In an interview with German Der Spiegel Magazine, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said that the Czech Republic is a role model for other countries, proposed an idea for an Ellis Island for Europe, and discussed how to make the European Union strong again.
“The Czech Republic is a model for the future. Many foreigners — from France and elsewhere — come to us. They live here and feel safe,” said Babiš in the interview.
According to him, Czechia was one of the most industrialized countries in the world before the Second World War, and he wants it to be one of the “best” again. To achieve that, Babiš believes that country should be run like a family business.
The German magazine presents the Czech prime minister to the readers as a man who “spent most of his life becoming a billionaire.” According to the journalist who interviewed Babiš, their meeting was not off to a good start as Babiš printed out a list of articles published in the magazine and accused Der Spiegel of lying about him.
In the interview, the Czech Prime Minister admitted that Czechia is one of the most Euroskeptic countries in the EU.
“It will get better — in part because of me: I am pro-EU and criticize just specific aspects,” Babiš said.
The interviewer also asks whether Babiš: “Viktor Orbán and Jarosław Kaczyński, the men with the power in Hungary and Poland respectively, are demanding a return to greater sovereignty. Do you share that desire?”
Babiš responded that, “I don’t hold the same view. “
As a part of his answer, he reflects on what could help the EU, he said that it should return to the foundational European idea of the four freedoms: the free movement of goods, people, services, and capital. The EU should also stop using the West-against-the-East rhetoric and talk more about security cooperation.
“Europe should develop its own ideas for taking on more responsibility,” commented Babiš on the security situation in the EU.
Babiš still rejects migrant quotas
During the interview, he again rejected migration quotas, emphasizing that the Czech Republic accepts about 60,000 legal migrants each year.
“I want Europe to become stronger. Migration, for example, is a pan-European problem. We need a Marshall Plan for Syria. People should be able to return to their home country from the refugee camps to live and work,” he said.
Furthermore, he proposed establishing something like Ellis Island, the immigration agency off the coast of New York City that once served as a central processing station for migrants arriving in the United States.
“Why should illegal immigrants be distributed across the EU? We Czechs show plenty of solidarity: We contribute a lot of money; we have posted police on the border in North Macedonia,” stated Babiš.
Despite Babiš’s acceptance of legal migrants, Czechs overall are extremely skeptical of migration, with 86 percent of them saying they disapprove of non-EU migration to the country, the highest of all European countries. Even regarding migrants from EU countries, 52 percent say they have a negative view of this migrant group coming to the country, also the highest in the EU.
Conflict of interest claims
Der Spiegel claims that Babiš is “a controversial figure in Brussels due to his business interests”, but the Czech prime minister called it “impertinence” that the audit service of the European Commission had become involved in his alleged conflict of interest and “gave itself permission to comment on and interpret Czech law.”
“Should rich people not go into politics even though – in contrast to those who have made a career out of politics – they are incorruptible? The whole thing is an invention of the Commission in Brussels, whose internal auditing service gave itself permission to comment on and interpret Czech law. That is an impertinence. Only Czech courts may do so,” said Babiš. “I became involved in politics to fight against corruption with my movement and I have lost a lot of money as a result. And I placed control of my company in the hands of a trust fund and no longer have anything to do with it.”
In the interview, Babiš described himself as a man of extremely good morals.
“I don’t lie or steal. I don’t drink too much, and I don’t have a mistress,” he said in response to a question about how much of the moral legacy of Václav Havel remains in Czech politics.
The interview also touched on the subject of relations with China, which have been tarnished by the visit of Senate President Miloš Vystrčil in Taiwan. However, Babiš believes that nothing has changed in this regard. According to the prime minister, Vystrčil’s visit to Taiwan, which China considers its territory, “has more to do with domestic politics, with attracting voters.”
Last week, Babiš took Der Spiegel to task during the Bled Strategic Forum, where he accused both the magazine and the Guardian of producing “fake news” about the Visegrad Four countries of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland.