Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and his cabinet have been busy traveling around the world. Since June of 2018, they have spent over CZK 100 million on 290 flights abroad.
Most often, they visited their neighboring countries and Brussels. They prefer the Czech Air Force transport. One hundred eighty-three ministers used the so-called government squadron. Government aircraft were used the most by Babiš, Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (ČSSD) and Defense Minister Lubomír Metnar (ANO).
Cabinet members preferred the government squadron for its flexibility, security, and for its ample passenger capacity. The army, on the other hand, needs to fly machines regularly to train the crew. The cost of transportation of constitutional officials will be higher this year than last year when it cost CZK 58 million. This year, in the first half of the year alone, expenditures reached CZK 53 million. By the end of the year, it will be CZK 70 to 90 million. “Fewer trips caused the low costs in 2018 by members of the minority government without confidence in the first half of the year,” explains Defense Ministry spokesman Jan Pejšek.
Sometimes travel with a government squadron can increase, as evidenced by a five-day visit by Defense Minister Metnar at a trade fair in Indonesia last November, which cost more than CZK 700 thousand. By far, the most expensive route that any minister took, as it is usually tens of thousands of crowns per visit. “It was a commercial route, including the price for the whole delegation,” said the spokesman.
Babiš, who, as the Minister of Finance, still boasted that he was flying the economy class, refused to comment for this article.
The ministers claim the frequency and expense of their flights are normal. “Personal contact is the essence of the work of the Minister of Foreign Affairs,” said Robert Řehák, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Ministers of Industry and Trade Marta Nováková and Karel Havlíček (ANO) took thirteen flights last year.
The opposition is more concerned with what occurs on these trips than the cost. “When the Prime Minister flies to negotiate an increase in the EU agricultural budget, it is not clear whether he represents the Czech Republic or Agrofert,” said pirate deputy Mikuláš Ferjenčík.
This article written by Nguyen Thuong Ly, originally appeared on E15.cz has been translated from Czech to English.