According to Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the European Parliament resolution on his possible conflict of interest aims to influence audit procedures in the EU, with the European Parliament exerting political and media pressure on the Czech judicial system.
Members of the European Parliament approved the resolution disapproving of Babiš’s possible conflict of interest on Friday. According to MEPs, the Czech prime minister challenges the independence of his post by participating in the EU budget decision-making and, at the same time, controls the Agrofert holding, which received EU agricultural subsidies.
However, Babiš has repeatedly said that he no longer has any influence in the Agrofert company he founded. In 2017, before becoming the prime minister, he transferred the holding into a trust.
The current European Parliament resolution calls on the European Commission to have zero tolerance for conflicts of interest and on the Czech authorities to create a reliable system for detecting and combating them. Overall, 510 MEPs in the European Parliament supported the non-legally binding resolution, while 53 voted against, and 101 MEPs abstained from voting.
“I do not want to comment extensively on the resolution. As everyone knows, it is backed by Czech MEPs, who are doing everything they can to harm the image of the Czech Republic in Brussels,” Babiš said in a statement.
“There’s nothing new. It is a power struggle transferred by some Czech politicians and parties from the Czech Republic to the European Parliament,” he added.
However, he said that he was surprised by two things.
“The resolution clearly seeks to influence the outcome of audit processes within the EU. The fact that it is based on the conclusions of the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control, which was decided on the result of its mission to the Czech Republic before arriving in the country, is futile to discuss,” explained Babiš regarding one of his objections.
He further pointed out that without any specific knowledge and evidence, the European Parliament “encourages to take action in regards to a concrete criminal procedure in the Czech Republic.”
“In my opinion, this can be perceived as evidence of political and media pressure on the judicial system in the Czech Republic as well as interference in internal affairs, which should be assessed by independent and mainly non-political bodies,” concluded Babiš.
Agrofert Holding also criticized the European Parliament’s resolution, stressing that no one from the European Parliament had approached the company over the possible conflict of interest.
“Although we had prepared a standpoint in advance, no one asked for it,” the company wrote in a statement.
According to representatives of the holding, during the earlier visit of the European Parliament budget committee in the Czech Republic, no one contacted the company either.
“If the meeting took place and if we could answer the questions of the representatives of the European Parliament, we are strongly convinced that such a resolution would not be adopted,” stated the company.
“We were not included in the discussion which we consider scandalous and unprecedented in terms of the European community processes,” concluded the statement.
Title image: Czech Republic’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis arrives for an EU summit in Brussels, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. After agreeing on terms for a new Brexit deal, European Union leaders are meeting again to discuss other thorny issues including the bloc’s budget and climate change. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)