Tuesday

22nd Sep 2020

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

A group of MEPs who traveled to the Czech Republic earlier this year to verify the correct spending of EU funds received numerous death threats, with one having to get police protection for his entire family.

The threats followed statements by prime minister Andrej Babis, who described the two Czech MEPs in the group as national traitors.

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  • 'In the course of 14 days, I received several thousand threats through the social media or through emails or WhatsApp and other communication tools,' said Tomáš Zdechovsky, a Czech centre-right MEP (Photo: Dandieczech)

Babis is suspected of cheating the EU taxpayer out of millions in an on-going case linked to Agrofert, one of the country's largest corporations.

"In the course of 14 days, I received several thousand threats through the social media or through emails or WhatsApp and other communication tools," Tomáš Zdechovsky, a Czech centre-right MEP told reporters on Thursday (18 June.)

Among the threats were detailed descriptions of how his entire family would be murdered, including his four children.

"Some of the threats came to my children as well, they said that we will be hanged, that we will be murdered, that we will be shot," he said.

He said his children had also received pictures of people strung up in trees. All would be killed should they venture outside on the street during the lockdown of the pandemic, he said.

"And based on that my entire family received police protection," he said, noting several of the perpetrators had since been apprehended and are now facing criminal charges.

Zdechovsky was not alone. Czech Green MEP Mikuláš Peksa and Germany centre-right Monika Hohlmeier were also targeted.

Hohlmeier said they were portrayed as Nazis and received hundreds of threats on Facebook from national extremists. Some threatened to also kill her family and children.

"This is something that is new for us, I got to be honest about that," she said.

"We are just checking whether the tax-payers money is being appropriately dispersed and then to be met with such aggression and the type of letters that we have received - you know, that is something that really shocked us," she said.

The MEPs, along with Hungarian centre-left Sándor Ronai, Dutch centre-left Lara Wolters, and German Green Daniel Freund, all travelled to the Czech Republic in February.

The six had wanted to gain insights into the distribution of EU funds and to follow up on reports of possible irregularities on how EU subsidies were being spent.

Small head, too many hats

The issue comes at a critical time because Babis, as a sitting prime minister, will be also be negotiating the EU budget.

"Mr Babis' head is too small at the moment for all the different hats that he wishes to wear," said Wolters, who says he should step back from the budget talks taking place this weekend.

Babis, himself a billionaire, has been accused of overseeing an oligarchy that seeks to reap the rewards of EU subsidies while at the same time bashing the European Union.

He has denied all the allegations in a case that is likely to take years to resolve as the European Commission drags its investigation into conflicts of interests.

"The commission has just received some 350 pages from the Czech government and I think there is no clear rule on how many times there can be a back and forth between the European Commission and the Czech government," noted Freund.

In an effort to speed up the process, the European Parliament is piling on the pressure with a resolution.

Although non-binding, the document aims to send a political signal to the European Commission, the Council, and the Czech Republic.

Among other things, it demands the council, representing member states, introduce a rule-of-law mechanism under the new EU budget talks.

The idea entails stripping an EU state of EU funding should they backslide on rule of law.

The resolution also references recent reports showing Babis and his wife retain significant influence over a trust linked to Agrofert subsidiary GreenChem Solutions Ltd.

"I think we have a structural problem in the European Union that EU money can benefit kleptocratic structures in some of our member states," said Freund.

Opinion

Questions for Czech PM Babis on Agrofert

In meticulous detail it exposes the ways Andrej Babis has obscured the fact he remains the sole beneficiary of his agrochemical corporation, Agrofert and how he has been fraudulently accessing subsidies both on the European and the national level.

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