Czech officials are gearing up for negotiations with European Commission representatives on how much money the Czech Republic may draw from EU regional development funds in 2021-2027 and what the funds may be used for. The talks are due to begin in a fortnight’s time and the Czech Republic is the first EU member state to undergo them.
Amid continuing uncertainty over Brexit, Czech officials are pushing to speed up the approval of a government bill which would protect the rights of British nationals living in the Czech Republic in the event that Great Britain leaves the EU with no deal. The bill would ensure that British nationals would have the same rights as all EU citizens up until the end of 2020.
Tuesday's vote against Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal has raised fresh concern in the Czech Republic regarding the uncertainty that lies ahead and the possibility of a “hard” Brexit. According to the leading Czech business daily Hospodářské noviny a “hard” Bexit would result in a drop in direct and indirect Czech exports to Britain and the loss of an estimated 40 thousand jobs on the home market.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Monday responded to criticism from Brussels over an alleged conflict of interest linked to EU funds paid to his former business conglomerate Agrofert. The prime minister said that in order to avoid any suspicion that he was influencing the distribution of EU funds in favour of his former business empire he would step down from a government council dealing with European Union subsidies.
The European Parliament has just passed a resolution regarding possible conflict of interest involving the Czech prime minister. Under the decision, the European Commission will suspend subsidies to the Agrofert conglomerate linked to Andrej Babiš until the situation surrounding his alleged conflict of interest is settled.
As the deadline date for Brexit looms ever closer, Czechs are asking themselves what the economic impact of a “hard” Brexit would be. A report published by Česká spořitelna, says that as the country’s fifth largest trading partner, the UK’s exit on WTO rules could cost tens of thousands of Czech jobs and around CZK 55 billion. However, the economic impact would be too small to affect projected economic growth.
Jakub Kalenský was among the first to join the skeleton staff of the East StratCom Task Force, the European Union’s first direct initiative to identify, debunk and counter Russia’s disinformation campaigns. For the first year or so of the Task Force’s existence, established in the summer of 2015, the Czech former journalist was also the only team member devoted solely to that monumental task.