Named a European Parliament vice president, Miroslav Ouzky becomes highest-profile Czech MEP

Miroslav Ouzky, photo: CTK

The European Parliament this week is holding its first full plenary session since the historic enlargement this May of the European Union from 15 to 25 member states. The first order of business on Tuesday, the opening day of the session, was for the 732 MEPs - who between them speak 20 official languages - to elect a new president and 14 vice-presidents.

Miroslav Ouzky,  photo: CTK
Among the 14 vice presidents of the European Parliament elected on Tuesday - and there were only 14 candidates for the posts after a new president was agreed - were three freshly minted MEPs from new member states; two from Poland and one from the Czech Republic.

The new Czech vice president, Miroslav Ouzky, is hardly a household name at home, although a Member of Parliament since 1998. A member of the main Czech opposition party, the centre-right Civic Democrats, he has a medical degree and has largely focused on social policy and health care issues.

Mr Ouzky, aged 45, acted as an observer in Brussels and Strasbourg with the Czech delegation ahead of the June elections to the European Parliament. He is now the highest-ranking Czech MEP. He said he intends to use the post to help simplify EU legislation and financing and bring "Europe" closer to the people.

"How a vice president of the European Parliament can influence affairs is through the leadership of the assembly - the bureau, or what we in Czech call the 'organisational committee' - and I think there is room to change the agenda. And as I mentioned several times in my speech as a candidate, I see a lot of possibilities for greater contact between the MEPs and the electorate - within the legislative calendar, there is currently not enough room for that."

Josep Borrell,  photo: CTK
Mr Ouzky's candidature was put forth by the strongest faction in the assembly, the centre-right European People's Party-European Democrats, or EPP. Through a power-sharing deal with the second most powerful political group, the left-leaning Party of European Socialists, EU lawmakers on Tuesday elected a Spanish socialist, Josep Borrell, to serve as their new president - but Mr Borrell will step down half way through his five-year term in favour of Germany's Hans-Gert Poettering.

The heads of the various committees will be elected over the course of this week, with plum committee chairs carved up between the two factions.

Mr Borrell secured victory in the first round with 388 votes, ahead of former Polish dissident Bronislaw Geremek, with 208 votes, and French communist Francis Wurtz, who was supported by 51 MEPs.

The European Parliament - the only directly elected body in the EU - now represents 450 million people and uses 20 official languages, including Czech.