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July 6, 2022



From opposition, ex-PM revisits Czech town, echoing the problematic language of a local petition

19.4.2022 7:54
(PHOTO: Twitter account of Andrej Babiš, 2022)
(PHOTO: Twitter account of Andrej Babiš, 2022)

Former Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (Association of Dissatisfied Citizens - ANO) has posted to social media that he visited the town of Bílina in March at the instigation of an open letter addressed by its mayor to the Government of current PM Petr Fiala (Civic Democratic Party - ODS). Babiš, who has recently been quite critical of the current administration, received a similar letter from that same local official himself two years ago when he was still Prime Minister.

Back then he visited the Za Chlumem Primary School in Bílina, but nothing changed about the situation after his visit. As Czech news server Deník N reports, two years ago Babiš referred to the issue of the "socially vulnerable", but today he has reverted to using the controversial term "inadaptables".

The Mayor of Bílina, Zuzana Schwarz Bařtipánová (ANO) is behind the open letter. "The situation in the socially excluded localities in our town, the number of which is slowly increasing, has been an unhappy one for a long time. For that reason, we call on the Government and on legislators to start conceptually resolving this situation as soon as possible," she told the media, adding that the town itself does not have enough powers to undertake the "solutions" she envisions.

"We are convinced that responsibility for the situation lies mainly with those who create both the rules for social benefits and the legislative space for this so-called trafficking in poverty. They are also the ones who can influence and transform those poorly set rules," the mayor said.

A local petition was created in Bílina last year, allegedly because of the tense situation in the excluded localities, calling for the dismissal of Mayor Bařtipánová and Deputy Mayor Marcela Dvořáková. "We do not like the fact that inadaptable inhabitants are moving into town and the town council leaders are not doing anything about it. It's a mess here, people are afraid to leave their homes during the day. We want things to change," Jiřina Malá, organizer of the petition, told the news server at the time.

In February of this year, Mayor Bařtipánová told the "Náš region" ("Our Region") news server that she had held several informal meetings with Babiš while he was still PM. "Among other things, I managed to push a few points into the election program of the ANO Movement for the 2021 parliamentary elections that were meant to lead to an improvement of the situation," she claimed, adding that although Babiš had promised concrete help, most of those proposals were never completed or fulfilled.

According to the "Hlídací pes" ("Watchdog") news server, the mayor's reference is to the "15 Points of the Fight against Poverty" - a project that was already in existence when Babiš first met the mayor. "However, once again, to allege that these are points from the ANO movement's program, as Babiš says, is a somewhat creative interpretation. The project was presented in February 2019 by the then-Labour and Social Affairs Minister for the Czech Social Democratic Party, Jana Maláčová, and it soon became clear that it would not be easy to implement," the news server reports.

bau, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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