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MEPs demand block on funds to companies linked to Czech PM

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MEPs demand block on funds to companies linked to Czech PM
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REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw
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The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution demanding information on a possible conflict of interest involving the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.

MEPs said Babiš was the beneficial owner of Agrofert — the controlling company of the Agrofert Group conglomerate — companies belonging to which received millions of euros from the European Structural and Investment funds.

While he was serving as chairman for the Council for the European Structural and Investment funds, he received an income of €3.5 million during the first half of 2018, according to the declaration of income of Czech public officials.

The companies received amounts ranging from €42 million to €82 million from the European Structural and Investment funds in 2013-2017, MEPs said.

They asked the EU Commission to publish all documents related to the case and explain what steps it intends to take to remedy the situation, including to recover funds paid out irregularly.

Moreover, they recommended stopping payments to companies linked to Babiš, conducting a thorough investigation into the allegations and establishing a mechanism to deal with conflicts of interest going forward.

The resolution was adopted with 434 votes to 64, with 47 abstentions.

Rules governing the management of the EU budget prohibit conflicts of interest.

MEPs said in a press release that they: "Regret that the Commission has long remained passive, despite serious indications since 2014 that Mr Babiš was entangled in a conflict of interest."

In September 2018, Transparency International Czech Republic lodged a formal complaint with the Commission, claiming that Babiš had persistently violated EU and Czech law on conflicts of interest.