After more than two hours of obstruction by the ANO opposition movement, the House of Representatives approved the program of an extraordinary meeting at which the coalition wants to approve the tightening of media ownership by top politicians. ANO has been holding back the discussion of the draft, which concerns the leader of the movement, Andrej Babiš, for many months. The beginning of today’s meeting was used by the ANO movement to criticize the government’s consolidation plan and this year’s state budget. It is possible that the lower chamber will not even get to vote on the form of the amendment today. The coalition has already announced that it could set a fixed date for the vote in June.
At the beginning of the meeting, the chairman of the Pirates coalition club Jakub Michálek justified the calling of the extraordinary meeting by the previous obstructions, which according to him had already lasted thirty hours. He pointed out that the coalition was committed to measures against the concentration of economic, political and media influence.
Subsequently, the lectern was occupied by the chairwoman of ANO deputies, Alena Schillerová, and the deputy speakers of the Chamber of Deputies, Karel Havlíček and Klára Dostálová. As privileged speakers, they took advantage of the opportunity to speak off-topic. Havlíček and Schillerová generally commented on the so-called consolidation package as well as some specific proposals it should contain, and recommended a return to ANO’s plans. Dostálová criticized the insufficient use of European subsidies and housing support. Lidovec Jan Bartošek, as chairman of the meeting, in vain urged Dostálova to try to speak about the agenda of the meeting.
Jan Jakob, the chairman of TOP 09 MPs, said that the presentations of ANO representatives took longer than the presentation of the government’s consolidation package, which they criticized. “We watched the not-so-successful presentation of the ANO movement,” said Jakob. He accused the movement not only of obstruction, but also of the “politics of budget destruction”. He recalled the government’s savings in the budget and advised Schiller to check the facts.
Schiller said that the coalition wants to push the Czech Republic into misery and, as a result, into even greater debt. “The path to balanced budgets is certainly nowhere in the world through suffocating the economy,” she said. According to Havlíček, the government’s set of measures has nothing to do with economic judgment and is an accounting point of view. He paused, among other things, on the proposed increase in some taxes and levies. “If the ČSSD and the KSČM came up with it, I would understand. But it is not normal that they stamp it as the flagship of the ODS,” he noted. Schiller described the consolidation package as “failed”. She also touched on this year’s state budget, which, according to her, contains accounting tricks and errors worth more than 150 billion crowns.
The coalition wants to add provisions on conflict of interests to the government amendment, which changes the management of the Office for Supervision of the Management of Political Parties and Political Movements. According to the government, the changes in the supervisory authority are intended to improve its control role and law enforcement.
The proposed tightening of the ban on the ownership of political media and the acceptance of subsidies and investment incentives in the provisions of the conflict of interest law, known as the lex Babiš, was described by ANO deputies as a “sticker” during the February discussion of the amendment. At the time, Michálek rejected ANO’s claim that the changes he was promoting were directed against one person, that is, Babiš. Schiller said that if the proposal is passed, the ANO deputies will apply to the Constitutional Court for its annulment.
In particular, the parliamentary amendment amends the provision that prohibits public officials from operating radio and television broadcasts and publishing periodicals. In order not to circumvent the ban, it should apply to the actual owner of the media operator and not to the controlling person. The same should be the case with companies in the case of the ban on receiving subsidies and investment incentives, which is aimed at members of the government.
After the provisions banning media ownership and receiving subsidies and investment incentives came into force in 2017, Babiš put the shares of his companies Agrofert and SynBiol into trust funds. Agrofert also includes the Mafra group, which is one of the largest media houses in the Czech Republic.
Source: Tyden.cz by www.tyden.cz.
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