A charity concert in aid of victims of terrorist attacks that took place in
Sri Lanka at Easter will be held at the Hotel Hilton in Prague on Saturday
night. The event has been organised by the Czech Centres network and the
Catholic Charity, in cooperation with the Czech Foreign Ministry.
It is due to feature the Zlín Philharmonic Orchestra helmed by Prague-based Indian conductor Debashish Chaudhuri. The concert’s proceeds will go directly to the families affected by the attacks, which left over 250 people dead.
Andrej Babiš says a European Commission report alleging conflict of
interest on his part is only preliminary and that a final report could
reach the opposite conclusion. The Czech PM made the comment in an
interview with Saturday’s edition of Právo.
Mr. Babiš said that once a Czech translation of the document had been produced in one month’s time it would be analysed closely by the ministries of finance and regional development, which would have two months to respond. The European Commission would send a final version of its audit at the same time, he said.
The European Commission’s preliminary report says he has command of two trust funds via which he controls the Agrofert group, placing him in conflict of interest.
The Czech prime minister also told Právo that he would not stand down even if the state prosecutor’s office filed criminal charges against him for abusing EU subsidies in connection with a hotel and conference centre. The police have recommended that step.
Details of a 71-page European Commission preliminary report relating to the
Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, have been published by a number of
Czech media outlets. The audit states that, having “appointed all their
actors”, Mr. Babiš has “a decisive influence” over two trust funds
via which he controls the Agrofert group. This means the Czech PM is in
conflict of interest, a charge he strenuously denies.
Mr. Babiš placed Agrofert, a major agriculture, food and chemicals business, in a trust fund two years ago.
The European Commission says that all EU subsidies received by Agrofert since February 2017, when a conflict of interest law entered the Czech statute books, should be returned. It put the figure that the Czech state should seek back from Agrofert at CZK 450 million.
The Czech minister of finance, Alena Schillerová of Mr. Babiš’s ANO party, said on Friday evening that the Czech state would be demanding the return of the money if it were proven to have been wrongfully acquired.
In a separate matter, the police have recommended that Mr. Babiš face criminal charges of abusing CZK 50 million in EU subsidies in connection with a hotel and conference centre near Prague.
A rally against Mr. Babiš in central Prague had already been planned for next Tuesday evening prior to Friday’s news about the European Commission report.
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.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has sent an official request to President
Miloš Zeman asking him to dismiss Culture Minister Antonín Staněk and to
appoint Social Democratic Party nominee Michal Šmarda in his place.
The prime minister sent the request on Friday morning following a meeting with Mr. Šmarda at which he agreed to support his nomination despite having reservations regarding the party’s choice of successor.
President Zeman, who earlier refused to accept Minister Staněk’s resignation is bound by law to comply with the request, but he said on Thursday that the Constitution did not set any time limit by when he was bound to do so. Constitutional experts agree that he should do so without further delay.
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.
A procession by Roma musicians, singers and dancers from all over the world
will pass through the centre of Prague on Friday as part of the annual
Khamoro festival. The parade will start at the lower part of Wenceslas
Square at midday on Friday and head to the Old Town Square.
The 21st edition of the week-long festival of Romany culture got underway last Sunday, offering various concerts, workshops and seminars. It will culminate on Saturday with a gala concert at the Prague club SaSaZu on Saturday.
The annual United Islands music festival gets underway in Prague on Friday.
The festival traditionally takes place in Prague’s district of Karlín,
offering over 100 artists from all over the world.
The 16th edition of the event has a subtitle “the British Edition” and brings the most interesting of young British music, such as the bands The Sherlocks and Husky Loops. It also offers a special programme for Entry to the event is free of charge.
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