Prague, March 8 (CTK) – It is Finance Minister Andrej Babis who does not defend Czech interests, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said yesterday in reaction to criticism of his absence from a part of the upcoming EU summit, adding that Babis only took part in 51 percent of the meetings of EU financial ministers.
On Tuesday, Babis (ANO) criticised Sobotka on Facebook, saying he failed to defend Czech interests.
Sobotka will not be present in Brussels on Friday because he will be defending the post of Social Democrat (CSSD) chairman at the party’s election congress.
He said this will be the first time that he is going to be absent from a part of an EU summit. Slovak PM Robert Fico will also talk on behalf of him at the informal part of the summit, Sobotka said.
“To be sitting somewhere is one thing, but to be actively fighting for something is another thing,” Babis told CTK yesterday.
He said he personally communicates with colleagues from Germany, Britain, France and other countries. Informal negotiations are the most effective, he added.
Babis said that unlike Sobotka, he is fighting for Czech interests.
“I participated in 100 percent of the meetings of the European Council. Andrej Babis was only present at 51 percent of the Ecofin meetings,” Sobotka tweeted.
It is interesting to look at this comparison that shows who defended the Czech interests and who did not, Sobotka indicated.
He told CTK that he learnt only yesterday that Babis is absent from the Ecofin meetings so often. “I was shocked by the statistics,” he said.
Sobotka said it is hypocritical of Babis to criticise the 100-percent presence of the prime minister at the European Council’s meetings, while he himself was absent from half of the Ecofin meetings.
He said the presence of Czech ministers at European summit meetings will be discussed at the next government meeting.
Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova (ANO) yesterday challenged the fact that Sobotka will be represented by Fico rather than by a Czech deputy prime minister, especially First Deputy Prime Minister Babis.
Babis should represent Sobotka, she told journalists.
Sobotka dismissed this. He said he represented Poland at a EU summit in the past. He indicated that it was common that one prime minister also talked on behalf of another one if needed.
The EU summit that starts on Thursday will focus on migration affairs, defence cooperation and pro-growth measures. It will also be deciding about whether Donald Tusk will continue to be the president of the European Council.