What faces will represent the enlarged EU commission?

Photo: European Commission

Until recently the future size of the EU's executive - the Commission - was also creating divisions. The draft constitution proposed 15 voting members of the executive and 10 non-voting ones. Smaller countries feared this would leave them without voting rights on the Commission. The issue now looks resolved - with Members and future members of the European Union having "broadly agreed" to enlarge the body's executive arm so all 25 states will have a commissioner. So who will those future Commissioners be? The Slovak government has less than two months to choose its nominee for the post of the European Commissioner.

Photo: European Commission
So far there are two nominees: Jan Figel', the former chief negotiator with the EU during the accession talks and Ivan Stefanec, the former director of Coca Cola, Slovakia. Jan Figel has been proposed and strongly supported by the ruling coalition's Christian Democratic Party, a few opposition parties and even the strongest political faction in the European Parliament, the European People's Party. He is a well-respected politician who's main plus factor is the extensive experience acquired while negotiating the terms of Slovakia's EU membership.

"I was very glad that Slovakia discussed very intensively number of chapters, kind of chapters in post-Helsinki euphoria and it was proved that we shift from debate on political criteria into more substantial, more pragmatic questions of when and how we will be able to meet economic or legal compatibility."

Ivan Stefanec has been nominated by the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union Party of Premier Mikulas Dzurinda. His nomination has been quite controversial as the political analyst Frantisek Sebej says.

"I don't see why it is reasonable or even acceptable to propose someone with no political experience at all. He is a man who got some qualifications as the CEO of a multinational company but that's a completely different qualification. It seems that leaders use to put forward the candidacy of this or that person not to position him there actually but to have a card, a bargaining card to trade off for something else."

The Slovak press agencies even reported last week that a leaked document of the European Commission labelled Ivan Stefanec as "not the best choice" because Brussels would prefer that the candidates for the post of commissioner be well-known diplomats or politicians of a suitable political level. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, which will also join the union next year, have proposed their former chief negotiators with the EU or ambassadors to the EU. But in a phone interview from Brussels, Ivan Stefanec, doesn't seem discouraged by the fact that the job is a highly political one.

"Ya definitely this is a political nomination. We know that but I do believe that the commissioner should be also a good manager particularly very much experienced in leading people. Because I work at top level in an international company I do believe that my job deals with politics in terms of understanding different cultures, in finding solutions, in negotiation skills and so on."

No matter how heated the debate is locally, the last say in the selection process belongs to the European Parliament. Once it receives the list of candidates from each accession country, it will arrange a hearing in April next year. The new members of the Commission will be announced just a few days after enlargement becomes effective in May 2004.