Babiš: Prague wants new EC chief who won’t reintroduce migrant quotas

20-06-2019

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.

Andrej Babiš, photo: archive of Czech GovernmentAndrej Babiš, photo: archive of Czech Government On Thursday the leaders of the EU’s member states gathered in Brussels for a European Council summit at which a major issue was the selection of a replacement for departing European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

Just before jetting off to that meeting, the Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš, outlined his government’s vision of who should get the top job.

“It is key for us that the president of the European Commission be somebody who likes our region, who likes the Visegrad Four. That it be somebody who won’t propose any quotas, who won’t counsel us as to who should live in our country, and who will not push illegal migration, which we have repeatedly rejected.”

The Visegrad Four countries (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) are not in favour of any of the “spitzenkandidats”, meaning the leaders of the parties that did best in May’s European Parliament elections, becoming European Commission president.

Mr. Babiš is currently at odds with the European Commission, which recently published a preliminary audit saying he was in conflict of interest. This is because he still has command of the Agrofert business empire he started, despite placing it in trust funds, the report stated.

The billionaire prime minister said earlier this month that he would “definitely” bring up the audit with Mr. Juncker.

However, he has now rowed back on that idea.

Jean-Claude Juncker, photo: Rastislav Polák, EU2016 SK, CC0 1.0Jean-Claude Juncker, photo: Rastislav Polák, EU2016 SK, CC0 1.0 “I will of course discuss the issues of climate and Macedonia and its views. But I won’t discuss the audit, because that’s a matter for officials. Naturally there are some rules involved and I don’t wish to intervene.”

For his part, MEP Tomáš Zdechovský of the Christian Democrats told Czech Radio that it had been unlikely that the European Commission president would discuss the damning audit with Mr. Babiš.

“Last week I had the chance to speak to Jean-Claude Juncker personally for about five minutes, at a meeting of the European People’s Party in San Sebastian in Spain. And he repeated to me several times that he would not discuss the audit or interfering in it, and that he would never allow the issue to be raised.”

Thursday’s European Council meeting was not expected to reach agreement on who would replace Mr. Juncker, with major players France and Germany at odds on the matter.

However, German Manfred Weber, the European People’s Party’s lead candidate, remains the favourite for the job.

20-06-2019