Conflict of interest of Czech Prime Minister: MEPs want rule of law violations investigated – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology
This article is presented to you in association with the European Parliament.
The findings of the Commission’s audit confirm the continuing conflict of interest of Czech Prime Minister Babiš, which Parliament has raised in several resolutions and discharge reports.
In a draft resolution adopted on Wednesday by 26 votes in favor, none against and 4 abstentions, the Committee on Budgetary Control calls on the Commission to deal with this conflict of interest alongside reports of the Prime Minister’s influence on the media and the government. Czech judicial system. MEPs want any alleged violation of the rule of law to be investigated and, if confirmed, conditionality mechanism for the protection of the Union budget to activate.
Concerns about the rule of law
In their report, MEPs underline the Czech government’s lack of initiative in the face of the conflict of interest situation and cite reported The Czech government attempts in March 2020 to legalize Babiš’s conflict of interest via ad hoc legislation. MEPs are also concerned about political pressure on the independent Czech media as well as the resignation of the Attorney General, who cited pressure from the Minister of Justice as a reason for resigning.
The draft text expresses “serious doubts about the independence of the Czech authorities” in charge of distributing direct agricultural payments and asks the Commission to open an audit procedure on the management of the Agricultural Intervention Fund of the ‘State.
Czech citizens should not pay for Babiš’s conflict of interest
The committee condemns the practice of withdrawing projects from EU funding and funding them through the national budget when Commission or EU auditors detect irregularities. Czech citizens “should not pay for the Prime Minister’s conflict of interest,” MEPs say. They demand that the companies of the Agrofert group repay all grants illegally received from the national budgets of the EU or the Czech Republic, and call for an end to the disbursement of EU funds to companies controlled by Babiš or other members of the Czech government, until the conflict of interest cases are fully resolved.
Babiš should not be involved in EU budget negotiations while in conflict of interest
MEPs find it unacceptable that the Czech Prime Minister has participated and still actively participates in the Council’s negotiations on the EU budget and programs, including the negotiations on the common agricultural policy, while continuing to receive agricultural payments from the EU. ‘EU via the companies of the Agrofert group. “No minister, member or representative of a national government should participate in the negotiations if they are affected by a conflict of interest,” they say.
Systemic weakness in EU reporting
The draft resolution criticizes the EU’s long audit process, contradictory procedures as well as financial correction procedures which last for several years. MEPs call for a review of the rules to allow for faster findings and recovery of overpaid EU funds and for a standardized and publicly accessible format, such as an interoperable digital reporting and tracking system to disclose beneficiaries final CAP disbursements.
“It is unacceptable to see how the oligarchic structures have developed, consolidated and enriched thanks to European and Czech national funding. Members of the European Parliament cannot, and Member States must not allow people with a clear conflict of interest to decide on the programming and distribution of common agricultural and cohesion funds. Billionaires should no longer be able to receive hundreds of millions of EU grants, ”said rapporteur Monika Hohlmeier (EPP, DE).
In April 2021, more than two years after the launch of the audit procedure, the Commission published its final report on the implementation of EU structural funds in Czechia, confirming the concerns that Parliament has long expressed. It noted that funds had been unduly granted to entities of the Agrofert group of which the Prime Minister is the beneficial owner. The report also confirmed that Prime Minister Babiš was actively involved in the implementation of the EU budget in Czechia while in a conflict of interest situation. Agrofert is a conglomerate of more than 230 companies in several European countries (including Germany and the United Kingdom).
The audit of agricultural payments in the Czech Republic is still ongoing.
The resolution will be put to the vote by the whole of Parliament during the next plenary session (7-10 June).