The designated Czech vice-president of the European Commission, Věra Jourová, has been approved for the European values and transparency portfolio in the new European Commission. In a three-hour hearing on Monday, Ms. Jourová was grilled by members of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committees on how she would secure rule of law and media freedom across the EU.
Věra Jourová, the outgoing Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality radiated confidence as she took the stand to defend her nomination for the European values and transparency portfolio.
In her introductory speech, Ms Jourová stated that her portfolio is “about Europe’s soul and the challenges that Europe is facing, internally and externally”, promising that she would “try to build bridges across the European Union based on our common values”.
The vice president-designate told MEPs that as a citizen of the post-communist block she remembers well the overwhelming desire of people in the region to share those values.
“We wanted change. We wanted to join the European community; not in search of material goods, but in search of its freedoms. European values are our common foundation. They bind us together –from north to south, from east to west. They overcome differences of language, culture, traditions. This is why upholding our values, our fundamental rights, our rule of law must be our key objective and it should be a driver of European unity rather than a source of division.”
Addressing concerns regarding the rule of law in Poland and Hungary and a suspected conflict of interest on the part of Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, Ms. Jourová said she was determined to deal with rule of law issues across the block impartially and would not favour any state in defending the EU‘s core values.
“We cannot take the rule of law for granted. That is why we need to build a rule of law culture, based on mutual respect. We should privilege dialogue and avoid crisis situations from happening, but equally, we have to address problems where they exist. I will be principled and act with determination, if needed, using all the available tools.”
Potential measures mentioned by the vice president-designate included anti-censorship legislation, as well as legal and financial aid for those facing rule of law violations. The Czech candidate also spoke at length about the need to defend media freedom and protect journalists, as well as join forces in fighting the cyber threat.
“As physical attacks on politicians, journalists or members of minorities take place also in Europe we cannot be naive. The enemies of democracy have weaponized the digital sphere already. We must increase our ability to resist and to react.”
Ms. Jourová also responded to a question by Czech MEP Jiří Pospíšil who asked her whether she agreed with Czech prime minister, Andrej Babiš’ claim that it was possible to order a criminal investigation in the Czech Republic. Speaking in her native Czech, Ms. Jourová said that while she too had been accused wrongfully and spent time in detention due to what she called “dirty political tactics”, she trusted the Czech judiciary and disagreed with the prime minister’s claim.
The European Parliament is to vote on the committees’ recommendations on October 17, when Věra Jourová will be officially confirmed in her new post.
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