Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis cannot step down from Toru before the parliamentary elections scheduled for October 8-9, if he does not want to lose popular support. But if the opposition coalition of pirates and local government officials came to power, Prague’s attitude to the conflict with Poland could become even more severe, because practical arguments for local problems with water intakes will increase due to environmental problems. Babish, unlike his more serious competitors, does not mind coal mining per se. The lack of an agreement means that the sanctions imposed on Poland by the Court of Justice of the European Union are increasing every day. Until the elections, they will already reach 10 million euros.
Andre Babis and his ANO party will run in the parliamentary elections on October 8-9 to retain the position of Prime Minister. The prime minister has promised in his campaign that he will defend the Czech Republic against the influx of migrants and EU climate policy, forcing the EU to move away from coal, which still plays an important role in the domestic energy mix. And although he has not yet won, he has already received a public promise from President Milos Zeman that he will be appointed head of the new government if his party takes first place in the elections. At the moment, ANO has the largest support (about 30%), which, however, does not guarantee the construction of a majority coalition.
One of the important slogans in the campaign of the ANO leader is sovereignty. Babis warns the Czechs that if the opposition seizes power after the elections, it will hand it over to Brussels.
An important reference point is cooperation with Poland, Slovakia and Hungary as part of the Visegrad group, to which the head of the government often refers. Babish says she, too, is being threatened by the opposition who will abolish the alliance. However, the question is how the row with the Polish government over the mine in Turów will affect the mood in V4. Wirtualna Polska has announced that the PiS government is considering freezing Poland’s participation in V4.
However, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s office did not confirm this information in an interview with the DGP. – It is certainly difficult to talk to the Czechs in the current situation. It is possible, for various reasons, that during the next meeting of the European Council the positions within the V4 will not be coordinated, but the decision to suspend the relationship has not been taken, according to someone from the Prime Minister’s Chancellery told us. Especially as there will be another round of talks tomorrow aimed at reaching a settlement and ending the judicial dispute before the Court of Justice of the European Union over Turów. – Settlement remains our goal, although we realize that it will be difficult to obtain it before the elections – we hear from the Polish side.
In the Czech Republic, Turów is not one of the main themes of the campaign. – For the Czech Republic, it is not a political issue, but a practical one. The Turnov case has no bearing on the elections, as it concerns the problem of access to water in one small area. About 12 thousand people live in this condition. The electors of one of the smallest countries (equivalent to voivodships – ed.) in the Czech Republic. It is different in the case of Poland, because it concerns the energy security of the whole country – says Martin Il of the Czech newspaper “Hospodářské noviny”. – Therefore, the general acceptance of this dispute is incomparable with what exists in Poland. He adds that even the decision to impose sanctions has not aroused much interest.
In his opinion, the Turnov affair could affect the outcome of the elections only in one case: if the Babis government retreated into a conflict with the Poles. Then the parties in the Cabinet could lose some polling points. Therefore, until the polls close, which will take place in two weeks, it is indisputable to reach an agreement with the Poles. Without it, there is no chance of ending the dispute before the Court of Justice of the European Union. On the day polls close in the Czech Republic, the penalty that Poland will have to pay Brussels for not shutting down the mine will be 10 million euros.
The elections themselves can make negotiations more difficult. Primarily because conversations can stop. The balance of power before the elections is very similar to that of the previous elections: no party has a chance of winning a majority, which means that the formation of the coalition can take a long time. Previously, it was possible after more than six months. The situation is complicated by the fact that Babis’s current partner in the coalition, the Social Democratic Party, has little chance of crossing the threshold. It seemed for a moment that the dark horse might be the new populist right. The Prime Minister himself praised her campaign, and announced that he might invite her to join the coalition. Since then, his popularity has declined and the party cannot be sure of crossing the threshold. If the government establishes Babis, the climate for talks in Turów is unlikely to change. But if the coalition opposing pirates and local government officials come to power, the environmental arguments will come to power, and the Czech opposition will become even more strident.
Magdalena Sedro, Clara Klinger 09.23.2021
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