Posts Tagged ‘Andrej Babis’

Huawei Warnings May Bring Chinese Retaliation, Czech Leader Says

January 11, 2019
Pro-Chinese Czech President says report puts economy at risk
Western governments debate whether company is security threat
Photographer: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images

China is preparing a reprisal against the Czech Republic after authorities there issued warnings about Huawei Technologies Co. and risks it poses to the country’s security, President Milos Zeman said.

Czech President Milos Zeman arrives for a summit in Brussels on 25 May, 2017
President Milos Zeman

Zeman, who has named Chinese government-linked officials as advisers and tried to promote his country as a potential investment gateway to Europe for Beijing, was responding to a report from the National Cyber and Information Security Agency issued last month. The report, which advised against using Huawei and ZTE Corp. software and hardware, would undermine the Czech economy, he said.

Signage is displayed atop a ZTE Corp. building in Beijing.

Photographer: Gilles Sabrie/Bloomberg

“Some members” of the Czech government have information that China will take “retaliatory steps,” Zeman said late Thursday in an interview on Barrandov TV. He cited investments by Volkswagen AG’s Czech unit, Skoda Auto AS, in China and an agreement with PPF AS with Huawei about building a 5G wireless network as potential targets for reprisals.

Read more: Germany Prioritizes 5G Network Security as It Mulls Huawei Risks

Western governments are worried that Huawei’s systems could be used by Chinese intelligence to gather data. On Friday, Poland arrested a Huawei employee and a former Polish security agent and accused them of spying for China.

Germany is also weighing whether to restrict the role of Huawei in building the country’s future telecom infrastructure. Australia and New Zealand have banned Huawei equipment from participating in planned 5G networks, and the head of British MI6 said last month the government needs to decide whether to ban the company.

Zeman, whose position is largely ceremonial, said the Czech report contained no proof that would justify the warnings and that it had resulted in a “serious” threat for economic interests in China.

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Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis Meets Angela Merkel In Berlin

At the same time, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said his government has no information that China is preparing sanctions against Prague because of the report, the CTK news service reported. The premier noted that the cyber security office should explain how it arrived at its conclusions.


Czech Republic to say “no” U.N. migration pact: report

November 14, 2018

The Czech Republic will not join a United Nations pact that aims to regulate the treatment of migrants worldwide, the CTK news agency said on Wednesday, quoting Czech Prime Minster Andrej Babis.

Migration (picture-alliance/Zuma Press/London News Pictures/P. Hackett)

The Czech government had signaled its opposition to the pact earlier this month. It joins the growing ranks of European Union nations opposed to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

Austria’s Sebastian Kurz tells Theresa May to avoid ‘hard Brexit’ — ‘No sign they are willing to budge’ — EU now talking excises duty collection to a non-member

July 28, 2018

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Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz has told Theresa May it is “important to avoid a hard Brexit”, after talks with the UK prime minister.

Mrs May is in Salzburg as part of a mission by UK ministers to sell their post-Brexit trade proposals.

Mr Kurz said he viewed Brexit “negatively” but felt negotiations were going “quite well”.

BBC News

Mrs May then held talks with Czech PM Andrej Babis before heading off on her summer holidays.

Speaking at a brief joint press conference, Mr Kurz, who has just assumed the EU presidency for six months, said: “The Brexit decision is a decision we see very negatively.

“But, of course, it has been taken by the British people so now we have to find a way to deal with it, and from our point of view it is important to avoid a hard Brexit.”

He said he hoped the UK’s talks with EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier would be successful and a “solution” could be found by October.

The BBC understands that Mr Kurz has indicated he supports the idea of EU leaders holding formal Brexit talks at a summit in Salzburg in September.

Mrs May hailed the strength of the UK’s relationship with Austria, adding: “We are delivering on a vote of the British people, they chose to leave the EU and we will deliver that.”

Later, Mrs May pitched her idea for a post-Brexit free trade area to her Czech counterpart Andrej Babis.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “She highlighted that a UK-EU free trade area would maintain frictionless trade that would enable businesses across Europe to maintain their vital integrated supply chains.

“They agreed it was important to find a solution and that negotiations should continue at pace.”

Michel Barnier and Dominic Raab
Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier met for talks on Thursday. Getty Images

Both the EU and UK say a deal can be done by October – five months before the UK is due to leave the European Union – but have also said preparations are being made in case negotiations end in no deal.

Mr Barnier has already rejected a key element of her proposal for post-Brexit trade with the EU.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has accused the EU of pushing the UK towards a “no deal” scenario because they “keep saying no to everything”.

Mr Fox, who is on a trade mission to San Francisco, told Business Insider the UK should leave without a deal if talks break down, rather than requesting an extension of the Article 50 process to continue negotiations, as some have suggested.

“To attempt to extend our membership even longer, many voters would regard as a complete betrayal by the political class, and I think they would be right,” he added.

Mrs May’s trip to Austria is one of several being made to Europe by British government ministers over the summer to promote her plan, detailed in the Brexit White Paper, to European leaders.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt met his German counterpart in Berlin on Monday and the UK chancellor, home secretary, business secretary and the minister for the Cabinet Office are also meeting counterparts across Europe over the summer.

Following talks in Austria, Mrs May will head to Italy with her husband, Philip, for a week before returning to the UK to work.

She is also due to attend a World War One memorial event marking the centenary of the battle of Amiens, which began on 8 August 1918, before heading off for two weeks’ holiday in Switzerland.

‘No sign they are willing to budge’

The Magic Flute
Dress rehearsals for The Magic Flute in Salzburg. Reuters photo

Analysis by BBC Diplomatic Correspondent James Robbins

Salzburg in high summer is packed with tourists and music lovers enjoying the annual festival.

Theresa May went to the opera on Friday night, but only after her talks with Mr Kurz and Mr Babis.

The prime minister is hoping to persuade them to urge others in the EU27 to relax their common position – particularly by accepting her proposals for continuing free movement of products after Brexit.

But there’s no sign either Austria or the Czech Republic is willing to budge. Eurosceptic feeling may be strong among their populations, but neither leader is contemplating following Britain out of the Union.

Instead, both governments believe Mrs May is still cherry-picking and that Britain must blink first to avoid what they call a catastrophic crash-out they are convinced would hurt the UK far more than the EU.

Mozart’s The Magic Flute, in the city of his birth, should have been something of a relief for Mrs May.

The UK’s Brexit White Paper, drawn up after agreement with the cabinet at Chequers, proposes close ties in some areas, such as the trade in goods, but Mrs May says it will end free movement of people and the jurisdiction of the European Court, and allow the UK to strike trade deals with other nations.

It would involve the UK collecting some EU tariffs – in a bid to ensure frictionless trade in goods and to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland – under its proposed Facilitated Customs Arrangement for goods and agri-foods.

The plan sparked two UK cabinet resignations – former Brexit Secretary David Davis and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

Hard Brexit. Soft Brexit. No Deal. What does Brexit mean?

Mr Barnier said on Thursday that the EU “will not delegate the application of its customs policy and rules and VAT and excises duty collection to a non-member who would not be subject to the EU’s governance structures”.

Any customs arrangement or union “must respect this principle”, he said.

Italy: ‘We are no longer REFUGEE CAMP of the world’

July 17, 2018

ITALY has warned it will no longer act as the “refugee camp of the world” in a stinging migrant crisis attack on the EU.

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As the EU’s new migrant redistribution policy comes into effect, Italy’s new hardline interior minister hailed a victory.

This week 500 Libyan migrants have arrived in Europe. They will be taken in by Germany, France and Malta.

Interior Minister and La Lega head Matteo Salvini today hailed the scheme as a success and said the burden on the country was being eased thanks to the new proposals.

He said: “Italy is no longer the refugee camp of the world. There is now a government that protects the interests of the citizens, and now everyone in the EU has realised that we cannot be the only ones to accept migrants.

“But the objective is to stop departures, not the division at European level.”

He said Rome would be steadfast in its refusal of migrants and the country would only stick to agreed quotas.

Mr Salvini said: “Firmness and coherence produce results, the time of fearful governments has ended. We have saved women and children.

“An excellent team work of the whole government, thanks to our premier Conte.”

Matteo Salvini, Minister of Interior during his speech at the Lega Nord Meeting on July 1, 2018 in Pontida, Bergamo, ItalyGETTY

Matteo Salvini has hailed the new shared migrant plan and said Italy is “no longer a refugee camp”

“The next goal, to stop once and for all the mafia of human trafficking, will be to bring back the immigrants to their places of origin.

“In Italy, and in Europe, only those who have permission are allowed.”

Referring to the two Open Arms ships that are returning to Libya, he said: “Save time, effort and money. Be aware that Italian ports are not available”.

Mr Salvini’s statement follows a deal being struck over the weekend, which saw Italy agreeing to take 50 of 450 migrants in to the country if the rest of the bloc followed suit.

Guiseppe Conte, the Prime Minister of Italy and a relative political newcomer in Italian politics, thanked countries such as France and Germany for agreeing to share the responsibility on Sunday.

Mr Conte said on Twitter: “This is the solidarity and responsibility that we have always asked of Europe and that now, after the results obtained at the last European Council, are beginning to become a reality.”

But he condemned Austria for remaining silent on the issue, while Visegrad nations such as Hungary and Czech Republic, refused to open their borders.

On Sunday, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis refused to take part in the shared responsibility initiative, saying the new proposals were “a road to hell”.

Czech Prime Minister and billionaire businessman Andrej Babis took issue with the plan and wrote on Twitter: “I received the letter from the Italian PM Conte asking the EU to take care of part of the 450 people now at sea and such an approach is the road to hell”.

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Italy’s request to take migrants is “road to hell”: Czech PM

July 15, 2018

Billionaire Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said Sunday he saw Italy’s request that EU peers take some of 450 migrants stranded at sea on two Frontex vessels as “a road to hell.”

While France and Malta have already agreed to take 50 each, the Czech government chief held on to his anti-migrant stance which he shares with other leaders in the region including Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

© POOL/AFP/File | Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis’s minority government won a confidence vote this week

“Just like the other EU prime ministers, I got a copy of a letter from Italian Prime Minister (Giuseppe) Conte… in which he asks the EU to take care of some of 450 people now stranded at sea,” Babis tweeted.

“Such an approach is a road to hell,” added the 63-year-old Slovak-born populist, whose minority coalition government won a confidence vote Thursday thanks to backing from the Communist Party.

This approach “only motivates smugglers and increases their income. Our country won’t take any migrants,” Babis added, calling for “a principle of voluntariness.”

“We have to help migrants in the countries from which they come, beyond Europe’s borders, to stop them from setting out on their journey,” said Babis.

Migration is a hot political issue in the Czech Republic, an EU and NATO member of 10.6 million people, where just a handful of refugees have settled since the migrant crisis of 2015.

In an April poll by the Czech Academy of Sciences, 58 percent of Czechs said the country should accept no migrants from war-ravaged regions.

Some 35 percent of its 1,115 respondents said it should accept them temporarily and only three percent were willing to let them stay in the country.


Czech PM designate: EU should not push us over migrants — EU might embolden extremist elements

December 9, 2017


PRAGUE (Reuters) – The designated Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said that the European Union should not push Czechs over their refusal to shelter asylum-seekers, because it could strengthen extremist parties in the country.

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Czech newly appointed Prime Minister Andrej Babis attends a news conference at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic December 6, 2017. REUTERS/David W Cerny

The European Union’s executive will sue Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic in the bloc’s top court for their refusal to host asylum-seekers, Brussels said on Thursday.

Babis, whose government is due to be appointed by President Milos Zeman on Dec. 13, repeated his country’s stance on migrants.

“The (European) Commission can withdraw the charge at any moment. We have to negotiate on this and to offer different models, like guarding the borders or help to other countries. But we don’t want any refugees,” Babis said in an interview published on Saturday by the Pravo daily paper.

He will represent his country at the EU summit on Dec. 14 and Dec. 15, where European leaders will discuss migration.

The Czechs have declined to shelter asylum-seekers despite an overall drop in arrivals due to tighter borders and projects beyond the EU’s frontiers to discourage migration to Europe.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) cases could lead to financial penalties but may take months, or years, to conclude.

Babis said that by pushing on with the case, the EU might embolden extremist elements.

“The EU has to understand, that if it won’t listen to our proposals, then the influence of extremist parties like (Germany‘s) AfD or (Czech) SPD will grow, whose strategy actually is to destroy the EU,” he said.

Despite his ANO party winning the parliamentary election by a landslide in October, it is unclear whether Babis will be able to win a confidence vote for his government by mid-January as required by the constitution. He also faces the threat of prosecution in connection with his business interests.

The far-right, anti-EU and anti-NATO SPD party and the Communists have lent ANO support in several initial votes in parliament in return for committee posts for their members, raising the prospect that they may have some kind of agreement to back ANO.

But Babis reiterated in the Pravo interview that there was no deal in place and he would talk to all parties to either back the cabinet or abstain from the vote to help ANO win.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle

Populist billionaire Babis wins landslide in Czech Republic’s general election

October 22, 2017



© Michal Cizek, AFP | Czech billionaire Andrej Babis (L), chairman of the ANO movement (YES) and his wife Monika smile at ANO headquarter after Czech elections on October 21, 2017 in Prague.

Text by FRANCE 24 

Latest update : 2017-10-22

The centrist ANO movement led by populist Andrej Babis won the Czech Republic’s parliamentary election Saturday. The vote shifted the country to the right and paved the way for the euroskeptic billionaire to become its next prime minister.

With all votes counted, the Czech Statistics Office said ANO won in a landslide, capturing 29.6 percent of the vote, or 78 of the 200 seats in the lower house of Parliament.

“It’s a huge success,” the 63-year-old Babis told supporters and journalists at his headquarters in Prague.

Babis is the country‘s second-richest man, with a media empire including two major newspapers and a popular radio station.

Although he was a finance minister in the outgoing government until May, many Czechs see him as a maverick outsider with the business acumen to shake up the system. With slogans claiming he can easily fix the country’s problems, he is, for some, the Czech answer to U.S. President Donald Trump.

Since the leader of the strongest party usually gets to form a new government, Babis could be the country’s next leader despite being linked to several scandals, including being charged by police with fraud linked to European Union subsidies.

The charges will likely make it difficult for Babis to find the coalition partners he needs to build a parliamentary majority. He didn’t immediately say which parties he preferred but has invited all parties that won seats in parliament for talks.

In a blow to the country’s political elite, four of the top five vote-getting parties Saturday had challenged the traditional political mainstream. Some have exploited fears of immigration and Islam and have been attacking the country’s memberships in the EU and NATO.

The opposition conservative Civic Democrats came in a distant second Saturday with 11.3 percent of the vote, or 25 seats. They were the strongest mainstream party. The Social Democrats, the senior party in the outgoing government, captured only 7.3 percent   15 seats   while the Christian Democrats, part of the ruling coalition, won only 5.8 percent support or 10 seats.

“It’s a voting hurricane,” analyst Michal Klima told the Czech television, referring to the poor results for the mainstream parties.

The Pirate Party won seats for the first time, coming in third with 10.8 percent of the vote, while the most radical anti-migrant, anti-Muslim, anti-EU party, the Freedom and Direct Democracy, was in fourth place with 10.6 percent support. The two parties won 22 seats each.

Babis’ centrist movement stormed Czech politics four years ago, finishing a surprising second with an anti-corruption message. Babis has also been critical of the EU and opposes setting a date for when his country would adopt the shared euro currency.

Like most Czech parties, ANO also rejects accepting refugees under the EU’s quota system.

But Babis played down his euroskeptic views after his victory.

“We’re oriented on Europe,” he said. “We’re not a threat for democracy. I’m ready to fight for our interests in Brussels. We’re a firm part of the European Union. We’re a firm part of NATO.”

Still, some experts saw a strong shift to the right for the Czech Republic if Babis works out a coalition government with Tomio Okamura, head of the Freedom and Direct Democracy party, who wants to ban Islam and organize a referendum to exit the EU.

“Should (Babis) join forces with Okamura, the Czech Republic would be facing difficult times,” Klima said.

A record nine parties and groupings made it into Parliament. Those included the Communists, who got 7.8 percent of the vote and 15 seats, the pro-EU conservatives with 5.3 percent and seven seats and a group of mayors who won 5.2 percent support and six seats.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

‘Czech Trump’ fans eurosceptism two days before vote — “Czech Republic will not adopt the euro”

October 18, 2017


© AFP/File / by Jan MARCHAL | Czech billionaire and leader of the ANO 2011 political movement Andrej Babis is the clear favourite for prime minister in the October 20-21 general election

PRAGUE (AFP) – A billionaire populist known as the “Czech Trump” wooed eurosceptic voters on Wednesday with promises of a “fair” deal from Europe if he wins this week’s general election as expected.

Andrej Babis, 63, who heads the ANO (Yes) movement, is the clear favourite for prime minister in the October 20 and 21 ballot where traditional pro-EU parties are forecast to take a thrashing.

Analysts say that already-strong eurosceptism in the EU member country could further intensify, echoing trends in neighbouring countries in the bloc.

Voters on Wednesday received a letter in the mail from Babis vowing that “the Czech Republic will not adopt the euro” should he take office.

But he insisted he is “all for a single Europe which plays fair and where nobody is a second-class member”.

– ‘Czexit’ chatter –

After Britain’s vote to leave the EU in the Brexit referendum, some have even started to talk about the prospect of “Czexit”.

Two-thirds of Czechs said the EU’s decisions were not in the interest of their country in an April survey by the independent CVVM pollsters.

“Some voters, politicians and journalists are inclined to present these elections as a kind of referendum on Babis, but what’s worse and more dangerous is that topics like the migrant crisis and criticism of the EU are gaining more ground,” Charles University analyst Josef Mlejnek told AFP.

Babis echoes other eastern EU leaders — especially in Hungary and Poland — who also oppose mandatory EU refugee quotas and various rules they see as attempts by Brussels to limit national sovereignty.

While Babis has ruled out “Czexit”, he does want changes to the bloc’s rules on free movement of capital, goods, labour and services.

– Far-right rise –

An openly far-right anti-EU party with links to Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France is also set to gain ground, thanks in large part to its staunchly anti-migrant stance.

Led by Tokyo-born entrepreneur and lawmaker Tomio Okamura, Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD), has scored between 7.3 to 10.5-percent support in the polls, which would take is past the five-percent threshold needed to enter the 200-seat parliament.

In a recent poll by the Czech Academy of Sciences, ANO scored 30.9 percent — more than the combined support for two traditional heavyweights in Czech politics, the Social Democrat CSSD and the rightwing ODS. They scored 13.1 percent and 9.1 percent respectively.

– Corruption scandals –

ANO already held key posts in the current rocky centre-left coalition under Social Democrat Bohuslav Sobotka, with Babis holding the finance portfolio between January 2014 and May this year.

The Slovak-born tycoon — ranked by Forbes as the Czech Republic’s second wealthiest citizen — is riding high on “strong voter aversion to political parties tarnished by corruption scandals,” analyst Mlejnek told AFP.

So far, Babis’s popularity has not been touched by various scandals, including recent fraud charges over EU subsidies received by one of his companies.

Voter support for ANO has surged as he sticks to his promise to fight graft in public life and to “manage the state like a family business”.

“He offers the voters a populist alternative by presenting himself as someone capable of managing the state because he has already successfully managed his conglomerate,” Mlejnek said.

Heavily dependent on car production and exports to the eurozone, the Czech economy has fared well in recent years.

Unemployment stood at just 3.8 percent in September and economic growth is expected to pick up to 3.1 percent this year after 2.6 percent in 2016, according to the finance ministry.

– Anti-EU coalition? –

Babis insist he “can’t imagine” forging a governing coalition with anti-EU parties like Okamura’s far-right SPD or the far-left KSCM communist party, which scored up to 14.4 percent in recent polls.

But critics noted that the three parties joined forces in parliament on Monday to oppose granting an Australian company mining rights to a Czech lithium deposit.

Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that he “sees the seeds of a coalition between Babis, (communist head Vojtech) Filip and Okamura.”

Sobotka, who handed the leadership of his struggling CSSD Social Democrats to pro-European Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek during the elections, insists that any possible future coalition deal with ANO would not include Babis.

Three months after this week’s general election, Czechs will choose their new president in the second-ever direct presidential election.

Outspoken leftwinger Milos Zeman, a 73-year-old pro-Russian, pro-Chinese, anti-immigration Babis supporter, will compete for his second five-year term in that vote.


Czech Social Democrats pledge to cut tax for workers, tighten control of big business

June 17, 2017


PRAGUE: The Social Democrats, the senior partner in the Czech Republic’s ruling coalition but trailing in the polls, will try to lure back voters before the October elections by offering tax cuts for workers while tightening control of big business.

The party unveiled its election programme days after Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he would step down as leader of the country’s oldest party in an attempt to reverse its slide in opinion polls.

In its programme, the party promised to cut taxes for employees, extend holidays to five weeks, raise the minimum wage to at least 16,000 crowns (536.12 pounds) a month by 2022 and other incentives.

It also repeated a pledge from previous elections to introduce progressive taxation on big banks’ assets and to clamp down on tax evasion by big business conglomerates.

In an attempt to shake things up, Sobotka proposed this week that his more popular and eloquent foreign minister, Lubomir Zaoralek, should lead the party’s campaign into the Oct. 20-21 general election.

Zaoralek said on Saturday that the country needed consensus at home to make progress.

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Lubomir Zaoralek

“The Left will not be convincing if it will not honour national interests,” he said, adding that the party could also borrow the slogan “to help and to protect” from police cars.

Although the government has presided over a growing economy that helped it deliver the first balanced budget in two decades, the Social Democrats have slipped in the polls behind their main rival and coalition partner ANO.

All recent polls have shown ANO leading the Social Democrats, in some cases by a double-digit margin.

ANO was founded and is chaired by billionaire and former Finance Minister Andrej Babis, who has attracted voters with his managerial approach to governing and with his image as a political outsider.

The parties, together with the Christian Democrats, came to power in a centre-left coalition in January 2014 and are on course to becoming the first government in 15 years in the central European country to finish its term.

(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Adrian Croft)