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Originally published in Foreign Policy
Czech oligarch Andrej Babis, his country’s second-richest man and one of the most politically powerful billionaires in the world, is expanding his business empire into Prague’s corridors of power.
Babis currently serves as finance minister, but his ambitions are far grander. The rise of Babis — nicknamed “Babisconi,” after Italian billionaire turned prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — marks a turning point in his country’s post-communist history.
Since its “Velvet Divorce” with Slovakia in 1993, the Czech Republic has made a rapid transition to democracy and market economics, enjoying some of Europe’s highest growth rates and becoming an active member of the EU. Like its Central European neighbors, the new country flourished and became, initially, a remarkable success story. But in recent years, its liberal democracy has weakened.