During his official visit to Berlin last week, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš sat down for an interview with widely popular and influential German tabloid BILD to discuss, among other things, Czech-German relations, European affairs and his stance on the controversial issue of migration ahead of this month’s EU summit in Salzburg.
Call for a stronger, more united Europe
Describing the European Union as a “wonderful project”, Andrej Babiš made the case for a stronger Europe in order to address the current challenges the bloc is facing. “We need unity in our foreign and trade policies”, the founder of the ANO movement commented, pointing to the threats posed, for instance, by the U.S. administration’s aggressive trade policy towards the EU or the rapprochement between Russia and Turkey. As he has already done several times in the past, M. Babiš repeated that it would be a disaster for the Czech Republic – probably the most Eurosceptic country in Europe – to leave the EU. The former Czech Finance Minister (2013-2017) remains, however, strongly opposed to his country joining the Eurozone.
Assuring there was “no corruption” in his government, the Slovak-born billionaire and second richest man of the country, currently under investigation for alleged misuse of EU funds, also claimed that “money for me personally has long stopped being a motivation”, as local media reported.
“We don’t want to live in Africa or the Middle East”
On the topic of the refugee crisis, Andrej Babiš told the German reporters that “we must defend our civilisation” against the “illegal migrants” arriving in Europe. Usually known for his more moderate stance on the issue – at least compared to his Visegrad allies – M. Babiš seems to have been stepping up his anti-migrant rhetoric in recent weeks, with remarks more reminiscent of comments made by politicians in Hungary or Poland.
The previous week, the Czech Premier had already met with Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and told him that the Czech Republic remained adamantly opposed to accepting any migrants on Czech soil. He was, a few days later, in Budapest to meet with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who’s launched a full-scale crusade against so-called Muslim “invaders”, and discuss the need to strengthen the EU’s external borders.
During an interview on Czech TV that same week, Andrej Babiš used the events unfolding in Chemnitz to claim that “we must fight for our values” because “we don’t want to live in Africa or the Middle East here”, thus tapping into the fear of many of his co-citizens towards Muslim refugees.
For the sake of full disclosure, our readers should know that Muslims currently account for a whooping… 0.2% of the Czech population, according to the Pew Research Centre.