Czech nominee for EU commissioner fails to convince two committees at EP hearing

Věra Jourová, photo: CTK

The Czech nominee for EU commissioner in charge of justice, consumer protection and gender equality Věra Jourová faced the traditional grilling by four EP committees on Wednesday. Her performance during the three hour long question-and-answer session elicited a mixed response. Two of the four committees –those on civil liberties and gender equality – have demanded additional questions before making a final decision on whether to recommend her appointment. I asked Jakub Janda of the Prague-based European Values think tank to assess her performance at the hearing.

Věra Jourová, photo: CTK
“To some extent she was OK, but for some members of the European Parliament her responses were too shallow as they are now saying. She was pretty good in explaining what she wanted to do in some areas but she was shallow in telling them what she would like to do regarding data protection for instance, and they weren’t very satisfied with her answers regarding Syria and Iraq where she did not answer their questions very concretely. And that is the reason why MEPs from two out of four EP committees are asking her to answer nine additional questions.”

So she will face this next week?

“Probably, the most likely scenario is that she will get around nine written questions which she would answer in written form and if the members of these two as yet undecided committees are satisfied then she will be recommended for approval.”

Ms. Jourová herself said that it was largely due to lack of time (a two-minute limit on each answer) that made her respond briefly. Would you say it was this or inexperience or nervousness?

Andrej Babiš, photo: Filip Jandourek
“We have to keep in mind that she only knew that she had been assigned this portfolio for less than two weeks. She and everybody in the Czech government thought she would get the regional development portfolio, which she didn’t, so she was not on home ground so to speak. She was prepared, but she was not thoroughly prepared, which is understandable because there would be so much detailed information she would need to know and it is not in the human capacity to learn this in ten days.”

Her links to ANO leader Andrej Babiš are an issue, did she manage to dispel concerns on that count?

“There was only one question regarding Mr.Babiš and his connection to Vera Jourová. She answered that she did not take an interest in his business which I thought was a very disappointing answer. After all she is still at this point ANO deputy vice chair –although she plans to resign – and if in her position she says she has no interest in what his business is then I think that is really scary. Bust most MEPs did not appear greatly interested in this question, though I think it is an important message to Czech politics.”

The decision regarding her appointment has been shelved at least until Monday –she will be asked to answer additional questions – does that indicate serious problems or is that normal procedure?

Jakub Janda, photo: Czech Television
“It is not entirely normal procedure. There are commissioners who get approved right away, or within 24 hours, but the decisions on Věra Jourová and the British nominee have been delayed. In her case because two out of four committees asked for extra time and additional questions. So it could mean serious problems but from what I learnt from some MEPs and staffers present, she could be in for a tougher grilling but she is unlikely to get kicked out since some of the other nominees for commissioner are seen to be weaker than she is.”

So her chances are fair?

“Yes, pretty fair I would say. She has to answer the additional questions. Of course it is not absolutely certain she will get the past, and there is always a chance she could be given another portfolio altogether, which has happened in the past, but there is a pretty fair chance she will get it after she answers the questions.”