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Online Crooks: Catch Us If You Can

Online Crooks: Catch Us If You Can

Ladislav Vydra is a pensioner from Prague. After an eye surgery, his retina fell apart and he all but lost his eyesight. Doctors gave him no prospects for improvement. Andrzej, a man from Poland, has his hearing impaired but does not want to use hearing aid yet. Both of them trusted ads for miraculous products, which in reality were part of an international scam. When Ladislav’s wife Ivana saw an advertisement in a Czech tabloid for “binocular” glasses, which promised to heal her husband’s eyesight, the couple started to entertain hope. But then the product, which had been marketed as...

Lex Babiš. What is the Czech Prime Minister´s Interest in EU Subsidies

Lex Babiš. What is the Czech Prime Minister´s Interest in EU Subsidies

“She’s a little deranged. She doesn’t understand how subsidies work at all,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said of MEP Monika Hohlmeier following the European Parliament’s Budgetary Control Committee’s early March fact-finding mission to the Czech Republic. Led by Hohlmeier, the objective of the mission was to gain insights into the distribution of EU funds and investigate Babiš’ alleged conflicts of interest in the process. The two Czechs in the six-person delegation – Tomáš Zdechovský (Christian Democrats) and Mikuláš  Peksa (Pirate Party) – were subsequently labeled “traitors to their own country” by Babiš and accused of “undermining their own Prime...

Subsidised and defrauded. Visegrad EU funds under the eye of OLAF

Subsidised and defrauded. Visegrad EU funds under the eye of OLAF

For over twenty years, the European Anti-Fraud Office (commonly known as OLAF, from the French: Office européen de lutte antifraude) has been protecting the EU’s financial interests, investigating fraud, corruption, and serious misconduct within the Union’s budget and institutions. The office has also developed an anti-fraud policy for the European Commission.  But while OLAF looks into a wide range of wrongdoings, from misconduct in public procurement procedures, to customs fraud and document forgery, very little is publicly known about the impact of its investigations in the Visegrad region, where the fact of EU fund embezzlement has been common knowledge since...

Coronavirus: Enough with Democracy

Coronavirus: Enough with Democracy

“Over the past weeks, several EU governments took emergency measures to address the health crisis caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus. We are living in extraordinary times, and governments, in principle, need to have the necessary tools to act rapidly and effectively to protect the public health of our citizens,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote on March 31. “It is of utmost importance that emergency measures are not at the expense of our fundamental principles and values as set out in the Treaties. Democracy cannot work without free and independent media. […] Any emergency measures must...

Big Brother in Times of Plague

Big Brother in Times of Plague

To effectively fight the coronavirus pandemic, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland are introducing various smartphone apps that promise to increase the safety of citizens and eventually loosen lockdown measures. But in practice, enforcing this kind of digital leash raises many privacy and data security concerns. A project that purports to be a “way to quickly manage the [coronavirus] epidemic and the spread of infection within the population”, according to Roman Prymula, the Czech Deputy Minister of Health, will be launched by the government after the Eastern holidays. Known as “Smart Quarantine”, the project is the creation of 12 prominent Czech...

The Nuclear Influence. How Russia Acts on the Central European Energy Market

The Nuclear Influence. How Russia Acts on the Central European Energy Market

30 years later after the fall of communism, Central Europe’s industries are connected to the West in innumerable ways. But signs that its nuclear industry continues to be heavily influenced by Russian interests are everywhere. In the Czech Republic, the most prominent nuclear engineering company is owned by a Russian energy giant. In Slovakia, Russian-led banks, including the controversial International Investment Bank, are providing multi-million euro loans to the national firm that is building the country’s new nuclear reactors and a Russian supplier recently beat an American competitor in a public tender to provide nuclear fuel for the country’s nuclear...