Central Bohemian regional council concludes PM does not have conflict of interest

Andrej Babiš (Foto: Martin Strachoň, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Regional Council of Central Bohemia has halted an infringement procedure against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on the grounds of a complaint regarding a possible conflict of interest. The regional council has thus invalidated a decision by the Černošice Council, the municipality where the prime minister lives, which arrived at the opposite conclusion and fined the prime minister for the offense.

Andrej Babiš, photo: Martin Strachoň, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0
A complaint regarding the Czech prime minister’s possible conflict of interest was not only dealt with by the European Commission in Brussels. At the instigation of Transparency International, it also reached the small municipality of Černošice, just outside Prague where the prime minister lives, because under Czech law conflict of interest complaints must be registered with the relevant local authority.

Both the European Commission and the Černošice Council arrived at the same conclusion, namely that Prime Minister Babiš has a conflict of interest, and it is interesting to note that the Černošice Council arrived at this conclusion first, meting out a 200,000 crown fine for the offense. The prime minister promptly appealed the decision of the Černošice Council and the Czech Republic responded to the preliminary audit drafted by the European Commission with numerous arguments against the stated conclusion, contradicting all the points made.

Although the European Commission is still studying the Czech response, it seems that on home ground the matter is closed. The Regional Council of Central Bohemia has now halted an infringement procedure against the prime minister, invalidating the decision of the Černošice Council and the debt meted out. Andrej Babiš reacted to the news on Monday, saying he had expected no less:

“The whole thing was completely nonsensical from the start because if Czech lawmakers approved a strict new law tailored to my case – a law dubbed “Lex Babis” – and I met the requirements of that law fully –then logically I cannot have a conflict of interest.”

Transparency International, which filed the complaint, says it is not surprised by the outcome and has asked for the justification of the decision to be made public. David Ondračka is head of the Czech branch of Transparency International.

David Ondračka, photo: Martina Schneibergová
”The Černošice Council showed a lot of courage and faced this issue squarely, but we have serious doubts regarding the work of the Central Bohemian council. There was a change of guard at some posts due to a sudden, unexplained re-organization. So we are questioning whether this really was an independent decision.“

Opposition parties are also questioning the decision reached, on the grounds that the Central Bohemian administration is dominated by the prime minister’s ANO party. The governor of Central Bohemia Jaroslava Pokorná Jermanová said the case came to the Central Bohemian Council within standard procedure and sharply rejected any bias.

The decision of the Central Bohemian Council cannot be appealed, but the Ombudswoman is in a position to file an administrative complaint against it.