Czech PM seeks Brussels input over European Commissioner selection stalemate

Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: CTK

The Czech odyssey in search of a European Commission candidate continues with Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka now departing for Brussels to get a better idea of what jobs could be filled by the possible Czech candidates. He is likely to be told that a woman candidate would be more than welcome, but such a move could create problems within his own party.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that he wanted to go to Wednesday’s summit in Brussels with a name in his pocket for the Czech nominee for the next European Commission. But another two hour round of inconclusive negotiations between coalition parties on Tuesday night means he will leave for the European capital empty-handed.

Sobotka said that he wants now to discuss the possible portfolios that Czech candidates could be offered with incoming European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker before the negotiations resume again in Prague next week. This is what he told Czech Radio on Wednesday morning. “I don’t want to narrow the focus of the possible candidates down to just one before I have had a chance to discuss things with the future European Commission president Mr. Juncker, who only yesterday was endorsed by the European Parliament, as regards the ambitions of individual states, how the European Commission will share out the portfolios, and what the real chances are for the Czech Republic. I want to discuss what options are open to individual candidates with regard to their experience, competences, and expert knowledge in the future working of the European Commission.”

Pavel Mertlík,  photo: archive of Radio Prague
The frontrunner candidates are former Social Democrat finance minister Pavel Mertlík, currently serving as an advisor to prime minister Sobotka, and ANO’s Minister for Regional Development, Věra Jourová. The smallest party, the Christian Democrats, have advanced the name of currently serving Czech European Commission official Petr Blížkovský as a possible compromise choice.

Czech daily Mladá fronta Dnes reported Wednesday that Sobotka in principle has nothing much against nominating Jourová, but that his main problem is hardline opposition within his own party against any more concessions to the ANO party. ANO party boss Andrej Babiš says Jourová stands a better chance of getting a top job in Brussels because Jean-Claude Juncker is under pressure to have at least as many women in the new Commission as the outgoing one, and if possible more. There are currently nine women Commissioners.

Věra Jourová,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Andreas Rogal, is a journalist with the Brussels-based news agency Europolitics. He says the share out of Commission jobs is still all up in the air. I asked him whether it would be an advantage to come up with a woman candidate. “I think it would be, yes, because there is a shortage of women. It depends a bit on how able she is as well. There is certainly pressure on the side of Junker to have more good women be put forward and there have not been that many. So far, we know the name of 11 Commissioners and none of them are female. ”

Man or woman, Social Democrat, Christian Democrat, or ANO, or none of the above, in a few days the hunt for a Czech Commissioner should hopefully be resolved.