I put the question to Ondřej Houska, a financial expert with the leading Czech daily Hospodářské noviny, who is following developments in Brussels.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš left for a key EU summit in Brussels, which is to shape the alliances’ finances in the coming years, in a fighting spirit. The Czech Republic, a member of the Friends of Cohesion group, faces a 24 percent cut in funds and will vehemently oppose the EU proposal to channel the bulk of a much smaller EU budget into new priorities, such as climate and innovation.
A three-year legal battle came to an end on Tuesday when the Czech Republic’s highest court rejected a challenge to a conflict of interest law. The legislation was dubbed “lex Babiš” for seeming to target the billionaire prime minister. However, judges denied it placed excessive restrictions on Mr. Babiš or other public officials.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is in Brussels on Thursday to hold talks
with the President of the European Council Charles Michel and the President
of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.
Among the topics on the agenda will be the long-term perspective of the
European budget ahead of the extraordinary summit scheduled for February
Prior to his visit to Brussels, Prime Minister Babiš held talks with his Slovak counterpart Petr Pellegrini in Bratislava. Mr Babiš said after the meeting that he was against the current EU budget proposal for 2021-2027, which plans on cutting cohesion policy funding due to the impact of Brexit.
The electronic cash register system, known as EET, is expected to bring
some CZK 15.2 billion into state coffers this year, Finance Minister Alena
Schillerová said on Thursday.
Some CZK 2.4 billion out of the total will come from the extension of EET’s online reporting requirements, approved this May, to professions that were not yet subject to it, including craftsmen, doctors, lawyers and taxi drivers.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš introduced the EET in 2016, when he was serving as finance minister, to counter the grey economy and tax fraud.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš joined world leaders from 49 countries at the Fifth World Holocaust Forum in Israel, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. During the visit the prime minister held a series of bilateral negotiations and met with Czech Holocaust survivors.
The Czech transport minister has been sacked for mismanaging a tender to operate a new online system of motorway vignette sales. Prime Minister Andrej Babiš moved swiftly on Monday to stop a 400-million crown deal going ahead, accepting an offer from IT specialists who said they would work for free to produce a fully functional online sales system by next Monday.
The European Parliament’s group the European People’s Party wants to
initiate a new anti-oligarch law to assure a fairer distribution of EU
money. Among other things, it criticizes the dual role of Czech Prime
Minister Andrej Babiš who is involved in EU budget negotiations on behalf
of his country and at the same time, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of
EU funds in the Czech Republic.
Speaking at a plenary debate on the case of Andrej Babiš’ conflict of interest earlier this week, MEP Monika Hohlmeier, Chairwoman of the Budgetary Control Committee, pointed out that the Agrofert company linked to the Czech Prime Minister is one of the biggest Czech recipients of agricultural fund.
“What we see in the Czech Republic and some other member states is that a couple of oligarchs profit from EU funds at the expense of Czech and other European taxpayers. This is why the EPP Group will initiate a new anti-oligarch law on how a fairer distribution of EU money can be guaranteed,” she said.
Mrs Hohlmeier is due to visit the Czech Republic in February as part of a mission to assess the country’s management of EU funds.