Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has a conflict of interest due to prevailing links to his former businesses despite having placed them in trust funds, according to the results of a European Commission audit which was sent to the Czech Finance Ministry on Friday.
According to the Czech media Brussels is demanding that, on the basis of these findings, all EU subsidies granted to the Agrofert conglomerate since 2018 be returned.
The Czech Finance Ministry has confirmed receiving the English-language draft of the audit and says it is waiting to get the Czech version before responding to it, for which it has a two months deadline.
It moreover points out that the draft includes a disclaimer stating that the report is based on preliminary findings and recommendations by the Commission’s auditors and may be amended on the grounds of additional information from national bodies.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said in reaction to the news that he had not violated any Czech or European laws and rejected claims that Brussels had asked for subsidies granted to Agrofert to be returned.
Babiš said he was shocked by the reports in the Czech media, stressing that the audit was a preliminary draft which the Czech Republic would respond to.
The spokesman for Agrofert, the agro-chemical business empire that is at the center of the case, said that the conglomerate, comprising more than 200 firms, had proceeded strictly according to the law in the matter of all European and national subsidies received. He said the conglomerate had not been contacted by the European Commission over the matter of returning subsidies.
Agrofert is one of the biggest recipients of both EU and national subsidies in the country.
The heads of opposition parties in the lower house met to debate the results of the European Commission’s audit on Friday.
The Civic Democrats, TOP 09, the Pirate Party and the Mayors and Independents issued a joint statement calling for the matter to be discussed in a special session of the lower house, the immediate suspension of all further subsidies to Agrofert companies, for the Czech response to the European Commission’s audit to be drafted by government ministers who are not in the prime minister’s ANO party and for the audit to be made public.
The opposition party leaders agreed that the responsibility now lies with Deputy Prime Minister Jan Hamáček of the Social Democratic Party. Mr. Hamáček said in reaction to the news that if Agrofert had received any subsidies in violation to the law they should be returned.He also said he was in favour of the audit being made public if it were legally permissible.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has sent an official request to President Miloš Zeman asking him to dismiss Culture Minister Antonín Staněk and to appoint Social Democratic Party nominee Michal Šmarda in his place.
The prime minister sent the request on Friday morning following a meeting with Mr. Šmarda at which he agreed to support his nomination despite having reservations regarding the party’s choice of successor.
President Zeman, who earlier refused to accept Minister Staněk’s resignation is bound by law to comply with the request, but he said on Thursday that the Constitution did not set any time limit by when he was bound to do so. Constitutional experts agree that he should do so without further delay.
A procession by Roma musicians, singers and dancers from all over the world will pass through the centre of Prague on Friday as part of the annual Khamoro festival. The parade will start at the lower part of Wenceslas Square at midday on Friday and head to the Old Town Square.
The 21st edition of the week-long festival of Romany culture got underway last Sunday, offering various concerts, workshops and seminars. It will culminate on Saturday with a gala concert at the Prague club SaSaZu on Saturday.
The annual United Islands music festival gets underway in Prague on Friday. The festival traditionally takes place in Prague’s district of Karlín, offering over 100 artists from all over the world.
The 16th edition of the event has a subtitle “the British Edition” and brings the most interesting of young British music, such as the bands The Sherlocks and Husky Loops. It also offers a special programme for Entry to the event is free of charge.
Saturday should be partly cloudy to overcast with rain in the north of the country and day temperatures between 22 and 26 degrees Celsius.
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