The Czech coalition parties have nominated Regional Development Minister Věra Jourová as the country’s candidate for the European Commission. The Czech government hopes she could take over one of the economic portfolios in the commission. Ms Jourová, of the ANO party, meanwhile, has vowed to raise the EU’s prestige with Czechs.
It took the Czech coalition an inordinately long time to agree on a candidate for the post of European commissioner. For about two months, each of the three coalition parties – the Social Democrats, ANO and the Christian Democrats stood relentlessly behind their own nominees including a former European commissioner under Romano Prodi, a former Czech finance minister, and an MEP.
But on Monday, coalition leaders announced that the Czech Republic would nominate Regional Development Minister Věra Jourová for the post. Czech Prime Minister and Social Democrat leader Bohuslav Sobotka told reporters the main reason was that as a woman, Ms Jourová will have a bigger chance to land one of the more influential portfolios.
“My consultations with the next president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels last week indicated that the Czech Republic would have a better negotiating position for a strong portfolio if we nominate a woman.
“It was made clear that the new European Commission might have problems winning support from the European Parliament if it had fewer women in its ranks than the outgoing one – that is, fewer than nine. So countries that nominate women will have a bigger chance of getting more important portfolios.”
In return for agreeing to Věra Jourová’s nomination, the Social Democrats have also secured the ANO party’s support for some of their political priorities at home such as increasing the minimum wage and raising the salaries of social workers.
The Czech government would like to see Ms Jourová taking over the regional policy, transport or industry portfolios, or possibly the post of the commission’s vice president in charge of inter-institutional relations and administration.
Věra Jourová, 49, has served as the minister for regional development since the current Czech centre-left government was formed in January. Last year, she joined the ANO party set up by the Slovak-born multibillionaire, and the current finance minister, Andrej Babiš, and was elected ANO’s deputy chairwoman.
Between 2004 and 2006, she held the post of deputy regional development minister under Social Democrat prime minister Jiří Paroubek. But her term at the ministry ended in corruption charges; she spent a month in police detention before the case against her was dismissed.
On Monday, Věra Jourová told reporters she would like to run her portfolio as a professional with high moral standards, to improve the EU’s reputation among Czechs, and, to get all Czech representatives in the EU to promote their country’s interests.
“The European Commissioner must of course be impartial, without regard to national interests. Beyond this, however, I would like to focus on coordinating the activities of Czech people in EU institutions to promote Czech national interests – after my working hours, if you will.”
Ms Jourová’s nomination is now to be discussed by the European Affairs Committee of the lower house before being formally approved by the government.