Billionaire Czech politician leading polls rules out joining euro

Andrej Babis, the Slovak-born billionaire, and ANO party chief, attends an extraordinary parliamentary session to debate Babis' alleged abuse of media and other institutions. in Prague, 10 May. [Martin Divisek/EPA]

The Czech Republic should not adopt the euro because it would “bring nothing good,” former finance minister Andrej Babis, the front-runner in October’s general election, said in an interview today (1 June).

Babis, the favourite to become the country’s next prime minister, was quoted as saying that joining the euro currency zone would burden the country with foreign debts and strip it of the crown, an important tool in times of economic crisis.

Czech PM Sobotka to resign after dispute with billionaire finance minister

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka announced on Tuesday (2 May) he would submit his resignation – which also entails that of his cabinet – after a row with his popular billionaire finance minister, whose business activities have caused a storm.

“The eurozone was an economic project (that) became political. And I don’t want to guarantee Greek debts, Italian banks. I don’t want to be part of this system because it will bring us nothing good,” he told the CTK news agency.

The Slovak-born Babis, a billionaire former businessman, and his centrist ANO party (ALDE-affiliated) have attracted voters with a business-style approach to government. The latest opinion poll put the party at 33% support, far ahead of its main rival, the Social Democrats, at 14%.

Agrofert, the company he built before going into politics, is the country’s biggest private employer spanning the food, agriculture, chemicals and media sectors. He moved ownership of the company to a trust fund this year to comply with conflict-of-interest laws.

Babis was finance minister in the three-party centre-left government but was dismissed this month in a spat centred on allegations that he had dodged taxes and interfered at a newspaper he owns.

He has denied wrongdoing and only accepted his dismissal after being able to pick his successor.

He has called the dispute a political ploy by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, head of the Social Democrats who trail ANO by double digits in polls.

The Czech Republic joined the EU in 2004, committing to one day switching crowns for the euro.

The Slovak Republic, which was the less-developed half of the former Czechoslovakia,  successfully joined the euro in 2009.

Euro turns ten as Slovakia joins club

As the euro celebrates its tenth anniversary, Slovakia has become the sixteenth country to adopt the EU’s single currency after joining the zone on 1 January 2009. The number of EU citizens sharing the euro now stands at 323 million.

Sobotka told a Reuters summit on 25 May the next government should lead talks with unions and employers over conditions for euro adoption and also set an entry date, although that would be beyond the next parliamentary term ending in 2021.

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