MEPs from the European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control will travel to the Czech Republic next week to check on the spot the allocation of EU budget funds. This is stated in a message from the parliamentary committee, quoted by BTA.
It is specified that the check will also cover data on suspected misuse of EU funds by Czech Prime Minister Andrei Babis.
Earlier this month, the European Parliament discussed suspicions against Babis in the light of a renewed investigation into it by the Czech authorities after a check by the European Anti-Fraud Office with the EU budget (OLAF).
The Czech prime minister was checked for a conflict of interest because a company he owned until his appointment as head of the government receives European funding.
MEPs object to this, stating that, as Prime Minister Babis, he personally votes in the European Council on the distribution of the European budget.
A series of protests were held against Babish.
Brussels debates zero tolerance for misuse of EU funds
The European Commission has zero-tolerance for misuse of European funds and always monitors information on conflicts of interest in the Member States. This was stated by Virginius Sinkjavičus, EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries, during a debate in the European Parliament over investigations into Czech Prime Minister Andrei Babiš about conflicts of interest.
Babish has been accused of misusing EU programs, claiming he used his power to increase his personal wealth. The European Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control has requested that a fact-finding mission be organized in the Czech Republic between 26 and 28 February to investigate suspected irregularities. The European Parliament will vote on a resolution to end the debate in a forthcoming session.
Sinkyavichus explained that the EC has taken action against the conflict of interest in the Czech Republic and, after a check by the European Anti-Fraud Office with the EU budget, the Czech authorities have resumed the investigation into Babis. The audits of the European Social Fund and the European Regional Development Fund are at such stages that no final conclusions are reached on them, but the content of reports to them should remain confidential until the procedure is completed. The Czech Republic’s preliminary conclusions are presented for the rural program in order to avoid a conflict of interest in the future. Bilateral meetings with the Czech authorities take place.
Procedures for imposing financial corrections can take up to 24 months and the European Commission guarantees that the process is open and rigorous, Sincjavicus stressed, noting that he could not comment on the results of the audits, but assured that they were ongoing and that the European budget was fully protected that funds that may be subject to conflict of interest are not paid.
Refunds may be requested
Refunds may be requested which may be involved in a conflict of interest with regard to the rural program. The Stork Nest project has called for full subsidy reimbursement.
The Group of the European People’s Party said that investigations related to Babis were not conducted according to the rules. In the Czech Republic, when an error in EU money absorption is made, a financial correction is immediately required and a refund is requested when an infringement of Czech law is being investigated, but this does not happen this time, the EPP MEP said. The Prime Minister was involved in the development of regulations as Minister of Finance, and they proved inapplicable. We want the Council of the EU to make it clear when the Prime Minister will be jointly responsible for budgetary matters and whether this is possible at all, the MEP added.
The Socialists and Democrats group recalled that more than 200,000 Czechs took to the streets in November to protest against Babis in Prague, and he said the EC’s demonstration and investigation were part of an undemocratic plot against him. I absolutely disagree with this conspiracy theory, pointed out the MEPs of the Social Democrats, who believe that a new rule of law mechanism is needed to have truly independent bodies.
Renew Europe commented that a debate must have a sound basis
Renew Europe (part of which is Babish’s party) commented that a debate must have a sound basis and that condition has not been fulfilled today. The Czech political debate is transposed at the European level. The judiciary works properly, without prejudice. The debate is purely political and is the fruit of the efforts of some of our Czech colleagues. The fact that the EP is involved in a Czech political debate is scandalous and casts a shadow over its credibility, the MEP of Renew Europe added.
According to the Greens, one of the richest people in the Czech Republic, Babiš, determines the policy in the Czech Republic and decides on the agricultural policy he has enriched, which is a conflict of interest. Following politics, Babisch became involved in the media and industry and exercised influence from Hungary to Germany. He is one of the oligarchs who have enriched themselves with EU funds, we do not know to what extent he and other oligarchs have enriched themselves with European funds. We need more transparency and a new system to prevent diversion of European funds, according to a MEP from the group.
Political pressure to untangle companies
There must be political pressure to untangle companies. Democratization and the end of communism have led to the redistribution of land in many countries. It is often the case that privatization has benefited not the farmers but the political elite. This historical injustice is compounded by the fact that most funds fall into the hands of very few people, rather than those in need, said the Greens.