Saturday

7th Dec 2019

Babis government will resign, predicts senior Czech MEP

  • While he denies any wrongdoing, Babis is reportedly the first ever prime minister to fall under an Olaf probe.

A former ally to embattled Czech prime minister Andrej Babis says his minority government will probably have to resign over an ongoing fraud scandal attached to the PM, as the country goes to the polls Friday and Saturday (12 - 13 January) to elect a new president.

"Unless something changes by next week, which I doubt, this government will not get a confidence [vote] and will resign a few days later," said Pavel Telicka, a Czech liberal MEP and European parliament vice-president.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Speaking to EUobserver, Telicka blasted Babis, a tycoon charged with fraud by the Czech police, for using his immunity to avoid court.

Telicka had entered the European parliament on the back of the ANO 2011 ticket, a party founded by Babis. But he cut ties late last year given, among other issues, the Babis conviction and Babis' support for the president.

His comments come ahead the country's presidential election on Friday, with incumbent firebrand Milos Zeman, a Babis ally, seen as the favourite in the first round of voting.

Babis's minority government appears unlikely to secure a confidence vote as political parties largely abandon him. Some oppose him because of the charges, others because of conflicts of interest entailed with overseeing a multi-billion euro business empire.

Should he fail to win the backing of his minority cabinet, Zeman is still likely to grant him a second government mandate. The confidence vote is set to take place mid-January.

Stork's Nest

The billionaire media mogul Babis stands accused of EU fraud amid a leaked report from the EU's anti-fraud office, Olaf.

On Thursday, Czech media outlet Hospodarske noviny published all 50 pages of the report, which lists incriminating details on the country's second wealthiest individual.

Olaf has refused to confirm the report's authenticity.

But the sordid affair has cast a long shadow over Babis and his ailing efforts to form a minority coalition government.

While he denies any wrongdoing, Babis is reportedly the first ever prime minister to fall under an Olaf probe.

The Czech police have charged him and his deputy Jaroslav Faltynek with fraud. Only Babis' immunity is keeping him away from the courts and a possible ten-year jail sentence.

Both men had their immunity temporarily lifted under the previous parliament last year only to have it reinstated once Babis was elected prime minister.

Babis' web of assets

At the centre of the scandal is a €1.64 million EU subsidy, meant to help small business and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as part of a cohesion project from the European Commission's department for regional and urban policy (DG Regio).

The money went to finance the construction of a centre at the Stork's Nest farm and hotel complex outside Prague.

The farm has ties to Agrofert Holding, at the time when Babis headed the conglomerate, a position he held until last year when he moved the assets into trusts. Agrofert is composed of more than 250 companies, whose sectors include anything from food to media and chemicals.

"The Stork's Nest appeared to be an SME but the shares were owned by relatives of the our former minister of finance and now our prime minister," said Milan Eibl at the Transparency International office in Prague.

Babis' children were Stork Nest anonymous shareholders up until the end of 2014 when the Czech Republic introduced a conflict of interest law that outlawed such shares.

Despite having shifted the assets into trusts, Babis still exercises ultimate control of the company.

"Formally every asset in the trust has no owner but in the end the practical control over the assets and the companies is still under Babis," said Eibl.

Last week, Lidove noviny, a media subsidiary owned by Agrofert, said it too had seen a copy of the Olaf report. Lidove said Babis's name was not mentioned.

But the Olaf report published by Hospodarske on Thursday cites his name some 50 times along with the word 'fraud' another eight times.

Anti-migrant quota EU states meet in Prague

Foreign ministers from the main opponents of migrant quotas are meeting in Prague on Monday, as refugees continue to criss-cross the EU's "leaky" borders

Opinion

Austria and Czech elections will change Visegrad dynamics

With new leaders Sebastian Kurz and Andrej Babis in the region, the 'Visegrad Group' of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland will have to adapt its policies towards the EU or lose influence.

News in Brief

  1. Greece denies access to fair asylum process, report says
  2. Report: Self-regulation of social media 'not working'
  3. Turkey: Greek expulsion of Libyan envoy 'outrageous'
  4. Merkel coalition may survive, says new SPD co-leader
  5. Von der Leyen Ethiopia visit a 'political statement'
  6. Over 5,500 scientists ask EU to protect freshwater life
  7. Iran defies EU and UN on ballistic missiles
  8. Committee of the Regions: bigger budget for Green Deal

Wilmès becomes first female PM of Belgium

On Sunday, Sophie Wilmès was appointed as the new prime minister of Belgium - becoming the first female head of government in the country's history. She replaces Charles Michel who becomes president of the European Council.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Latest News

  1. Russia makes big promises to Arctic peoples on expansion
  2. UK election plus EU summit in focus This WEEK
  3. Migrants paying to get detained in Libyan centres
  4. Searching for solidarity in EU asylum policy
  5. Will Michel lead on lobbying transparency at Council?
  6. Blood from stone: What did British PR firm do for Malta?
  7. EU Commission defends Eurobarometer methodology
  8. Timmermans warns on cost of inaction on climate

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us