Věra Jourová, who currently handles justice, consumers and gender, is preparing to become the first Czech to serve two consecutive stints on the European Commission. Prime Minister Babiš is hoping that Ms. Jourová can secure an economic portfolio, possibly also with a view of gaining political points at home.
In the past month, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has repeatedly told the media that he believes Ms. Jourová’s new portfolio should be trade, the digital economy, or the internal market.
Jan Kovář, a European affairs focused analyst from the Institute of International Relations in Prague, says the prime minister may get his wish fulfilled.
“First of all, the chances of securing an economic portfolio are increased by the fact that Věra Jourová has served as an EU commissioner for the past five years and she has a relatively good reputation and track record.
“Furthermore, the new member states that joined after 2004 are now seriously underrepresented within the European Union’s top positions, whether it be the European Commission president, the president of the European Council and so on.
“These two facts together increase the chances of Central and Eastern European candidates receiving the portfolios they want. That of course boosts Ms. Jourová’s chances of getting something related to the economy.”
Mr. Kovář says that a Czech nominee is unlikely to get is any portfolio directly related to EU funds and subsidies. This is because of Mr. Babiš’s alleged conflict of interest surrounding his political position and his former company’s largescale use of EU funding.
Based on these factors, the EU analyst sees the digital economy as one of the best portfolios Ms. Jourová could receive.
“The digital Europe portfolio is perhaps the best, because it cross-cuts across a lot of policy fields where the European Union has competencies. On the other hand the single market portfolio is not as important today as it was 20 years ago.”
Ultimately, those who are chosen as commissioners vow to be independent of any government in their decisions and promote European interests, but they can serve as a useful bridge between the commission and their home state.
In Czech domestic political haggling the choice of commissioner has not traditionally been a major issue. Contrast this with some other member states, such as Belgium, where the question of who occupies the role is sometimes on par with the distribution of important state ministries.
Mr. Kovář suggests that Prime Minister Babiš may be trying to exaggerate the significance of the single market portfolio in particular with a view to scoring points with Czech voters.
“It is very much about Prime Minister Babiš being be able to claim a victory. For a long time he has labelled the single market as one of the strongest portfolios, which I personally do not believe is the case. However, because he has said so, if the Czech Republic secures this commissioner position, he will be able to easily sell it in the domestic electoral and political market.”
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