The Czech branch of the International Press Institute has called on MPs to exercise maximum responsibility in the choice of two new members of the council overseeing the Czech News Agency wire service. Respekt reported that in a first round of voting ANO backed an anti-Semitic candidate who looks likely to win a place in the second, a situation that has been condemned by the Federation of Jewish Communities. I discussed the journalists’ appeal with Michal Klíma, head of the International Press Institute in this country.
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.
News outlets from across the world reported on Tuesday’s demonstration calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, which organisers say had the largest turnout since the Velvet Revolution. Among the tens of thousands of protesters were many representing the regions, where the PM’s party has its main power base.
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.
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.
The subject of MPs’ travel expenses is in the spotlight after Czech Radio reported that a group of legislators visited an exotic tourist destination while on a taxpayer-funded trip to Peru. The politicians say they themselves purchased tickets to enter Machu Picchu. However, their hotels and flights were covered by the Chamber of Deputies.
An estimated 50,000 people attended the latest, and biggest, in a series of protests against Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Prague’s Wenceslas Square on Tuesday evening. Demonstrators condemn his appointment of Marie Benešová as justice minister, fearing that move could influence a criminal case of alleged EU subsidy fraud involving Mr. Babiš. But how much impact can these protests actually have? That’s a question I put to political scientist Jiří Pehe.