Prague, Czech Republic. The Prague Spring is long past as a new Czech Republic seeks greater control over its own destiny. The man ready to lead it makes no apologies for a refusal to accept the EUs migrants and he says you can keep your Euro.The Czech Republic won’t be joining the euro anytime soon, if the billionaire who’s poised to be the country’s next prime minister has anything to do with it.
Andrej Babis, who claims he helped inspire French President Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! movement, is on track to win Czech general elections in October. But while Macron wants to speed European Union integration, work with Germany to solve the bloc’s migrant crisis, and shore up the euro, Babis wants the opposite.
“No euro. I don’t want the euro. We don’t want the euro here,” Babis said Friday in an interview on the sidelines of the reSITE cities conference in Prague. “Everybody knows it’s bankrupt. It’s about our sovereignty. I want the Czech koruna, and an independent central bank. I don’t want another issue that Brussels would be meddling with.”
Recently Babis was fired as finance minister last month in a conflict-of-interest dispute tied to his agriculture, chemicals and media empire that’s estimated by Forbes to top $3 billion. Despite the dismissal, voter support for his junior-ruling ANO party has surged on his pledge to run the country like a business after years of what he calls corrupt and inept management. The Slovak-born 62-year-old insists he’s a centrist and rejects political labels, although he echoes nearby EU naysayers such as Hungary’s Victor Orban who oppose refugee quotas and ceding sovereignty.
The Czech ANO party would win almost a third of the vote if ballots were cast now, up from 28 percent in April, according to a survey last week by the Stem pollster. The Social Democrats, with whom ANO rules in a three-party coalition government, fell into third place with 11 percent, behind the Communist Party.
Babis isn’t alone in shunning the euro. While five countries from ex-communist eastern Europe have joined since 2004, consecutive Czech governments have refused to set a date and, according to a 2016 Eurobarometer survey, 72 percent of Czechs want to keep the koruna.