PM Babis to EU: Let’s Make a Deal

Prague, Dec 8 (CTK) – Czech prime minister-designate Andrej Babis wants to offer some 200 million crowns to the European Union to help tackle the refugee crisis, hoping Prague would thereby avoid court proceedings over its refusal to accept the migrant quotas, Hospodarske noviny (HN) writes today.


The European Commission (EC) has decided to sue the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary at the European Court of Justice for their unwillingness to join the EU obligatory system of asylum seekers across the member states.


Babis said in reaction to the legal action on Thursday he would like to negotiate with the EC on the withdrawal of the lawsuit at the upcoming summit in Brussels. It will be held at the end of next week when his minority government is to be appointed. This will be his first foreign trip in the new post.


HN writes that at the summit, Babis intends to criticise the refugee quotas much louder than his predecessor, outgoing Social Democrat (CSSD) PM Bohuslav Sobotka, did.


Babis is to promise in Brussels that the Czech Republic will send some 200 million crowns to the EU fund for Africa designated in support of Libya through which migrants are heading for Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.


Babis has taken over this plan of the Czech Republic’s help in the migrant crisis even without quotas from Sobotka who negotiated it at a meeting of the Visegrad Four (V4) countries, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, at the end of November only, HN adds.


According to the plan, proposed by Hungary to improve Central European countries’ reputation in the EC’s eyes, the V4 group will release a total of 35 million euros, an equivalent of 950 million crowns, for this purpose, while the Czech contribution is to be from 150 to 230 million crowns, a source close to the talks confirmed to HN.


The paper writes that Babis’s accommodating approach to the allocation of money for the migrant crisis has surprised his former coalition partners in the outgoing government of the CSSD, ANO and Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL).


“We have always said a solution to the migrant crisis is to stabilise the countries from where refugees come and keep them there. Babis as the finance minister always rejected this. All of a sudden, he has changed his mind,” Deputy PM and KDU-CSL chairman Pavel Belobradek told HN.


Other ministers as well as Sobotka confirmed this.


Babis was dismissed from the government due to his dubious financial transactions in May. Afterwards, he started stressing that the EU must fight excessive migration outside its territory, HN adds.


It is not sure whether the planned sum of 200 million crowns for the migrant crisis is included in the draft state budget for 2018. However, as Babis is forming a minority government of his ANO ministers and unaffiliated experts, the new cabinet is expected to find the sum without problems, HN writes.


Moreover, the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of Czech parliament, supports this initiative. All current nine parties in parliament agree with the Czech Republic helping improve the situation in the countries of origin instead of accepting refugees.


At the beginning of the refugee crisis, Prague was criticised for not showing solidarity and helping sufficiently, but now it is one of the leaders in financial aid if related to GDP, which Belobradek confirmed.


However, EC Vice President Frans Timmermans is of the view that money does not always solve the problem and that sharing responsibility for refugees would rather help, HN writes.