Jan Zahradil - Czech MEP on his first day in Strasbourg

Jan Zahradil, photo: CTK

Jan Zahradil, a Euro-MP for the Civic Democrats, a member party of the largest right-of-centre faction in the European Parliament, is no newcomer to EU institutions: for a year he was an Observer of the European Parliament and he also served as the head of the Czech delegation to the European Parliament between 1998 and 2003. Mr Zahradil told Radio Prague about his first impressions of the European Parliament in a new post.

Jan Zahradil,  photo: CTK
"These first days and first weeks are full of work. We have to establish all parliamentary bodies, have to fill all parliamentary sanctions and I think that the Czech delegation in the EPP-ED [European People's Party-European Democrats] faction is doing very well. As you know, we have been able to nominate our Vice President of the European Parliament and probably we will be able to get some three or four important functions even further. So I am very satisfied with our performance during these first days in the European Parliament."

The vote on the membership of individual committees is going to take place on Thursday, is that right?

"Yes, the number of members of individual committees should be set down today, and then tomorrow there should be a definitive vote on who will be a member of which committee. But I do not expect any problems with that."

Which committee are you interested in?

"I have been speculating very much about that, because, as you know, I have also my home duties: I am still the first vice chairman of my party and I am also the shadow foreign minister, so my choice was a committee that would deal with foreign affairs to some extent and on the other hand whose timetable would allow me to fulfil also my home duties and political party duties. So in the end I opted for the Development Committee which is focused on external relations of the European Union with its so-called 'near abroad', or the third world, such as Africa, the countries of the Maghreb and the countries of the Middle East. I think it will be very interesting work."

European Parliament,  photo: CTK
I know it might be still too early to ask, but given the lack of interest among Czech voters in the European Parliament, what are you going to do to bring Brussels closer to Prague?

"Frankly speaking, I don't think this is a question that could be answered in two or three simple sentences. I think that the popular distrust of the European Union has deeper roots and I think this is not only a question of the European Parliament and for the European Parliament, but this is a question which goes over the European integration process. So I think that some approaches have to be changed completely. I think politicians as a whole, the political elite, should tackle the real problems of European countries and should not be thrown deep in some institutional and constitutional battles which are to a large extent senseless."