Andrej Babis met French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday. “I am flying from Brno to Paris, where tomorrow Emmanuel Macron will find thirty minutes for me and I will be welcomed at the Élysée. As you know, he is my friend,” he announced to reporters on Monday, after a court acquitted him of a subsidy fraud over his farm Čapí hnízdo.
If accepted by one of the main European players, Babis would allow him to present himself as the star of European politics in the election campaign. It’s the little things that often work for voters — and the photo with Macron will make some undecideds think Babis is a capable leader in an otherwise chaotic manner.
At the same time, it could weaken the criticism of one of his challengers, Peter Pavlin, who has said for months that he is entering the presidential race to defeat a “populist popish” likened to Viktor Orbán. . Even the Hungarian dictator had long been a “friend” of Babis – at least that’s how he spoke of him, and they had a strong bond over the years.
Pavel recently visited Hungary, where he met with representatives of critical media, non-profit organizations and civil society. He wanted to draw attention to how the Hungarian prime minister was systematically destroying them in order to seize even more power – thus defining himself as a counterweight to Orbán and his ally, the Babis. The fact that the head of ANO now favored Macron over Orban at the last minute would allow these accusations of Pavlo to be blunted.
It is clear what Babis is aiming for. Why Macron is doing it is far less clear. Babis said after the meeting that he discussed ending the war in Ukraine. The former prime minister has repeatedly said on the campaign trail that peace must be negotiated because that’s what his voters want to hear. How, he didn’t say anymore, and he didn’t say it after the conversation with Macron. France helps Ukraine, while Macron maintains ties with Vladimir Putin. Babis is not a “hardliner” toward Russia like current Prime Minister Petr Fiala, who agrees with a tougher approach to Poland and the Baltic states. Macron is not even the biggest hawk – through Babis, he could try to weaken Czech-Polish-Baltic cooperation and thereby strengthen French influence.
In addition to the mentioned geopolitics, there may be a personal connection, Macron and Babis know each other, their parties are in the same political division in the European Parliament Renew Europe. With this gesture, the French president may want to keep a Central European ally close to his body for his other political plans, which we don’t know yet. If Babiš were elected to Prague Castle, he could fit in there, and he would have another European head of state at his side.
Pragmatism can also play its part, with France looking to expand the Ducovany nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic. The government will decide on this, the Czech president does not have this power, but he can act as a behind-the-scenes lobbyist for French interests against American or South Korean interests.
Whatever the reason, Macron is engaging with observers in the Czech presidential election. As far as is known, neither Dhanusa Nerudova nor another finalist will see Petr Pavel. Instead of them, at present, he bet on a politician who is on trial in France on suspicion of money laundering and tax evasion; For a man who faces massive conflicts of interest at home and zigzags abroad in favor of Ukraine against Russian aggression.
Anyone can meet anyone, but the French president can excuse himself this time and wait for local voters to make the final decision about Prague Castle.