The second EU audit of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis is complete and has found him once again, in a conflict of interest.
Andrej Babis retained control of his business holdings, which continued to receive EU funds after he assumed office.
The following article first appeared on the Czech news website Neovlivní.cz.
The second of the final audits, which the European Commission has prepared due to a suspicion of a conflict of interest of the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, is now complete. This time it is about agricultural subsidies. And this time, according to the findings, Neovlivní.cz found that Andrej Babiš is in a conflict of interest and holding Agrofert because of it is not entitled to agricultural subsidies from EU funds.
The conflict of interests of the Czech Prime Minister was first noted by the commission’s lawyers more than a year ago. Brussels then commissioned detailed audits of Agrofert, Babiš, and subsidies from agricultural and regional funds. Both of them confirmed Babis was in a conflict of interest last year. Followed by comments from the Czech Republic, Brussels has now prepared the final version of both audits.
In November last year, the EU sent an audit from DG Regio, regional funds, to Prague. And now, according to information Neovlivní.cz, a review of agricultural subsidies prepared by DG Agri staff is completed.
“Even this final report states that the Czech Prime Minister got rid of Agrofert in appearance only and continues to control it. The audit, therefore, confirmed that Andrej Babiš is in a conflict of interest. Agrofert therefore is not entitled to agricultural subsidies from EU funds,” the audit conclusion says according to a highly credible source whose previous information on the EU documents proved to be accurate.
Brussels sent six copies of the report, which are watermarked. The documents reviewed are the English version. The official Czech translation is still being prepared.
Andrej Babiš has long rejected the European Commission’s position. He insists that there is no conflict of interest, and therefore Agrofert is eligible for subsidies. Indeed, despite the opinion of Brussels, some of the Czech authorities continue to send money to the Prime Minister.
“I strongly reject the opinion and will fight to change it based on further information from national authorities. The Czech Republic will definitely not have to return any subsidies. There is no reason to do so because I do not violate either Czech or European legislation on conflicts of interest,” the Prime Minister said last week.
The Czech Republic can no longer change the conclusions of the audits; now, it is only about how the conflict of interests of the Prime Minister will be settled. How much money will have to be returned to Brussels and how much will Czechs pay from the national budget because the European Union will not pay. So far, none of his subordinate ministers has answered the question of whether the Czech Republic will enforce them after Andrej Babiš’s company.
The audit does not threaten the political career of the Prime Minister yet, but it can harm business. The Brussels reports could have fatal consequences for his holdings. Especially if banks start to worry about their billion-dollar loans to Agrofert.
Written by SABINA SLONKOVÁ originally published 06.01.2020 on Neovlivni in Czech, translated to English.