Czech PM steps down from EU subsidy council to avoid conflict of interest

The Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has announced that he will step down from a government forum dealing with European Union subsidies in order to avert any suspicion of conflict of interest over funds for his former business group, Agrofert.

Mr Babiš made the move in reaction to MEPs last week voting for the suspension of all EU payments to the company. The Agrofert group receives EU subsidies in a combination of non-discretionary direct payments for farming and for business, environmental and other projects. Mr Babiš put the group into trusts in 2017.

However, the prime minister’s critics say he is still in control as the trusts are managed by his wife and lawyers.

“We have agreed at the government today that I will resign from the Council for Structural and Investment Funds, effective immediately,” Mr Babiš said after a government meeting on December 17.

“However, I do not agree that there is a conflict of interest,” he added.

Agrofert is the largest private employer in the Czech Republic. Companies belonging to the group received amounts ranging from 42 million euros to 82 million euros from European Structural and Investment Funds during the period 2013 – 2017.