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Andrej Babiš: "Don't read the fake news"

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Andrej Babiš: "Don't read the fake news"

Andrej Babiš: "Don't read the fake news"
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A populist billionaire businessman with a beautiful younger wife...

No wonder Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has been compared to US President Donald Trump.

Elected last October, he is said to be the Czech Republic's second richest man, with a fortune estimated by Forbes to be worth $4.1bn (3.5bn euros).

Babiš, who leads a minority government, has pledged to sweep out corruption and the old political elite and stands with other Central European EU leaders in the Visegrad Four (V4) group.

Euronews journalist Gábor Tanács caught up with PM Babiš at the GLOBSEC Conference in Bratislava.

Gábor Tanács, Euronews:

"Foreign media has labelled you the Czech Donald Trump. Do you like this comparison or does it bother you?"

Andrej Babiš, PM of the Czech Republic:

"Don't read the fake news. There are a lot of lies which are published by some special journalists in the Czech Republic. I don't like it, because we have (only) one thing in common: that we married a Czech wife. To speak about the second wealthiest Czech...I think that all these numbers are not really appropriate. But believe me, with my start in politics, the Czech state is going very well and my company is going down."

Gábor Tanács:

"So you have been trying to form a government for a while now. Do you think this will end soon? Will you be able to govern, or will there be new elections?"

Andrej Babiš:

"No, we are governing. We are working very hard. The government is really taking positions to individual proposals of law and we decide and we try to restructure. Of course, it is the best form of government because we are a minority government so all ministers are nominated by me. I am working 18 hours a day. I am working on Sundays. I am working much more than for my company but the problem is, of course, the state is not the company."

"I am not critical. I am very pro-Europe"

Gábor Tanács:

"You are fairly critical of the EU, as of now. What is your main problem? If you have to cite one thing, the main problem, what is it?"

Andrej Babiš:

"I am not critical. I am very pro-Europe. So we have first to reach four freedoms, it's the base. Free movement of people and goods and services and capital. And, of course, we are fighting for the bigger word of the member states if you compare it with the Commission's."

Gábor Tanács:

"Okay, but you have been criticising the EU for being slow and inefficient. Don't you think that this inefficiency is partly due to the fact that they have to agree on everything with every member state?"

Andrej Babiš:

"Yeah, maybe yes. This is the reality but there are some issues where we should move quicker and it was, of course, the case with migration. It was a mistake of the Commission to come with this quota system which they proposed in 2014 and today we are in 2018 and we did not solve the problem of illegal migration."

Gábor Tanács:

"Okay, so let's talk about the quotas. You are rejecting any kind of quotas. Can you make any concessions? Because the Western member states, some of the Western member states, are saying that they can push through with a majority vote, if there is no compromise."

Andrej Babiš:

"They made it already once, and if they will do it again, then it will really have a very negative influence on all countries which are against (it). And here all V4 countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland), we are refusing the quotas."

Gábor Tanács:

"But wouldn't it be better to have a compromise than to have this majority vote?"

Andrej Babiš:

"We are ready to be solidair (show solidarity). We help with money. We can send soldiers, no problem. But we have to solve the problem of migration outside of the European continent... hotspot(s) outside... and we have to be, maybe, more active and maybe we lost the time to be active in the case of Syria."

Gábor Tanács:

"What do you think about the V4? Can they be decisive? Can they form an efficient alliance? Can they be a factor in the EU?"

Andrej Babiš:

"Yes, we are very efficient and we represent 65 million European citizens and we have a common view on migration, on the MFF (Multiannual Financial Framework) - it means the next budget - and cohesion and agriculture and other issues."

Gábor Tanács:

"So the new budget, EU budget... Where could cuts be made? Because of Brexit, cuts are needed, but you refuse cuts to the agricultural budget."

Andrej Babiš:

"We don't refuse cuts. We said that what is important for us is cohesion and, of course, agriculture is important for France but other countries, even for eastern Germany... We are ready even to discuss about the increase of the budget but we insist to have more influence on programmes, on money which we will receive. Because, I mean, the difference between the money that we are paying and receiving for the next MFF will be not so big."

Gábor Tanács:

"Let's talk about corruption. So, you promised to crack down on corruption in the Czech Republic. Can you mention a few concrete steps you could take?"

Andrej Babiš:

"Of course, I could mention. There was not any corruption scandal since I came to politics, in the government. Nowhere. We were very transparent so we publish all contracts. There is some organisation, reconstruction of the state, so we helped them to push through the parliament to adopt all these anti-corruption laws."

Gábor Tanács:

"I have to mention this, that you are under prosecution for the misuse of EU funds."

Andrej Babiš:

"It's a lie and it's very, very funny that after 10 years somebody is coming now and using these lies."

Gábor Tanács:

"So you say that it was your internal political enemies that launched this sort of prosecution."

Andrej Babiš:

"Of course."

Gábor Tanács:

"But OLAF (The European Anti-Fraud Office) launched the prosecution, than the Czech..."

Andrej Babiš:

"OLAF didnt find anything. This subsidy was controlled nine times by the bodies in the Czech Republic. They never found anything. It was according to the rules."

"The Czech police came just before the elections, to influence the elections"

Gábor Tanács:

"But the Czech police is also prosecuting."

Andrej Babiš:

"Yes, the Czech police came just before the elections, to influence the elections. There is no evidence of this lie. No evidence. Nobody didn't steal anything, no corruption, and... you should visit the farm. You will see. It is the best proportion of European Funds and private money."

Gábor Tanács:

"Do you have a vision of the EU as it should be, in your head?"

Andrej Babiš:

"We have to reach these four freedoms which I mentioned. There should be a big word of all member states. And we have to make our best to include, in the future, when these countries fulfill all, let's say, conditions, to take all of them in the European Union. And then the whole European continent should be one euro, one Schengen Zone, defending Europe, the safety of Europe on the borders, with the sea. Very simple."