Matt Atlas

MEPs Call For Action In Babis’ Conflict Of Interest Case

The European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control today adopted a resolution criticizing the conflict of interests of the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. The resolution calls on the European Commission to use a new rule vis-à-vis the Czech Republic that makes the drawing of EU money conditional on the state’s effective action against conflicts of interest. The plenary of the European Parliament will vote on the text, which also urges the Czech authorities to actively protect taxpayers’ money, in the second week of June. Given the clear outcome of the committee’s vote, a smooth adoption of the resolution is expected.

In April, the Commission published the results of an audit of the Structural Funds, according to which Babiš has a conflict of interest and Agrofert has not been entitled to any subsidies since 9 February 2017, when the amendment to the Czech Conflict of Interest Act came into force. The EC therefore does not intend to reimburse the company for any cohesion subsidies until Babiš resolves the conflict situation. The prime minister, who invested the company in trust funds, rejects the commission’s conclusions.

The Committee on Budgetary Control today approved, with several amendments, the text of a resolution tabled by its German head, Monika Hohlmeier, from the largest faction of the People’s Party. 26 deputies voted in favor, four abstained and no one was against.

According to the resolution, the European Parliament is “deeply concerned about the shortcomings of the overall regulatory framework, which makes it difficult to systematically identify beneficial owners”, which the Czech authorities should rectify. At the same time, according to European lawmakers, it must ensure that “Czech citizens and taxpayers do not pay or bear the consequences of the prime minister’s conflict of interest.”

Brussels, in turn, must ensure that the same rules on conflicts of interest apply to direct agricultural subsidies in addition to the Structural Funds. Their audit in the Czech Republic has not yet been completed and Agrofert is one of their largest beneficiaries.

According to MEPs, the EU should also get rid of “oligarchic structures draining agricultural and cohesion funds”, from which a very small group of beneficiaries benefit from a significant majority of money.

The European Parliament already voted on a similarly critical resolution on subsidies for Agrofert and Babiš’s conflict of interest last June. The resolution was then supported by 510 deputies, against 53.