Czech Republic faces race to make nomination for new EU Commission

Photo: European Commission

With the dust settling on the protracted Czech ratification of the EU’s Lisbon treaty, politicians round Europe are getting to grips with some of the stalled issues. One of them is the nomination of a new European Commission and share out of the plum and not so plum posts. The Czech government has made this a top priority but political parties are still haggling about who should get the nomination.

One result of the protracted ratification of the Lisbon treaty is that the current set of EU Commissioners forming policy for around half a billion Europeans out of Brussels have passed their sell-by date. The current Commission was supposed to stand down at the end of October but was kept on in a caretaker role.

Photo: European Commission
Following Czech President Václav Klaus’ signature of the Lisbon treaty on Tuesday, Prague now faces a race with other EU countries to nominate its man or woman for the new look Commission.

The process in Prague is looking a bit fraught. First of all local political parties have not so far agreed who should get this top job. The two biggest parties failed to make any progress when their leaders met on Wednesday. And Czech Prime Minister Jan Fischer has threatened to go outside the list of around half a dozen names put forward by parties if they cannot agree on a candidate within the next week or so.

Secondly, fears have been voiced in Prague that the Czech Republic will be punished because of its foot dragging over Lisbon ratification. Punishment could take the form of a very junior post for the Czechs on the new Commission.

But Brussels-based journalist Rory Watson does not believe that revenge on the Czechs will be a big issue when the new Commission posts are doled out.

Czech EU Commissioner Vladimír Špidla
“Traditionally, people are not vindictive in Brussels and I think it will be remembered that the problems on the ratification were caused more by the president than by the government — and the government will be doing the nominating to the Commission. I do not think that will play a big role. But the question is that there are so many commissioners and not enough jobs to go around, so the portfolio might not be a very senior one.”

Nonetheless, some of the candidates for the future Commission are already known with a fair proportion of the outgoing incumbents staying on, though not necessarily in the same posts. In the Brussels battle for top jobs, getting known early is believed to be an advantage. Rory Watson again:

“At least 10 to a dozen of those who served in the previous Commission will carry on. So that is almost half of the number. Some of them like Mr. Kallas of Estonia have been there for five years but some like the Polish and Belgian Commissioners, who only took up their posts after the European [Parliament] elections, will also be staying on. But there are also some big countries, like the UK and France, that have not nominated their people. Nor have some smaller countries like Ireland. So there is still a bit to play for.”

European Commission building in Brussels
Even so, France and Germany have already made it known that they want the Commission’s big economic portfolio and those sort of demands are difficult to turn down. The Czech Republic is more or less ruled for this out as it is not a member of the eurozone.

But there are examples of small countries getting some of the bigger posts. But in what to some extent is a game of musical chairs, getting nominations in early is at least part of the battle of landing one of those plum jobs.