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On the past year, family and visions for the Czech Republic and Europe

Fast confession - Prime Minister Andrej Babiš: I am a universal culprit

Karolína Lišková
03.Oct 2018
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11 minutes

The last time Andrej Babiš made time for an interview with Luxury Prague Life was one year ago. Before the elections he won. We were wondering how his life had changed during the year. He was already quite busy back then, and now it seems even worse. Meetings long into the night and getting up early in the morning to manage the work carousel. If the politician who hated by part of the nation and supported by the other had known how much politics would interfere with his life and privacy, he would, according to his words, never have gotten into it. But now he cannot back out, so he hopes to get the Czech Republic to the top of Europe.

The last time we spoke was one year ago, before the elections. What has changed for you over the last year?

For me, the problem is that with every election I have more and more worries, more and more responsibilities. We won the parliamentary elections, but not by enough to be able to quickly establish a government. So, of course, it changed into negotiating, I threw myself into foreign politics, I enjoy it because I think I can really bring something, fight for our Czech interests. Finally somebody will be able to communicate there, unlike my predecessor.

It has been a tremendous amount of work – to select ministers and negotiate a coalition, then the presidential elections. Negotiating the composition of the Chamber of Deputies was terribly demanding and still is.

It all took such a long time, people were upset...

The problem was that we said after the elections that we could have a majority with the ODS. The others didn't want that because they say their voters didn't want to go with us, so it didn't work out. The others, for various reasons, did not want to negotiate with us at al,l and the biggest problem was that we did not succeed in Prague as much as we would have liked. Thus, two parties, TOP 09 and STAN, came to the Chamber of Deputies with just over five percent. If we had been successful in Prague, they would not have gotten in, and there would be only seven parties and of course it would look completely different.

Prodej luxusního domu, Praha - západ - 414 m2
Prodej luxusního domu, Praha - západ - 414 m2, Okolí Prahy

Are you satisfied with the situation now?

Satisfied...Of course I am known for being a supporter of the majority system. That's also how it works in the United States – somebody won the elections, so let them govern, let them take over the responsibility, let them show what they are capable of, and in four years, the people either will or will not vote them again. Coalition governance is always complex. I did not want to give up the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, we have a completely different view than our partner, but somehow it definitely works better than before.

What has this one-year carousel done to your personal life? You did not have much time for it even before. What do you do now, when you are not doing politics?

This is a difficult question, because a politician is practically always at work. Even at the weekend. Before, I had time off on Saturday. The time for family was minimal, is minimal, and that is the biggest sacrifice in politics. My daughter left to study abroad abroad today, so I'll see her at Christmas.

When did you last spend time as a family? What did you do and where did you go?

This weekend we were together at the exhibition Horse near Lysá nad Labem, plus we had a family party and we were together again yesterday. We were for lunch and to the cinema to see the great film What Men Want. It's a great film, so we enjoyed it and we laughed.

It actually looks like you see each other often...

Since my daughter flew on Monday, I wanted to dedicate more time to her during the whole weekend before the departure than the previous weekends. It is a shame.

But she understands, doesn't she?

She understands it, but I'm sorry about it.

When you are together like this as a family together, do you talk about politics?

No, Jesus, by no means. The family suffers because of it, people are terribly evil, they basically attack them and scold them. I do not know why people are so hateful.

Since the elections there have been a lot of demonstrations, and you are their main reason. How do you sleep?

I sleep well.

Are you not afraid?

I'm not afraid, why should I be afraid? People who protest against me are under the influence of those thousands of repeated lies and various made up things. Of course, many people hate me because of the EET and the control report, and because I bought the media, and perhaps because no one can influence me, because I am independent. There are so many anti-Babiš websites here, they're mostly from former Mafra journalists, so what can I do?

I try not to divide society, I do not think I provoke, I try to behave in a way that could connect it more. I talked about it in front of the Radio (editor's note: prior to the fifty years anniversary of the occupation), where they cursed at me, they also spit on me in from of the House od Deputies, threw bottles.

If you want to have a conversation with these people, they are not able to, because I have arguments and they do not. The debate ends without a debate because they are immediately very negative. The hatred in some of them is huge.

That would just deter me from speaking somewhere and waiting whether I would get hit by a tomato or egg. One has to have the balls for it, as they say, I wouldn't do it.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who support me, which is what is keeping me in politics, because if I had no support, I would not be here.

Do you receive hate messages?

Someone put my phone number on the internet, so there were times when several people insulted me.

Knowing you, you replied to all of them. You reply to SMS messages all the time...

Yeah, but then I stopped because it was not possible anymore. There were hundreds of different hateful, offensive SMS messages. People can be terribly hateful.

Prodej exkluzivního domu, Praha-východ
Prodej exkluzivního domu, Praha-východ, Okolí Prahy

Does it ever happen that you make use of your security guards? That they really need to be there?

Of course. Someone threw two eggs at me during dinner at a neighbor's. I was talking with one of the editors and I didn't even notice it, the security guard threw someone on the ground. The man had had a bit too much to drink. I would have liked to talk to him, but they pacified him and then he left.

Someone told me they even got bloody handkerchiefs in the mail...

I don't get that, I got cartridges at the Government Office with a note that they would kill me and so on. But that police found the person, it was a grouchy man from Vysočina. Perhaps he had to start paying taxes because of EET, and I'm sorry about that, but five million employees pay taxes every month and nobody asks them whether they mind.

Does your wife travel with you abroad for visits?

Yes, she does. She was in Finland, Germany. We were in Bayreuth at the invitation of the Bavarian Prime Minister, in Salzburg, where we had lunch, Sebastian Kurz was there with his girlfriend, there was also Theresa May or the Portuguese President, with whom my wife met. I think we need to present the Czech Republic well.

Can you enjoy it together? Do you have a moment to maybe go for a romantic dinner?

Definitely not during those official visits, we're not even together. She has her program, if it is not a cultural affair, as it was in Bayreuth or Salzburg. If she accompanies me, she visits charity organizations, she in the Agrofert Foundation, especially for children. In Finland, we were in a school where they their famous school system - four teachers for fifty children. These are interesting things for us.

So it is not possible to connect it with some leisure time?

No, not at all.

And isn't that a shame?

We sometimes spend leisure time together in private. We were on vacation in Mykonos, but unfortunately the tragedy in Afghanistan occurred, so we were returned two days earlier to pay tribute to our soldiers. Maybe there will be some a weekend after the elections, maybe we'll go somewhere.

Are you sure? Can you promise that? She will read it!

Yeah, yeah, sure. (laughter)

Do you perceive what's happening on the cultural scene? There was, for example, the Mercedes Benz Prague Fashion Week ...

Of course, I was there with my wife. She goes there with various friends.

And when you go there, is it because you have to or do you really enjoy it and maybe choose something for yourself to wear?

Regarding the clothes, I'm not sure...I looked at the girls and they were terribly skinny. But it was a lingerie show, so I enjoyed it. (laughter)

So do you actually enjoy the evening? Is it not just that you have to be there because you are Babiš, so is it expected?

No, besides, if I remember well, the Prime Minister never went to any fashion weeks. My wife took me there once.

And did she buy you anything?

No, I have to lose some weight first. (laughter)


Because I'm fat!

You're not. So why are you eating that homemade croissant?

Don't tell on me. (laughter)

Do you exercise?

I don't...

So how do you intend to lose weight?

I'll start, I have to start, you are stressing me out. (laughter)

I don't want to stress you at all. But in three months it will be Christmas, cookies, food...Are you looking forward to it?

Of course I am.

What are you going to do, are you going to work?

I won't do anything. We will watch fairy tales, Cinderella, Pretty Woman, we will eat, I'll give out fish soup again and I'll sleep without an alarm clock. I look forward to it.

All the Christmas holidays?

Hopefully there will be no trouble. We will go to Austria to the mountains where we have been traveling for a long time, perhaps fourteen, fifteen years. People from all over Europe go there and you discover the truth of that silent majority, including on migration. The Germans, Dutch, Austrians, French, Swiss.

What do they say?

We will see what they say this year. (laughter)

As far as migration is concerned, the SPD is furious about migrants here, but I do not encounter them as much here as in Germany.

Of course not. I have enforced in half a year that there will be no quotas. You praise me for that, right? I am fulfilling my contract with the citizens, and in half a year I have enforced that they are no quotas and it is voluntary. Now I'm trying to explain to all of Europe how to deal with it. I have visited the Italian Prime Minister, the Maltese, and I have spoken to the Council (editor's note: the Council of the European Union) on how to deal with them.

But if a ship with hundreds of refugees lands there, what should they do with them?

In fact, they have forbidden that ship, the Aquarius, to sail. We have to help them, we need to give them money and we have to help them stay at home, because what will they do here? We have about 700 or 800 thousand illegal immigrants in Europe who have not been granted asylum so they should leave. It is terrible, generally, the war in Syria, but unfortunately Europe is not very active.

In the past, Czechs, Slovaks and others migrated, in 1968 or even earlier, to Canada. Nobody ever helped them like we are doing now, redistributing money here...

Of course. Our people went mainly to Germany or Switzerland, and they also had some duties, they had to report, they were registered, and they were considered a super-quality workforce, because our people are incredibly skillful. They were a reinforcement. But now that there are illiterate illegal migrants who do not even know the language, it is quite different. This cannot be compared.

Sometimes I feel that Europe wants to save the whole world, but we should defend our values. In some European countries there are a lot of Muslims, they have the multicultural model there. The question is whether they have integrated or not integrated. We're not used to it, people are afraid, they see the various murders, terrorist attacks. Of course, everyone who comes to us must have a work visa. We do not have illegal immigrants, everyone transfers for work and they have permission to do so. Why is it different in their case? I try to explain to them that it's illegal, against the law.

Where do you see Europe in five years?

Difficult question. It depends on those people who will influence it. We will see how the European elections will go. But Europe must have a vision, Europe has to say where it will be. We must defend our territory, the security of our people. We move freely in Europe, work freely, employ freely, move money freely. We have not yet reached this, because when our companies want to go to Austria, they have problems, or our truck drivers, when they drive through Germany or France, have limitations. We have not yet reached that internal free market.

There are different migration patterns in the world. America has the green card, Jarda Jágr also waited and needed a guarantor, and I was one of those who wrote a letter saying, "I, the Minister of Finance, know Jágr, he's great, give him the green card." Instead of Obama giving it to him and saying "Jarda, you're the third best NHL hockey player, here it is," he had to wait. Or Australia, which had problems, started to return ships and it stopped, or Canada. All around the work they have figured out a way to deal with it, we just aren't able to apply it here.

And where do you see yourself in five years?

Also a difficult question. I'd like a better life.

Does that consist in you having more time for yourself?

For my family, for yourself. People have motivation that changes over the course of their lifetime. Whenever you want something and you achieve it, you have another one. And I'm old, I'm a pensioner, so the motivation changes.

And what is your motivation now, for the upcoming five years?

I don't want to say that because God knows what will be in five years.

Do you still want to be in politics in five years?

I would like new politicians to come forward to continue with some of the work that I have begun. If you think about all the movements that have been in Europe, our movement is quite unique. According to them, we are populists and BS like that, but we have changed quite a lot here. As minister I had a surplus and I reduced the debt, I taxed, we invest, we fight against corruption. There has been no corruption scandal. I have always said corruption is cancer, I hate it, and if it happens in my vicinity, I will be uncompromising. We are implementing a 10-year investment plan, we raised pensions and teachers' salaries.

I know that people are unhappy, but they have to realize that we are the sixth safest country in the world, the seventh most peaceful country in the world, and if we were to transfer the suburbs of a major European city here, into Prague for just two weeks, everyone would finally see the difference, the great country we live in and the potential of that country. People do not even realize that there are amazing and savvy people here, and we have to go back to where we were during the First Republic, when we were one of the best in Europe.

Is that your motivation, your goal within five years?

Yeah, it's all very slow...I would definitely want to get back to the top of Europe because I think we have what it takes. Our people are terribly skillful, but it's about whether the skillful are willing to go to politics, especially when they see what happened to me in politics.

That you became an old pensioner?

(laughter) No, what they've been constructing against me and what it is about. The impact on the family, on the former business, on me, on what I look like. I cannot look at my 2013 photo because I'm shocked by how old I've grown, it's terrible. If I had known, I would never have done it, never.

If you had known that you would grow old in politics?

No, if I had known what it is all about. I would never have done it. I could have had a comfortable life. I wanted to change something, to be beneficial, and something changed too. History will recognize it, now, of course, I'm the universal culprit who is responsible for everything, you can even threaten democracy. That's bullshit. When I speak to the European Council, they understand what I say. We do not look as stupid as before when the prime minister was unable to formulate a sentence in English. I would very much like for us to belong to the elite in the world.

Thank you very much for the interview, Prime Minister, I wish you good luck.

Fast confession:

How did your life change after the elections in one sentence?

Basically for the worse, I don't have time, I'm stressed.

How many times have you gotten eight hours of uninterrupted sleep in the last year?

Five times six times.

Who do you think is the best comedian?

Louis De Funés.

What's more important? Finishing the D1 or preserving the environment by increasing the availability of electric cars?

Completing D1, electric cars are the chimera of the European Union.

Where will young people live when none of them can afford a mortgage now?

We have just solved it, we have a program for municipalities and cities so they can finally start building flats.

AnchorHow did your wife last make you angry?

A lot of people make me angry, but not my wife, I like her.

What did you last eat in the president's company?

Ham and schnitzel.

How much does a loaf of bread cost?

30 crowns.

How do you take care of our planet?

I recycle and save water.

How will you invest in yourself in the coming years?

I need a vacation, I need some rest.

What tattoo would you like to have?


AnchorWhat are you squeamish about?

Lungs on cream, pasta with potatoes, spiders.

What Czech word is difficult for you to pronounce?

All the ones that end in "t".

What has politics turned you into?

A stressed out pensioner.
The interviewee asks the editor:

Are you happy?

I am a small step away from it, but otherwise I am very happy.
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