The government responded to a resolution of the European Parliament, which a few weeks ago condemned the conflict of interests of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO). Only the courts can decide, said Minister of Regional Development Klára Dostálová (ANO) at a press conference after a meeting of cabinet members with President Miloš Zeman in Lány.
“We are convinced that the Czech government must respond to the conclusions presented by the European Parliament, because only courts can really decide on these matters. So far, on the part of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Czech side, these are only legal opinions,” said Dostalova. .
According to Dostalová, the answer to the resolution was prepared by the Ministries of Regional Development, Justice, Finance and Agriculture. Among other things, the government objected to interference in audit proceedings.
“At the same time, we objected to being accused of entitlement subsidies in the field of agriculture. We even argued that the European Parliament criticized the European Commission for not responding quickly enough,” Dostálová remarked. According to her, the cabinet approved the response to the resolution by a majority.
On June 10, the European Parliament condemned Babiš’s conflict of interest by a clear majority. A legally non-binding resolution calling on the European Union institutions and the Czech authorities to take a more vigorous approach to subsidies for the Agrofert holding was supported by 505 legislators. There were 30 MEPs against and 155 abstentions.
The approved text is a response to the April publication of the European Commission’s final audit report, according to which Babiš has a conflict of interest, as he controls the Agrofert holding even after he has invested it in trust funds. Therefore, according to the commission, the company is not entitled to subsidies from the EU structural funds. Babiš disagrees with this conclusion and claims that by transferring the company to the funds he complied with the Czech law on conflict of interest. He described the resolution as interfering in the internal affairs of the Czech Republic, and said that deputies were trying to influence the October parliamentary elections in the country.
In the resolution, MEPs called, among other things, for the Czech authorities to protect Czech taxpayers’ money and to force Agrofert to repay all unduly paid subsidies. The Czechia should create a fairer and more transparent system of distribution of EU subsidies, says European legislators. According to them, the current rules do not make it possible to identify the final recipients of subsidies and have led to the “creation and growth of large oligarchic structures”.
Babiš’s deputies called on him to resolve the conflict of interest by either resigning or severing all ties with Agrofert.
According to MEPs, the European Commission should not hesitate to use a new rule to stop the flow of subsidies in the event of a breach of the rule of law. MEPs also want the same conflict of interest rules to apply to direct agricultural subsidies in addition to the Structural Funds.