European Parliament President David Sassoli said Thursday he will complain to Commission and Council leaders about “unacceptable” comments by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
Babiš on Friday branded as “traitors” two Czech lawmakers who took part in a Parliament fact-finding mission to Prague to look into the potential mismanagement of EU funds.
The mission from the Parliament’s budgetary control committee was the result of growing concerns about possible irregularities and conflicts of interest. Babiš has come under scrutiny for his links to an agricultural conglomerate he founded, Agrofert, which has received millions in EU funds. The prime minister has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
One of the two Czech MEPs, Tomáš Zdechovský from the European People’s Party (EPP), said that he and his family had received death threats following Babiš’ comments. He said his family now needed police protection.
Green MEP Mikuláš Peksa, the second Czech lawmaker, said he had contacted the police because of a growing number of death threats.
A spokesperson for Sassoli said the issue had been discussed at Thursday’s meeting of Parliament leaders. “The general agreement was that the attitude toward the delegation was unacceptable,” the spokesperson said, adding that Sassoli “takes this question very seriously and will raise the point with the President of the Commission [Ursula von der Leyen] and the Council [Charles Michel].”
The spokesperson could not say whether Sassoli would directly address Babiš.
The reaction follows a request by EPP chairman Manfred Weber for “a formal and official apology from the Prime Minister to all the members” of the mission. Weber said Babiš’ remarks had been “an unacceptable attack on elected parliamentary representatives and beyond all norms of the normal conduct of a prime minister.”
Babiš is a member of the Renew Europe political family. A spokesperson for Weber said the EPP chairman had asked Sassoli to address the issue in a “non-partisan” way.
EPP lawmaker Monika Hohlmeier, the chair of the budgetary control committee, sent a letter on behalf of her committee to Sassoli on Wednesday, asking the president “to communicate, in no uncertain terms, to the Czech prime minister that the use of hate speech by ahead of an EU government aimed at intimidating members of Parliament … is intolerable.”
“The word ‘traitor’ has a very negative connotation in Czech history and if the prime minister uses it against you, this, unfortunately, triggers threats from some far-right activists,” Zdechovský told POLITICO.
He added that he would not be intimidated: “Following the findings of our mission, I’m absolutely sure that Babiš has a conflict of interest.”