Even before the police have concluded an investigation into the Stork’s Nest Affair, in which the prime minister is suspected of EU subsidy fraud, another member of his cabinet has been hit by scandal. The minister for regional development, Klára Dostálová, from the prime minister’s ANO party, appears to be a key suspect in a police investigation into the state agency CzechTourism.
A leaked European Commission legal opinion, first reported on by The Guardian newspaper this weekend, states that Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is in an inherent “conflict of interest” position as he ultimately remains in control of the Agrofert conglomerate he founded – despite having placed it into two trust funds. The Czech state could be forced to return 82 million euros worth of subsidies granted to Agrofert in 2018, and potentially far more, while the country’s ability to draw further funds could also be impacted.
Andrej Babiš and his ministers are promising to introduce a so-called “national investment plan”, which will summarize countrywide infrastructure improvement needs as well as the schedule when they will be carried out. While detailed numbers are yet to be released, the prime minister has said that the 17 000 projects envisaged in the plan are to cost CZK 3.45 trillion.
Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas has been in Prague on Friday for talks with his Czech counterpart Andrej Babiš focused on digitisation, an area in which the Czech government is eager to step up its game. Consultants McKinsey have just published a study saying that accelerated digitisation could deliver up to a massive EUR 26 billion in additional Czech GDP by 2025. I asked Tomáš Karakolev, one of the authors of the study, what the Czech Republic should focus on if it wants to digitalise successfully.
After more than a week of political uncertainty regarding the fate of the Czech government, the junior partner in the ruling coalition, the Social Democrats, announced they would allow the government to survive a motion of no-confidence on Friday by abstaining from the vote. The decision was attacked by the opposition parties as “cowardly” and “self-serving”.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš faces a test this week, with his government set to face a no-confidence vote on Friday. The vote follows a scandal involving Mr. Babiš’s son, who says he was forcibly taken to Crimea. The PM attempted to smooth over the scandal by visiting his son in Switzerland at the weekend – but the whole affair may not die away any time soon.
Czechs on Saturday marked the 29th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that triggered the fall of communism in 1989. Traditionally the anniversary was marked by public gatherings, concerts, marches and cultural events, but this year public discontent with the political situation brought a tense atmosphere to the celebrations.
This year the Czech Republic is celebrating many special anniversaries. Yet despite the importance of commemorating a hundred years since the Czechs gained independence, the 50 years since the 1968 invasion and more, there is and always has been one anniversary that overshadows the others in terms of political statement – November 17th.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš is once again fighting for his political future in the wake of revelations that his son, who allegedly suffers from a mental disorder was held in Crimea against his will by his father’s associate to prevent him testifying in the Stork’s Nest affair in which the prime minister faces charges of EU subsidy fraud. Opposition parties have called on the prime minster to resign and are trying to raise support for a no-confidence vote in his administration. His fate now hangs on the decision of his coalition partner the