Babis Blames Trade Ministry After EU Suspends OP EIC Funding

Andrej Babiš, Czech Corruption, European Commission

Prague, April 11 (CTK) – The suspension of the Czech Republic’s Operational Programme Enterprise and Innovations for Competitiveness (OP EIC) by the European Commission (EC) affects some 700 Czech firms, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said at a press conference after today’s government meeting.


This is the consequence of failure of the Industry and Trade Ministry’s former management, he added.


“Minister [Tomas] Huner has been tasked with preparing a crisis plan which will clearly say who in the government will be responsible for concrete steps. The aim is to convince Brussels to unblock the money,” Babis said.


The projects containing errors continue and will be covered from national resources until the EC makes a decision on them, Huner said at a press conference on Tuesday.


The EC has suspended the programme, which contains roughly Kc114bn, due to the result of an audit which revealed a 14-percent error rate in it.


The errors in question arose in 2015-2016, when the ministry was headed by Social Democrat ministers, Huner said.


“We have removed the errors gradually and we have adopted necessary measures. An internal audit was carried out even before we received the letter from the EC informing us about the suspension of the programme. I will initiate steps to investigate and punish the persons responsible for these complications,” Huner said on Tuesday.


Former industry and trade minister Jan Mladek (Social Democrat, CSSD) said that the problem could have been solved already. The ministry has had the audit’s results since December.


Mistakes occur at the start of every programming period but they can be corrected, he added


“Minister Huner got the Finance Ministry’s audit documents last year in December and has not done anything since then,” Mladek declared.


OP EIC is a key programme of subsidies for Czech entrepreneurs, mainly small and medium-sized companies, during the budget period 2014-2020.


According to the latest information, companies have asked for subsidies for a total of 13,000 projects so far. As many as 4,500 applications have already met all requirements and contracts worth Kc45bn in total were signed with the applicants.