On 4 November 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Viola Von Cramon-Taubadel and Mikuláš Peksa of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“According to the media, the Czech Government has approved a list of companies and projects in the North Bohemia region to put forward for funding from the Just Transition Fund, including more than CZK 6 billion for Lovochemie, a company that belongs to companies owned by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
Although the government argues that Mr Babiš was not present at a meeting during which the document was discussed, the concerned document and the request to put it on the government’s meeting agenda was addressed directly to Mr Babiš from the Minister of Regional Development.
The current Czech Minister of Environment, Richard Brabec, is the former director of this company and his ministry is one of those responsible for these projects.
1. Will the Commission investigate this new case of potential conflicts of interest and how will it ensure that EU taxpayers’ money allocated to the Just Transition Fund is protected and not compromised by conflicts of interest?
2. Will these conflicts of interests be taken into account in the Commission’s assessment of the proposed list for funding?
3. Will the Commission apply Article 61 of the EU Financial Regulation to prevent the potential misuse of EU funds, also when implementing the Just Transition Fund?”
On 1 February 2021, Cohesion and Reforms Commissioner Elisa Ferreira responded on behalf of the European Commission stating:
“1. Financial support from the Just Transition Fund will be provided only for investments in accordance with the Territorial Just Transition Plans approved by the Commission. The scope of support is defined in Article 4 of the Just Transition Fund regulation, which has been recently agreed by the co-legislators and will be adopted in the coming weeks. In Annex D of the 2020 Country Report the Commission services presented preliminary views on priority investment areas and framework conditions for effective delivery for the 2021-2027 Just Transition Fund investments in Czechia. The respective Territorial Just Transition Plan will have to contain a description of support for productive investments in enterprises other than small and medium-sized ones. This includes a list of such operations and enterprises and a justification for the support based on a gap analysis demonstrating that the expected job losses would exceed the expected number of jobs created in the absence of the investment.
2. The Commission is following up specific allegations of conflicts of interest in the Czech Republic, including with regard to Agrofert Group projects that could be potentially concerned, in full respect of the applicable rules and deadlines. An audit is currently still ongoing to follow up on a case of alleged conflict of interest.
3. The Commission and the Member States will apply Article 61 of the Financial Regulation to prevent the potential misuse of EU funds and conflict of interest issues, also when implementing the Just Transition Fund. In addition, the Member States need to apply conflict of interest rules according to their national legislative framework.”
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