Thursday, 22 February 2018

EU ombudsman critical of Czech commissioner's Čapí hnízdo comment

ČTK |
8 February 2018

Brussels, Feb 7 (CTK) - EU commissioner Vera Jourova commented on the Capi hnizdo case involving her former party boss Andrej Babis (ANO) in 2016 in a way not corresponding to her commitments as an EC member, EU Ombudsman Emily O'Reilly said on Wednesday, referring to her check of a Czech citizen's complaint.

O'Reilly presented the results of her enquiry into a Czech citizen's complaint about Jourova's words for Czech Radio (CRo) and the subsequent conduct of the EC.

The Czech complainant asserted that some of Jourova's statements in an interview with CRo on March 24, 2016 were at variance with EU agreements and ethical codes that are binding on EC members.

He said it ensued from the interview, that Jourova, former high-ranking official in the ANO movement of Babis, the current Czech prime minister, promoted the view that the Farma Capi hnizdo company, owned by Babis in the past, was eligible for an EU subsidy.

Farma Capi hnizdo (Stork Nest, formerly ZZN AGRO Pelhrimov), was a part of Babis's giant Agrofert Holding in late 2007 and early 2008, before changing the owner and drawing a 50-million-crown EU subsidy designated for small and medium-size firms, which it could never achieve as a part of Agrofert. After some time, the firm returned to Agrofert again.

Czech law enforcement bodies investigate the case as a suspected subsidy fraud. An enquiry into the case was also made by the EU anti-fraud office OLAF.

Jourova was commenting on the case on CRo when the Czech police as well as OLAF's investigations were underway, the complainant said.

He said he subsequently addressed the head of Jourova's office but was dissatisfied with her saying that Jourova had only spoken on CRo about the EU's subsidy granting system in general.

After his further communication with EC representatives, who dismissed the suspicion that Jourova's words might have influenced the OLAF investigation, the complainant turned to O'Reilly, the EU ombudsman.

O'Reilly on Wednesday emphasised that EC members must behave in a way not to cast any doubts on the EU, the EC or the dignity of their own office.

An EU commissioner must refrain from any behaviour that might indicate their lack of independence, O'Reilly wrote.

She wrote it would have been wise of Jourova if she had refrained from answering questions related to the Capi hnizdo case, in view of the case's sensitive character, its link to the financial interests of the EU, the ongoing OLAF enquiry and the fact that the case involves Babis, Jourova's former party boss.

Jourova's CRo interview shows that she clearly sided with and defended the chairman of her political party. For example, she said Farma Capi hnizdo is a "small firm", not a part of a giant company belonging to her party chief, O'Reilly wrote, calling Jourova's statements unwise and inadmissible in her position as a commissioner.

The EC made a mistake in refusing to recognise this, O'Reilly added.

Copyright 2015 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved.
Copying, dissemination or other publication of this article or parts thereof without the prior written consent of ČTK is expressly forbidden. The Prague Daily Monitor is not responsible for its content.