Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has scolded Politico for publishing what he said was old and unconfirmed information about a potential rule-of-law portfolio for the Czech Commission candidate Věra Jourová. But he did say this portfolio would be a prestigious one. EURACTIV Czech Republic reports.
Babiš said he had no information whatsoever that the rule of law was being offered, while his foreign affairs minister, Tomáš Petříček, told the Czech News Agency (ČTK) that his country is interested in the economics portfolio or a vice-president’s post.
Petříček stressed that the decision is not yet final and that Jourová is still waiting for further negotiations. “It is still true that we strive for a portfolio that is either related to the economy, the digital market, or the vice-presidency,” the minister said.
The fight for the economic portfolio or the vice-president position in the European Commission continues for the Czech government.
However, Politico’s report provoked different reactions among Czech politicians, including suspicions that it was a joke or even “Brussels’ sweet revenge” on the country.
No silver lining
Vít Rakušan, the chairman of the Mayors and Independents party (STAN), said rule of law was “definitely not a strong portfolio like the economic one that the Czech government has dreamed of”, while Pirate MEP Mikuláš Peksa highlighted the ongoing EU subsidies fraud case against Prime Minister Babiš.
“Entrusting one of Babiš’s candidates with supervising the rule-of-law portfolio will not reinforce the enforcement of this principle in the EU. This would also be a sign of weakness for the Commission’s president-elect,” Peksa wrote.
And he added for EURACTIV that “Jourová has the potential to handle this portfolio. We have to hope that she will be independent of the person of Andrej Babiš.”
Communist MEP Kateřina Konečná said there was no silver lining in the rule-of-law job: “This portfolio cannot influence the crucial EU legislative. Jourová will be pushed to reprimand the member states which currently have an uncomfortable relationship with Brussels. This is not a popular position to be in, and therefore no one wants it, ”the MEP said.
“In the past, the position was linked to the Commission’s vice-chairmanship, which now no longer seems to be the case,” Konečná added. The matter could be “Brussels’ sweet revenge,” she said.
The rule-of-law portfolio would please Babiš
According to the Czech prime minister, the rule-of-law portfolio would be good news for his country. On a business trip to Turkey, he told reporters that it would be a “prestigious matter” but had no information about such an offer having been made.
“Politico provides us with month-old speculations. If that was true, I think it would be a great honour for the Czech Republic. If a Czech representative could oversee the rule-of-law portfolio, I think it would certainly be a prestigious matter for us,” the Czech Prime Minister said and added:
“But I do not have this kind of information after the interviews we conducted [with Commission president-elect von der Leyen]. It was backdoor information coming from Brussels”.
Quoting two high-ranking officials, Politico reported about the possible portfolio for Jourová on Tuesday (3 September). According to them, this could present a positive step for the new EU Commission president with regard to Visegrad countries.
Some local politicians have criticised the Commission’s approach towards Central European member states and argued that its focus on the rule of law in the region is unfair.
The rule-of-law portfolio would also include disinformation and hate speech issues. Jourová currently serves as the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.
[edited by Daniel Eck/Zoran Radosavljevic]