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Babis warns of limiting businessmen’s participation in gov’t

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Prague, March 1 (CTK) – Czech Deputy PM, Finance Minister and billionaire businessman Andrej Babis (ANO) warned of an attempt to limit big businessmen’s participation in the government on Tuesday.

If the bill to limit their participation in the government is pushed through by the votes of the coalition MPs, there is a question whether the current government coalition of the Social Democrats (CSSD), ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) has any further sense, Babis, the owner of the Agrofert food concern and some media, wrote to CTK.

Babis probably referred to the proposed changes to the bills on the conflict of interest and on public procurement.

The Christian Democrats support a change to the law on the conflict of interest, proposed by opposition MP Martin Plisek (TOP 09), under which ministers controlling firms, that as their owners, holding at least 40 percent of the voting right, such as Babis, must not participate in the government.

The Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of parliament is to deal with the draft in the second reading now.

Along with the KDU-CSL, the Social Democrats also indicated they would vote for it.

Their stance has stirred up Babis’s indignation.

“First, this proposal solves no problems and it only makes fools of people… Second, if this bill makes it through by the votes of the government coalition, there is a question whether it makes sense to continue in this coalition, since at the beginning neither Social nor Christian Democrats minded it [Babis being a big firm owner]. However, the most important is that the voters knew about it and they voted for me,” Babis wrote to CTK.

He said he would deal with the situation as soon as it really occurred.

Babis has often been criticised for the conflict of interest.

He says, however, the current situation is as transparent as possible since he is being monitored all the time.

Deputy PM Pavel Belobradek (KDU-CSL chairman) dismissed that the proposed change would be aimed at Babis only. “There are more people in parliament who are running business, this is not targeted on a particular person,” he told reporters.

Deputies are also to vote on the new bill on public orders this week.

Plisek again proposed a change to the draft legislation that would ban firms in which a government member owns at least 10 percent from participation in public tenders, which would also afflict Babis.

Regional Development Minister Karla Slechtova (ANO) warned of a possible complaint to be filed by the European Commission if the proposed change in the public procurement legislation were passed. Plisek’s proposal is anti-European, she added.

The CSSD will therefore be considering its support for the change.

Babis partially softened his sharp statements when entering the lower house on Tuesday.

“I do not want to leave the coalition. I am only shocked by our partners’ behaviour,” Babis told reporters.

If the regulations were approved, Babis said he would consult lawyers on it.

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