Andrej Babis Agrofert

Matt Atlas

Government To Sue EU Over Agrofert Subsidies

The Czech Republic will be able to challenge the European Commission’s action against subsidies for companies from the Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s trust fund. The Czechia should be represented by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the dispute. According to the statement of the Ministry of Finance, the Czech Republic will be allowed to go to court by a letter by which the European Commission rejected the application for payment of a subsidy for the plastics company Fatra from the Prime Minister’s trust fund. According to Michal Žurovec, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, the state will want to obtain a ruling from the Court of Justice of the EU.

“The next steps will be coordinated together with the Ministry of Industry and Trade as the managing authority of the Operational Program Enterprise and Innovation for Competitiveness and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which would represent the Czech Republic in the dispute,” Žurovec said in a press release. According to Czech diplomacy, further action must be approved by the government. “Based on a proposal from the Ministry of Industry and Trade, which is entirely responsible for this matter,” Mariana Wernerova from the press department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told ČTK.

The chairwoman of the opposition TOP 09, Markéta Pekarová Adamová, considers the authorities’ action to be hazardous and contrary to the interests of the Czech Republic. “With his proven conflict of interests, Babiš not only harms Czech relations with foreign partners, but currently mainly blocks the path to 180 billion crowns in subsidies from the European Union’s emergency crisis fund. Andrej Babiš’s industrial empire has a business perspective, “she told ČTK. The European Commission approved the Czech national recovery plan in July. However, it made the acquisition of the entire 180 billion crowns from the extraordinary crisis fund conditional on the Czech authorities preventing a possible conflict of interest between public officials.

The server informed about the rejection of the application for payment of the subsidy on Wednesday. With the help of the request, the Czech authorities tried to test whether Brussels would not actually pay the money due to Babiš’s conflict of interest, and to obtain a decision to reject the payment that could be challenged in court.

According to Žurovec, both the Czech Republic’s request and the European Commission’s current response correspond to the procedure consulted in advance and repeatedly presented by the national authorities. “Information in some media that the European Commission’s reaction is a failure from the Czech Republic’s point of view, or that it means a stop for any further payments from EU funds, is not true and has no support in the letter text from the EC. , as there was a suspension of just the payment of the Fatra project, “said Žurovec.

According to EC auditors, Babiš has a conflict of interest because he controls the trust funds in which he has invested his assets. Subsidies from the structural funds of the European Union in the total order of hundreds of millions of crowns, which companies received from the Agrofert holding since 1 September 2017, are therefore unjustified, according to the auditors’ conclusion. Both the Prime Minister and Agrofert reject the conflict of interest. According to the opposition, the prime minister should leave politics or ensure that the Agrofert holding does not receive subsidies from its trust funds. The Czech authorities then encourage politicians to recover the money paid to Agrofert.

The server stated that the head of the Directorate-General for Regional Policy, Mark Lemaitre, wrote a letter to the Czech Ambassador to the EU, Edita Hrdá. He writes in it that applications for subsidies for the replacement of grain dryers for Cerea and for the purchase of a new rolling mill for Fatra are unjustified.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade reimbursed Fatra 547,000 crowns six months ago. On June 16, the Ministry of Finance sent an extraordinary request for payment of a subsidy for Fatra, although Deputy Foreign Minister Martin Smolek, who had previously come up with a plan for testing conflicts of interest, warned the server about the risks of this plan.