National recovery plan approved, concerns remain over financial irregularities

European Union finance ministers on Monday approved the Czech Republic’s national recovery plan, reaffirming that the country had met the necessary criteria to obtain cash advances for the projects it had chosen. Czech Finance Minister Alena Schillerová, who championed the plan in Brussels, said the financial injection would help boost the country’s economic and social resilience.

“The money will be used for projects that will significantly contribute to the future development of our country and have a positive impact on the economy. Today’s decision in Brussels is very good news for the Czech Republic.

Alena Schillerova |  Photo: Czech Government Office

In total, the national recovery plan plans to spend almost 209 billion crowns on investments in a wide variety of sectors, 180 billion of which are expected to come from the EU’s Resilience and Recovery Fund.

Investments will be channeled into six areas: infrastructure and green transition, digitization, education and labor market, post-Covid regulatory and business support, research and innovation, and health and resilience.

In line with EU requirements, 42% of the funds will go to projects related to climate protection and 22% to the digitalisation of the economy.

Although obtaining approval for the intended use of the allocated funds was straightforward, the country still needs to reassure the EC that the money provided will not be misused.

Earlier this year, an EU audit concluded that the Czech Prime Minister himself had a conflict of interest as he continues to benefit from the multi-billion kroner Agrofert empire he created and placed in trust funds, securing a condition from Brussels that Agrofert and its affiliates cannot access money from the union’s structural funds.

Photo: Michaela Danelova, Czech Radio

The Czech Republic has now been instructed to introduce an effective mechanism to prevent conflicts of interest in the civil service and to draw up a list of all senior civil servants who own companies or have placed them in trust funds and to put the list available to the European Commission.

The government was forced to acknowledge on Monday that it was unable to meet the September 8 deadline for this and was forced to ask Brussels for a two-month grace period. Under fire from the opposition, Minister Schillerová says she is aware of the government’s responsibility and the implications of failure.

“We are aware that this is a basic condition for receiving EU funds. We have accepted it, we are committed and we will meet all the conditions so that the drawdown of EU funds is not compromised.”

Berta D. Wells