European Union leaders start two days of tough talks on Thursday on a joint seven-year budget from 2021 and must work out how to fill a 75 billion euro ($81 billion) hole left by Britain's departure just as they face costly climate, migration and development challenges.
CZECH PRIME MINISTER ANDREJ BABIS
"Imagine me being Harry Potter, having a magic stick and transforming all the planned projects into reality now," he continued. "We would immediately become a second Switzerland."
Of course, Babis was quickly reminded that despite his immense economic and political heft, his powers remain earthbound.
Apart from the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, as a host of the event, the lunch is attended by the prime ministers of Hungary Victor Orban, Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki, Prime Minister of Slovakia Peter Pelegrini, as well as prime ministers of Western Balkans, among others, Albanian PM Edi Rama, Montenegrin PM Dusko Markovic, and Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia, Zoran Zaev.
The EU has already frozen non-farm payments to Agrofert — one of the largest Czech recipients of EU aid — and the Czech supreme state prosecutor is looking into whether criminal charges should be brought.
Brussels is likely to levy fines and demand that past aid is repaid, meaning that either the state or Agrofert would have to bear the cost.