Czech PM must stay out of EU budget talks, say MEPs

File photo. European Parliament politician of the CSU Monika Hohlmeier speaks to media during a CSU board meeting on the day after the Bavaria state elections, in Munich, Germany, 15 October 2018. [Clemens Bilan/EPA/EFE]

MEPs in charge of controlling EU spending on Thursday (7 May) said Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš should stay out of negotiations towards the bloc’s future budget until a probe into a possible conflict of interest was resolved.

The EPP group also took position that Babiš cannot negotiate the EU budget. He is leader of ANO, a force member of the liberal group Renew Europe.

Babiš, who has made his fortune as owner of the Agrofert food, chemicals and media holding, is facing police charges over an EU subsidy fraud.

The EU executive has also launched a probe into his dual role as a national leader handing out subsidies and an entrepreneur receiving them.

Babiš has denied any wrongdoing in either case, but the allegations have sparked protests in Prague and uproar in the European Parliament.

“If the European Commission confirms the alleged conflict of interest, Prime Minister Babiš will have to resolve it,” MEPs said in a statement.

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The demand follows a fact-finding mission in February, led by German MEP Monika Hohlmeier.

Babiš had refused to meet the mission, and maligned Hohlmeier as being “a bit deranged”, adding that “she doesn’t have a clue about how (EU) subsidies work”.

Hohlmeier on Thursday said that any doubts about any conflict of interest “were rather confirmed” on the trip.

“In the Czech Republic, oligarchic structures are favoured by an opaque system of dispersed control and by the lack of overview and responsibility in the event of conflicts of interest,” she said.

Babiš, whose party is aligned to the centrists in European Parliament, is a former communist who is also listed as a communist secret police agent during the 1980s.

EU member states are currently deadlocked in negotiations towards securing the 2021-27 EU budget in which farm subsidies are the biggest item.

The EU budget is negotiated between the Prime Ministers or heads of State, according to the respective countries’ constitution, and it is extremely unlikely that MEPs could “impeach” Babiš from doing so.

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