The government will not sue the European Commission over the subsidy to Agrofert

Milan Malíček

The government does not appear to be suing the European Commission (EC) for not paying a subsidy to the Agrofert holding company, Fatra. The government is scheduled to discuss the lawsuit at its meeting on Wednesday.

The ministers contacted by the server are against the lawsuit’s filing, and the documents on the government’s website also contain only a negative opinion ready for the meeting, according to the server. The case was planned to be filed by the previous government led by Andrej Babiš (ANO), the actual owner of Agrofert, according to the state’s Register of Beneficial Owners.

Also, according to the EC audit, Babiš continues to control Agrofert, although he has put the shares of his companies in trust funds due to the law on conflict of interest. The EC has suspended the payment of subsidies to Agrofert companies. Last year, under Babiš’s government, the state reimbursed a grant of CZK 547,000 to the plastics company Fatra.

According to the then Minister of Industry and Trade, Karel Havlíček (ANO), the state wanted to test whether Brussels would actually reimburse the money, obtain a decision on the refusal of payment and then sue the EC.

Last summer, the Commission rejected the request for reimbursement but also refused to sanction the Czech Republic because of the subsidy. Havlíček’s ministry called on Brussels to impose the fine because it wanted to obtain a decision that could be challenged before the European Court of Justice. Instead, the EC merely suspended interim payments in the Fatra case, which complicated the Babiš government’s efforts to seek a judicial review.

Then, last December, Petr Fiala’s (ODS) government, composed of parties that have long criticized Babiš’s conflict of interest, took office. A resolution has been prepared for today’s government meeting, stating that the government does not agree with filing the lawsuit over the Fatra subsidy.

“The state apparatus paid for with taxpayers’ money is not supposed to serve private businesses but the citizens of the Czech Republic. This is what we have been saying for a long time, and this is how we will approach all disputes between the Czech Republic and the European Commission,” Fiala told the server earlier about the filing of the lawsuit.

According to Regional Development Minister Ivan Bartos (Pirates), Babiš’s conflict of interest has damaged the Czech Republic’s international reputation and jeopardized the use of European subsidies.