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Businessman Milek to be agriculture minister

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Prague, Nov 30 (CTK) – Jiri Milek, 54, the owner and general director of the Usovsko food processing company, will be agriculture minister in the new Czech government, ANO movement leader and the next prime minister Andrej Babis has told daily Pravo.

The paper out on Thursday quotes Babis as saying that Milek was not his first choice, but was recommended to him by the Agrarian Chamber as a man who has worked in the agricultural sector for all his life.

Agrarian Chamber spokesman Jiri Felcarek told CTK on Thursday that the priorities of future agriculture minister Milek would be negotiating a new framework of European agriculture policy, increase in production and protection of the Czech market against imports.

Jaroslav Sebek, secretary to the Czech association of private farmers, said Milek would probably be responsive to big firms because he was nominated by huge agribusiness.

Analyst Petr Havel told CTK that Milek seemed similar to Babis in many respects and he would probably get on well with him.

Milek is not a member of any political party. In 2013, he unsuccessfully ran in the general election as an unaffiliated candidate for ANO in the Olomouc Region, Pravo writes.

Babis said if he had proposed ANO deputy Karel Turecek for the ministerial post, as media originally expected, “the media would have attacked him for being a founding-father of TOP 09.”

The conservative TOP 09 party is an arch-rival and staunch critic of ANO. Turecek was elected to the lower house of parliament for TOP 09 in 2013, but was expelled from the opposition TOP 09 group of deputies due to his repeated voting with the government including ANO, and he eventually switched to ANO. He was re-elected for ANO in the latest general election on October 20-21, 2017.

Babis told Pravo that Milek was recommended to him by the Agrarian Chamber and various experts.

“He is an entrepreneur in agriculture and knows the food processing industry. He will get rid of his company in order to be able to work for the state and promote our farmers’ interests,” Babis is quoted as saying.

Babis, himself a billionaire, owned Agrofert, a giant chemical, food and media holding until February when he transferred it to a trust fund in order to comply with the new conflict of interest law in his then position of deputy PM and finance minister.

Babis, whose ANO comfortably won the October general election, is forming a one-colour minority government comprised of ANO members and independent experts.

He presented the list of ministerial candidates to President Milos Zeman on Tuesday but they said they would not release the candidates’ names for now. In the meantime, some names, including Milek’s, have leaked to the media and were confirmed by Babis.

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