Prague, Czech Republic – The Czech Pirate Party has decided to sue the European Union over Prime Minister Andrej Babis’ conflict of interest case.
In a statement (in Czech) released last week, Czech Pirates announced they were going to sue the EU Commission at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for the delay in the ongoing investigation into the Premier’s alleged conflict of interest.
Czech Pirates sue EU over delays in Babis conflict of interest investigation
Over the past few months, European authorities have conducted an audit after receiving complaints of possible conflict of interest of Andrej Babis regarding EU subsidies, amounting to roughly 2 billion CZK, granted to his Agrofert conglomerate. Although Babis has placed his ownership of Agrofert in trust funds to comply with domestic anti-conflict of interest legislation, findings from the anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International and the European Commission’s legal team suggest that the Czech Prime Minister remains the true owner and continues to benefit from the holding.
In January, Czech Pirates also commissioned a legal study, sent to the European Commission, revealing that M. Babis remains the true owner of Agrofert and therefore violates EU laws on conflict of interest. The party, chaired by Ivan Bartoš, has repeatedly urged the EU Commission to release the findings of its own audit, arguing they should have been made public this month, and claim M. Babis is getting preferential treatment.
Czech Pirates increase pressure on PM Babis
Currently polling between 10-15% of voting intentions, the Pirate Party is one of the main opposition parties and has made the fight against corruption one of its main battlegrounds. Czech Pirates have long criticized the slowness of the several investigations facing Andrej Babis, a former businessman and second richest man in the country, hoping new revelations might undermine his ANO party’s chances in the upcoming European elections.
By bringing the case in front of EU judges, Czech Pirates are clearly attempting to step up pressure on Babis, whose ANO party is still riding high in polls at more than 30% of voting intentions, well ahead of all the other opposition parties.
Anti-government protests gain momentum
It also comes at a time where the Czech PM is facing political and popular pressure on several fronts: several cabinet members were forced to resign in the past several weeks, while nation-wide anti-government protests gathering tens of thousands of people are now in their fourth week running.
On Tuesday, an estimated 50.000 people gathered in Prague’s Wenceslas Square to express support for the independence of the judiciary and call for the resignation of new Justice Minister Marie Benesova over fears she could meddle in (another) ongoing investigation facing Andrej Babis for alleged fraud of EU funds.