The European Commission’s 2020 Rule of Law Report raises concerns regarding anti-corruption efforts, a lack of transparency in media ownership, and aspects of proposed judicial reforms in Czechia.
For the first time, the EC published an annual assessment of the rule of law and democratic principles in the European Union.
Anti-corruption Framework in Czechia
According to the report, the legal and institutional framework for the fight against corruption is in place. And several initiatives to increase transparency and accountability have been taken. Such as the publication of government contracts or the new law on nominations for state-owned enterprises. However, according to the commission, the adoption of laws regulating lobbying, protection of whistleblowers of corruption, and extending the Supreme Audit Office’s powers are still needed. According to Brussels, “There are concerns that high-level corruption cases are not pursued sufficiently.”
The EC also points to ongoing audits of possible conflicts of interest for public officials and misuse of money from European funds. Last year, auditors from Brussels stated in a report on subsidies from the EU that the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has a conflict of interest. According to the audit, Babis still controls Agrofert, even though in 2017, he placed it in a trust fund.
Czech Justice System
The independence and transparency of the Czech judiciary are good. But could be improved by several pending reforms to the prosecutor’s office and the selection of judges.
Media Pluralism in Czechia
Although freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Czech Republic, the media is still subject to media owners’ influence over editorial content. Which the EC says stems from the lack of rules regulating media ownership transparency.
The role of journalists themselves is also complicated. “It is believed that journalists are not in danger of physical attacks, but verbal insults and threats are not unknown in political discourse,” the commission said.
Czechia is also one of several EU states in which citizens may encounter obstacles or delays in obtaining official information. However, free access to them is guaranteed by law.
The report notes that while civil society in the Czech Republic is functioning well, NGO’s in the area of migration and gender issues, in particular, “are facing a rising animosity of some segments of society and some political parties.”