Czech government to sue Commission over PM’s alleged conflict of interest

The opposition parties say the lawsuit is proof that the Czech government represents the interest of Agrofert, not the Czech Republic. [EPA/ MARTIN DIVISEK]

The Czech government will fill a lawsuit against the European Commission over the suspension of subsidy payments granted to Agrofert holding, an agrochemical company of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (RE) that is currently managed by trust funds. EURACTIV.cz reports.

The EU executive has decided to freeze the payments from the Rural Development Programme worth €247.000 due to Babiš’s alleged conflict of interest, which he rejects.

Deník N reported that the last-minute legal action against the Commission was proposed by Agricultural Minister Miroslav Toman (S&D) on Monday (3 February) and was approved by the entire government. The deadline to file the lawsuit expires next Monday (10 February).

The government’s decision to bring the case to the European Court of Justice is surprising, given the fact that a few days ago, the State Agricultural Intervention Fund said the Commission had changed its mind and allowed the payment of the subsidies to Agrofert holding, except for one project worth €64.000.

“This is a matter of principle. Even if the European Commission said it would pay them except for one project, we want to sue because of the general decision not to pay the subsidies. We do not agree with some technical details,” Denik N quoted the Agriculture Ministry spokesperson Vojtěch Bílý as saying.

The opposition parties say the lawsuit is proof that the Czech government represents the interest of Agrofert, not the Czech Republic.

Babiš owned Agrofert, one of the top receivers of EU funding in the Czech Republic, until February 2017 but then had to place the holding in trust funds due to a new bill called “Lex Babiš”, under which government members must not have access to subsidies and other incentives to avoid any conflict of interest.

The Czech prime minister is currently waiting for the final results of audits conducted by the EU executive. Draft reports suggest that Babiš is in a conflict of interest because of Agrofert.

Discussion between the Czech government and the Commission over the links between Agrofert and Babiš is still ongoing. Babiš denies any conflict of interest and criticises Brussels for wrongly interpreting the Czech law.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.