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The unsuccessful presidential candidate Danuše Nerudová has probably the best chance of becoming the next Czech EU Commissioner. However, in the Czech Republic, it has always been a habit to select a new member of the European Commission at the last minute and without a conceptual approach.

By Ondřej Plevák,

The Czech Republic has had a total of four different EU Commissioners since its accession to the EU in 2004, but their nomination was usually not fully conceptualised and prepared well in advance. But that is what experts say is necessary for the country to hope for a strong portfolio in a new European Commission.

Former Social Democrat Prime Minister Vladimír Špidla took up the post in Brussels in 2004 after his government resigned following a disappointing election result and he needed to “disappear”. The current Czech Vice-President of the Commission, Věra Jourová, got the nomination essentially by accident, as she became a “last-minute” compromise back in 2014.

Although it is possible that the same scenario will repeat itself and a compromise candidate will emerge just before the deadline, there is already talk in the Czech media about the selection of a new Commissioner.

As Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) has repeatedly confirmed, the right to nominate a candidate will be given to one of the smaller parties in the coalition government, the Mayors and Independents (STAN), which negotiated this privilege when the cabinet was formed.

However, the Pirates, another of the coalition parties, may also have a say in the nomination, claiming that they also have the right to select the Commissioner because they ran jointly with STAN in the 2021 elections to the lower house of the Parliament. STAN representatives reject that.

Who's got a chance?

The most frequently mentioned names are therefore associated with STAN. The party managed to convince popular economist Danuša Nerudová, who came third in the 2023 Czech presidential elections, to run on its candidate list in this year's European Parliament elections. And she could be the one who eventually gets nominated to the European Commission as well. Her disadvantage is that she has no previous political experience, having only been through a presidential campaign. Still, she probably has the best chance at the moment.

Together with Nerudová, former STAN national MP Jan Farský will also lead the candidate list for the European Parliament. He too could become a Commissioner candidate. However, the current Minister of Industry and Trade Jozef Síkela, who made a good name for himself in Brussels when he managed to negotiate difficult compromises in the energy sector during the Czech Presidency of the EU Council in 2022, is more frequently mentioned.

If the Pirates do manage to convince the government to consider their nomination, current MEP and at one point vice-president of the European Parliament Marcel Kolaja could get his chance. He was even recently selected by the European Pirate Party as its candidate for the presidency of the new European Commission. But even this does not improve his chances much.

The strongest coalition party, the ODS, could also reflect its views in the nomination. In such a case, the current Executive Director of the European Defence Agency, Jiří Šedivý, who once held the position of Defence Minister in the ODS colours, could be given the opportunity. As he confirmed to, he would be interested in the position of Commissioner.

However, if a compromise candidate with no political affiliation were eventually needed, according to behind-the-scenes information from “the Brussels Dictate” podcast by two former correspondents in Brussels, Ondřej Houska and Michal Půr, the current Czech ambassador to the EU, Edita Hrdá, would be interested in the position. However, as the authors of the podcast add, according to diplomats in Brussels, she is not considered a strong candidate.

Strong and weak portfolios

Prime Minister Petr Fiala is reportedly already negotiating the portfolio that the new Czech commissioner could be put in charge of. All Czech governments always repeat that they would like to negotiate “a strong economic portfolio” for the Czech Republic, for example the internal market, which is very important for the export-oriented country. However, Czechia is limited both by its lack of political strength and by the fact that it is not in the eurozone.

The Czech Republic has not yet been in charge of very strong portfolios. First it was health and consumer protection, then employment, and later EU enlargement. But besides the agenda, the person of the Commissioner and the position he or she can build is also important. One example is Věra Jourová, who started with the justice and gender equality agenda in her first mandate and now, as Vice-President, has also taken on very important issues such as the Media Freedom Act and negotiating groundbreaking rules with online platforms.

Since there is talk of Jozef Síkela or Jiří Šedivý, portfolios focused on energy or defence are being discussed. However, as Ondřej Houska and Michal Půr point out, while in the energy sector “all the essential legislation is already in place”, a defence commissioner would not have the necessary powers to decide on key defence issues. In their view, it would make much more sense for Czechia to pursue an agenda on which important legislation will be approved in the coming period. Surprisingly, such an area could be transport, for example.

Of course, everything will depend on who will be the next President of the European Commission and what portfolio structure they will choose. The political affiliation of the candidates, their nationality and their gender also play a role. The most important thing, however, is the result of the June elections to the European Parliament.


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