Ivan Bartos

William Malcolm

EU Could Withhold Payments Over Babis’s Conflict Of Interest, Opposition Says

Opposition politicians from the ranks of Pirates, Mayors, and Independents (STAN) or the Together coalition, which consists of the ODS, KDU-ČSL, and TOP 09, believe that the government has not sufficiently addressed Babis’s conflicts of interest, which may jeopardize drawing money from the EU reconstruction fund. 

Already in September, the Czechia can receive the first part of the 180 billion crowns to which it is entitled from the extraordinary EU renewal fund. In total, thanks to the pre-financing of projects this year, it can collect up to 13 percent of this amount, the rest should be obtained in the coming years. According to the Vice-President of the European Commission (EC) Valdis Dombrovskis, the Czech Republic must resolve the issue of conflict of interest before the first regular payment is planned for next year. According to the conclusions of the EC audit published this year, it concerns Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (YES), but he has been rejecting it for a long time.

MEP Veronika Vrecionová (ODS) considers the current approval of the plan to be a formal step after it was approved by the EC in July. “However, we should be warned that if the Czech Republic does not take action against conflicts of interest, we will not have to draw any funds. And as we know from today’s statement from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Czech Republic is trying to delay the solution as much as possible,” she said.

Czech Republic according to the server iROZHLAS.cz asked the EC to postpone the measure due to the conflict of interests of Prime Minister Babiš. The Czechia was to inform the EU’s top body by 8 September about how it had improved its anti-conflict measures. The state asks the commission to postpone the deadline by 60 days. According to Vrecionová, it can be deduced from this behavior of the Czech government that as long as Babiš is its chairman, the Czechia will not receive money for the modernization of the economy.

According to the chairman of the Pirates, Ivan Bartoš, the approval of the plan is good news, but first Babiš must “stop unjustifiably pouring money into his own pockets”. Like Vrecionová, she believes that the Czechia will receive the money if another government is formed after the elections.

The chairwoman of TOP 09, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, also stated that if the conflict of interests is not resolved, the EC will not only not pay the money, but may also recover this year’s advance. “Babiš’s attitude towards the EU is reminiscent of a notorious gambler who constantly goes to borrow money, saying that this is the last time and he will never play again. In the end, he is gambling with the financial prosperity of the whole republic,” she said.

According to its chairman Vít Rakušan, the STAN movement has long pointed out that the formulation and targeting of the recovery plan could have had a far greater final effect for the Czech Republic. “The government has resigned from taking into account the comments of the local sphere, it is a great pity,” he wrote. He also pointed out the need to resolve the issue of conflicts of interest before collecting money and the importance of elections.

According to SPD chairman Tomio Okamura, the government indebted the Czech Republic with joint EU bonds until 2058. “Now we also guarantee the debts of failing Spain and Italy, which have higher pensions than our citizens in the Czech Republic. If we needed to borrow, we had to borrow without the EU and on more favorable terms without liability for states whose economy we have no influence on, “he said.

Communist leader Vojtěch Filip wrote to ČTK that he hopes that the plan will contribute not only to overcoming the consequences of the crisis, but also to further technological progress, and thus expand the possibilities of the Czech industry and the economy. According to Jiří Dolejš, a member of the KSČM, the efficiency of drawing European resources and allocating them to priority areas for the development of the Czech economy will be decisive. It does not consider it reasonable to make the use of the recovery fund conditional on subsidies from the European budget and political requirements.