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Cabinet takes neutral stance on green diesel bill

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Prague, June 26 (CTK) – The outgoing Czech government took a neutral stance on a bill on “green diesel” maintaining the return of the consumer tax to farmers at its probably last regular meeting this morning, according to the Government Office press department.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) repeatedly said he would abstain from the vote because of his conflict of interest. Babis owned one of the biggest food and agriculture groups in the country, the Agrofert holding, for a long time. In early 2017 when he was finance minister, Babis had to transfer Agrofert to trust funds so that it was not stripped of the right to apply for state subsidies under a new law on conflict of interest.

The government dealt with several other bills at its meeting on Tuesday. It took a neutral stance on a ban on advertising promoting consumer loans proposed by the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL). It rejected the Civic Democrat (ODS) proposal to remove about 60 obsolete and unused laws from 1919, arguing that the ODS effort to make legislation clearer might have unplanned negative consequences, the Government Office said.

The government approved the proposal that Chief-of-Staff Ales Opata be promoted to the rank of general of the army, outgoing Defence Minister Karla Slechtova (for ANO), who made the proposal, wrote on Twitter.

The green diesel bill was submitted by about 30 lawmakers, including the ANO movement.

The Agriculture Ministry supported the bill.

The Finance Ministry, on the other hand, expressed reservations about it. It said the state may lose up to 900 million crowns due to the bill in 2019, far more than what the authors of the bill expect. The authors estimate that the bill will cost the state about 250 million crowns next year.

The bill will be an administrative burden for the state because it makes tax payment rather difficult, its critics say.

Irrespective of the government position on the bill, the lower house of parliament will discuss it now. The lawmakers may deal with it at the session that opens on Tuesday.

President Milos Zeman will appoint Babis’s second government on Tuesday. Unlike Babis’s first minority government which failed to win parliament’s support in January, the second one will include the Social Democrats (CSSD) and be backed by the Communists (KSCM).

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