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20th Aug 2022

EU Parliament hits back at Czech PM in fund misuse row

  • Czech PM Babis called the Czech MEPs invovled in monitoring misues of EU funds 'traitors'

European Parliament president David Sassoli on Tuesday rejected claims by the Czech prime minister Andrej Babis that the institution interferes in Czech internal affairs.

In a letter sent to Babis, Sassoli said the parliament has the right, based on the EU treaty, "to give or deny the discharge to the European Commission on the implementation of the EU budget".

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That 'annual discharge' procedure allows the parliament, and the member states, to hold the EU Commission politically accountable for the implementation of the EU budget.

The letter comes after billionaire-politician Babis recently accused the parliament of political interference.

Babis is suspected of a clash of interest as the owner of the Agrofert food, chemicals and media-holding that received EU subsidies.

Babis, who denies wrongdoing, transferred Agrofert to a trust fund in 2017 but data shows he still takes profits from the group.

MEPs adopted a resolution on 19 June calling on the commission to "thoroughly supervise the payment-allocation process in the Czech Republic, especially EU Fund payments being made to companies directly and indirectly owned by the prime minister or any other member of the government involved in budget implementation".

The resolution also stated that the parliament "deplores that the Czech prime minister continues to be actively involved in implementing the EU budget while still allegedly controlling "Agrofert'".

Babis retorted by saying MEPs "incited steps concerning specific criminal proceedings on Czech territory without specific knowledge or evidence", AFP reported.

"I think this can be perceived as proof of political and media pressure on the Czech judiciary and interference in internal affairs," Babis continued.

Sassoli on Tuesday responded by saying the resolution is part of the process of parliament exercising its budgetary control and democratic oversight, "that should be regarded by all EU actors with the utmost respect."

Sassoli also expressed "great concern for the personal attacks directed" at MEPs in the budget control committee who travelled to the Czech Republic to probe the distribution of EU subsidies.

Sassoli called the death threats received by one of the MEPs on the trip "unacceptable provocations".

Tomas Zdechovsky, a Czech centre-right MEP who detailed to reporters recently the gruesome deaths threats he and his family had been sent - after which they all received police protection.

Several other MEPs on the trip were also targeted. MEPs criticised Babis for hate speech targeting the delegation he refused to meet in February.

Babis labelled budget control committee chair Monika Hohlmeier as "deranged" and called the two Czech MEPs on the mission "informers and traitors".

Babis in the meantime is also facing police charges, over another issue involving EU subsidy fraud, linked to a farm which he had allegedly taken out of Agrofert to make it eligible for EU funds.

MEP in police protection after Czech PM calls him 'traitor'

Three MEPs received numerous death threats in the Czech Republic for asking questions about how EU funds are being spent. One of them had his entire family under police protection after people threatened to murder his four children.

MEPs call for action in Czech PM conflict-of-interest case

Last month, the commission published an audit into subsidies granted to the Agrofert business empire, founded by Czech PM Andrej Babiš, and still controlled by him, despite having put his assets into trust funds when he became PM.

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