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Mr. Babiš is in a conflict of interest, the EU lawyers say

Added 12/4/2018
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The Czech Republic is under threat to return two billion Czech crowns from subsidies for the agro-food holding. According to the Prime Minister and ANO leader, it is a pseudo-problem and a campaign against him. To break all links, including those of family members, to Agrofert, stop taking European Union subsidies for the holding, or resign as Prime Minister. According to the Members of the European Parliament Tomáš Zdechovský (KDU-ČSL) and Luděk Niedermayer (TOP 09), these are the only options that Andrej Babiš, the ANO leader, has. Their opinion is based on the material of the Legal Service of the European Commission, which was pointed out at by Le Monde and The Guardian.

The Commission report says that the Czech Prime Minister is in a conflict of interest. Mr. Babiš has been refusing this, and even now claims that it is a precisely timed pseudo-problem. “It's not any light suspicion of lawyers, it is their strong opinion," said Mr. Zdechovský.

Mr. Niedermayer thinks that the Commission will not pay not only the new cohesive and agricultural subsidies for Agrofert to the Czech Republic, but under threat are also already received subsidies for those companies that have been transferred by Mr. Babiš to the trust funds in the past, when he was the Minister of Finance.

Paradoxically, the government led by Mr. Babiš himself could sue the Commission before the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. However, it is not certain whether such a step would have a suspensive effect. “The state should want the money back from companies, it shouldn’t let the tax taxpayers pay it," Mr. Niedermayer added.

According to the European Commission’s Legal Service, the fact that Mr. Babiš continues to show interest in the economic success of Agrofert, is meeting the economic interest condition as defined in Article 61 of the Regulation on the Rules of the EU Budget.

The article states that there is a conflict of interest when "the impartial and objective performance of functions is threatened for family reasons, emotional ties, or the economic interests." The lawyers also pointed out family reasons because Mr. Babiš’s wife, Monika, participates in Agrofert's activities via the trust fund.

Due to the financial correction of the European funds, the Commission's opinion is that it will be required that the Czech Republic returns at least some of the EUR 82 million (CZK 2.1 billion) that Agrofert has received this year. The subsidies that have been allocated to it since 2013 are to be examined too.

“There is no investigation. It is nonsense and I have clearly said that I am not in conflict of interest and I follow the Lex Babiš, which was set up by the opposition. I do not manage or control the trust funds," Mr. Babiš said. According to him, it is a campaign against him before the elections to the European Parliament, which is to be held next year in May.

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