After weeks of speculation regarding the Czech Republic’s nominee for European commissioner, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš arrived for talks with European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen with a single name in his briefcase: Věra Jourová, the current commissioner for justice, consumer protection and gender equality. The prime minister is hoping that her experience could help the country acquire a more ambitious portfolio.
The election of Ursula von der Leyen as the new president of the European Commission has elicited both enthusiastic and sceptical reactions from Czech MEP, who were divided in the vote according to party lines. Those in favour of her election highlight her understanding of Central and Eastern Europe, those against point to her weak mandate.
The European Parliament elected its leadership on Wednesday and two Czech MEPs – Dita Charanzová from the Liberals group and Marcel Kolaja from the Greens –were elected vice-president. I asked Libor Rouček, himself a former vice-president of the European Parliament, whether he considers this a significant success for a country the size of the Czech Republic.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has hailed the EU compromise on nominations for the bloc’s top jobs as a big success for the Visegrad Four grouping which fiercely opposed the system of Spitzen candidates and particularly the candidacy of Frans Timmermans for EC president. But, while the prime minister is cheering, there have been mixed reactions from Czech MEPs, some of whom have criticized the fact that the deal reached does not reflect the outcome of elections to the European Parliament.
After failing to reach a decision during over 18 hours of talks on Sunday and Monday, EU leaders are reconvening in Brussels to try to agree who should lead the bloc’s institutions for the coming five years. Dutch socialist Frans Timmermans, a frontrunner for European Commission president, faces strong opposition from the Czech Republic and fellow Visegrad Four states.
The presence of so-called dual quality food in European stores was confirmed this week, when the results of a European Commission study showed that the labelling on 31 percent of analysed products was either fully or partly misleading. What is more, it seems dual quality is not just a problem in Central and Eastern Europe, but across the whole union.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš says the Czech Republic doesn’t want a new president of the European Commission that would bring back migrant quotas. As he left for a summit in Brussels, he also said he would not now be discussing a Commission audit finding him in conflict of interest with its outgoing chief.
In 2009 the Eastern Partnership, a project seeking closer ties between the EU and its Eastern European neighbours was proclaimed in Prague. Ten years later, the union is evaluating its progress and searching for prospective strategies. Whatever the future brings, it seems that this is likely to be a long-haul effort.
Last week’s leaked preliminary EU Audit, which found Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to be in a conflict of interests, continues to make headlines across the country. Mr. Babiš has denied any wrongdoing. Civil servants are now waiting for an official Czech translation to be sent after which they will send their state’s reply to the findings. I asked the director of the Transparency International’s Czech branch, David Ondračka, whether he thinks there is any chance the findings of the preliminary report will change in the final version.