Mass protests putting Babiš under pressure
Thousands of protesters took to Prague's streets on Tuesday to demand that Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš step down. After months of investigation the EU had concluded in a report that Babiš has a conflict of interest because his company Agrofert received several million euros in EU subsidies. Will he have to bow to the pressure from the streets?
The people march, the politicians stay put
Večernji list believes that despite all the protests Babiš is still firmly in the saddle:
“He currently roundly rejects any idea of resigning. What's more, Czech President Miloš Zeman also has no intention of removing Babiš from office at the moment even though an official investigation has been launched against him. And the Social Democrats, the coalition partners of Babiš's Ano party, are also unwilling to present a vote of no-confidence in Parliament because that would also endanger their own political position.”
Babiš in a tight spot
Babiš will be forced to resign, counters Lidové noviny, which belongs to Babiš's company Agrofert:
“The question is not whether the Czech Republic will have to pay back millions of euros to Brussels, or how much harm that will do to Agrofert. The problem doesn't lie in the past, but in the future. The prime minister's companies are active in a sector that can't function without subsidies. And neither can its competitors. For now we still have only a preliminary investigation report from Brussels. But if the final report also takes the same tone Babiš will either have to resign from his post as prime minister or divest himself of all his property. That's the cardinal problem that he simply can't solve.”
Is Babiš reversing the pro-EU stance?
Speaking in parliament Prime Minister Babiš described the EU report as an attack aimed at destabilising the Czech Republic. Právo fears a radical change of course vis-à-vis the European Union:
“The words the prime minister repeated several times are enough to send a shiver down one's spine: 'The entire EU investigation is an attack against the Czech Republic. Brussels, which wants to force migrants on us, is now taking it upon itself to interpret our laws.' Is the prime minister, who is suspected of a conflict of interests and illegally accepting public funds, threatening to change his political stance [towards the EU] rather than assume personal responsibility? That would be a grave cause for concern.”
A warning for Orbán and Kaczyński
The mass demonstrations in the Czech Republic and elsewhere are cause for hope, comments the Frankfurter Rundschau:
“The spirit of freedom and democracy that swept through Eastern Europe thirty years ago is still alive. The recent developments in Slovakia and Romania and the current mass protests in the Czech Republic prove this. ... Orbán and Kaczyński will be taking a close look at what's happening in their neighbourhood. They'll see that in the EU member states there are limits to what is politically doable. That's the protesters' secret: they know that in a pinch they can invoke - and rely on - 'the people in Brussels'. That's the difference between the Czech Republic and Turkey, and between Romania and Russia.”