Prague - Czech businessman and ANO chairman Andrej Babis´s position as Finance Minister means a serious conflict of interests that may hamper cooperation between the EU and the Czech Republic, Ingeborg Graessle, member of the EP control budgetary committee, said in Prague today.
Graessle (European People´s Party) and her colleagues arrived in Prague to check mistakes in the Czech control and audits linked to drawing EU money.
Babis, one of the richest Czechs whose new ANO movement entered parliament for the first time in last autumn´s elections, is a member of the centre-left cabinet of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) appointed on January 29.
Graessle said Babis as minister should give up the companies he owns.
The EP committee head Jens Geier, nevertheless, emphasised that this is Graessle´s private opinion, not an official conclusion drawn by the committee.
"We" watch the conflict of interests in the Czech government with concern, Graessle said at a press conference.
She said there was a similar conflict of interests in the case of a former Czech transport minister, whose companies profited from European projects.
Graessle later told CTK that Babis´s companies have received 2.6 million euros from the European funds. At the same time, however, Babis, in his capacity as finance minister, is the Czech guarantor of the money being allotted in accordance with rules.
How can a person with so massive personal financial interests simultaneously be the guarantor? Graessle asked.
She said the conflict of interests makes the Czech control systems untrustworthy. She wants Prague to explain the issue to her, she added.
According to Graessle, it would be the best if Babis sold or passed his business empire to another person.
In any case, he must clearly prove that he has nothing to do with it any more, Graessle said.
She said she will focus on the issue.
Geier told CTK that his is Graessle´s private opinion. He said the Czech Finance Ministry has explained to the MEPs that Babis does not act at variance with Czech rules.
The EP committee is not authorised to advise Prague on what steps to take in this respect, Geier said.