According to a non-binding resolution approved by the European Parliament in mid-June, the Czech prime minister questions the independent performance of his function, as he participates in decisions on money from the European Union budget and also controls the Agrofert holding. Babiš has long rejected this claim, arguing that Agrofert has invested in trust funds and has no influence on him.
The resolution calls on the European Commission to have zero tolerance for conflicts of interest and on the Czech authorities to create a reliable system for detecting and combating them.
On Monday, the Czech government criticized parts of the resolution for trying to interfere in the Czech Republic’s internal affairs, according to ministers. According to Babiš’s cabinet, MEPs also violate the presumption of innocence with a resolution and anticipate the results of EU audit proceedings on the topic of a possible prime minister’s conflict of interest.
Sassoli: The EP has the right to control the management of EU money
He reminded Sassoli Babiš that the EP controls the management of the EU budget on the basis of EU treaties, which also includes subsidies for member states. According to Sassoli, MEPs have the right to ask the European Commission and other EU institutions for evidence that European money is being treated in accordance with the rules.
“In this regard, I would like to take this opportunity to recall that the Treaties of the European Union give the European Parliament the power and obligation to grant or refuse discharge to the European Commission in respect of the implementation of the European Union budget. For this reason, Article 319 (1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union provides that the European Parliament shall examine the accounts, financial reports and other relevant evaluation documents of the European Court of Auditors. In this context, the Treaties stipulate that the European Parliament may request the Commission to provide evidence of the implementation of expenditure or of the operations of the financial control system in order to exercise its power to implement the budget of the European Union,
“The resolution adopted by the European Parliament can therefore be seen as part of this process and as an act based on the powers of budgetary control and democratic scrutiny, which EU actors should view with the utmost respect,” Sassoli said in a letter.
Sassoli: Conflicts of interest will continue to be considered
Although the EC audit procedure has not been closed yet, last year’s report of the auditors, which concerned subsidies from the EU structural funds, stated that Babiš has a conflict of interest. According to the report, it still has an impact on the Agrofert holding, even though in 2017 it invested it in trust funds. The prime minister denies this and called the EP resolution an attempt to put pressure on the Czech judiciary.
According to Monday’s resolution of the Czech government, MEPs violate the presumption of innocence by welcoming the resumption of Babiš’s investigation into the Stork’s Nest case in the resolution. The government also called unacceptable their call for the Czech Financial Analytical Office to take a more proactive approach in the fight against tax crime, fraud and corruption.
Sassoli did not comment in a letter on specific challenges to the Czech authorities. However, he emphasized that the Committee on Budgetary Control would continue to fulfill its responsibilities, including assessing whether possible conflicts of interest for politicians called into question the sound management of the Union budget.
“I would also like to emphasize that the Committee on Budgetary Control, together with the other European Union institutions, will continue to fulfill its responsibilities under the mandate, including assessing possible conflicts of interest threatening the proper and legal implementation of the EU budget,” the European Parliament chief wrote.
Sassoli condemned the attacks on MEPs
The head of the European Parliament also expressed “great concern about personal attacks” addressed to some MEPs in connection with the February mission of the Control Committee to the Czech Republic.
Sassoli said he intended to protect the dignity of MEPs from the attacks faced by Czech road users Tomáš Zdechovský and Mikuláš Peksa. After Babiš called them traitors, they said they began receiving hundreds of death threats. Zdechovsky stated that the police had given him protection and detained several authors of threats.
“In this regard, I would like to express my deep concern about the personal attacks on some members of this Parliament’s Committee on Budgetary Control in connection with the case. Due to unacceptable provocations, one Member of the European Parliament and his family are still under police protection. You will certainly understand that I am following these cases closely and I am ready to apply all the procedures we have at our disposal to protect the integrity of the elected members of this Parliament, “Sassoli also wrote.
Hohlmeier: The resolution was supported by 510 MEPs, against by 53
The Czech government’s approach was also criticized by the head of the committee, Monika Hohlmeierová, who had previously said that the approach of the political leadership, including Babiš, to the February mission in the Czech Republic was aggressive.
“It seems that the Czech government is continuing its efforts to intimidate and silence MEPs by distorting the facts and maliciously bringing false accusations. But it will not stop us, “said the German politician, who emphasized that the resolution was supported by 510 deputies across the political spectrum and 53 voted against.