Brussels summit should pave way for decision on Czech Commission portfolio

Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer flies into Brussels on Thursday for a special meeting of government leaders to dole out the top jobs created by the European Union’s Lisbon treaty. The share out of those top jobs should pave the way for the formation of the next European Commission and help clarify the post the Czech candidate will get on it. We look at what is at stake at and after the Brussels summit.

The Lisbon treaty created three new top jobs as part of its mission to oil and overhaul the European Union’s clunky decision making process and make it a bigger force in world affairs.

Failing the emergence of a very unexpected black horse candidate, the Czechs are not in the running to get any of the top jobs on offer. These are the new President of the EU Council, High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Secretary General of the Council.

Vaira Vike-Freiberga, former Latvia's President, and one of the candidates to be the first EU President, photo: CTK
But Prime Minister Fischer should have more than a good dinner and long debate to look forward to.

While not doing anything as undiplomatic as saying up front who they want in the top positions, the Czechs have indicated they would like someone from a mid-sized or smaller country as what amounts to the new president of Europe. And Prague wants someone who will push further enlargement of the EU and give high priority to relations with non-EU states in Eastern Europe in the top diplomatic post.

Thursday’s decisions and the dealing surrounding them will probably also give pointers to who will get what in the new European Commission, which forms policy and takes key decisions affecting around 500 million Europeans.

The Czech government candidate is current Minister for European Affairs Štefan Füle.

Simon Taylor, a Brussels-based journalist with the weekly newspaper European Voice, has been following the formation of a new Commission and the chances of the candidates named so far.

“I think that the candidate that the government has agreed on, Štefan Füle, is well regarded in Brussels. He played quite an important part in getting the Lisbon treaty through and working on the deal which convinced President Klaus to sign the Lisbon treaty in the end, the concession on the Charter of Fundamental Rights. So he is well regarded in Brussels.”

Whether that regard can translate into a meaningful portfolio in a Commission where they are more Commissioners than real jobs is another question. Simon Taylor again:

“I know the Czechs are interested in enlargement, energy or transport. It would be quite interesting to see if the EU, the Commission feels you could give enlargement to someone from the new countries. But I think Füle stands a reasonable chance. Energy is probably a bit too sensitive at this point in time but enlargement is a possibility I think.”

He adds that a Czech might just be regarded as possibly too confrontational in the increasingly high profile energy job given that a big part of the job is making sure that Russian oil and gas continues to flow westwards. The composition of the new Commission and Štefan Füle’s future on it should be decided by the end of the month.