EU leaders face court action over Andrej Babiš conflict of interest concerns

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A Czech lawmaker has filed a complaint against the European Council for allowing Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to take part in the bloc’s budget negotiations | Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Complaint argues Czech PM shouldn’t take part in EU budget talks because a conglomerate he founded has received EU funds.

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An EU court confirmed a Czech lawmaker has filed a complaint against the European Council for allowing Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to take part in the bloc’s budget negotiations despite concerns his participation presents a potential conflict of interest.

The senator, Lukáš Wagenknecht from the opposition Pirate Party, argues that Babiš should not be involved in the discussions because an agricultural conglomerate founded by the Czech leader has received EU funds and Babiš has benefited from this.

Babiš is no longer the formal owner of the conglomerate, Agrofert, but watchdog groups including Transparency International have argued he is still “the founder and 100% end-user of benefits” of the two trusts overseeing the firm. The prime minister, meanwhile, has maintained that he has given up his business interests and denies any wrongdoing.

Wagenknecht wants the EU’s General Court to assess whether Babiš presents a conflict of interest and tell the European Council how it should proceed, according to the Czech weekly Respekt. He has requested a response from the court by the December European Council summit.

The EU’s anti-fraud agency, OLAF, has previously investigated allegations that a farm and hotel complex linked to Agrofert misused EU funds, and turned the case over to Czech officials.

National authorities dropped the case in September, concluding that the complex, known as Stork’s Nest, correctly qualified as a small and medium-sized business for the purposes of receiving an EU subsidy.

Two preliminary audit reports overseen by the European Commission, details of which were leaked to the Czech daily Hospodářské Noviny, reportedly found that Babiš’ ties to Agrofert represented a conflict of interest.

Lili Bayer contributed reporting.

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