Věra Jourová, the European Commission’s Vice-President elect for Values and Transparency, gave the good example on 9 October by meeting with Brussels journalists to talk about her future portfolio, answering their questions openly and making some strong political statements.
The Czech liberal politician said she was looking forward to work with Ursula von der Leyen. “It’s the first time I will have a female boss – at 55,” she said.
Asked whether coming from eastern Europe was an advantage or a disadvantage when dealing with issues such as the rule of law in Poland and Hungary, she said she saw it more as an advantage.
“I have understanding for the efforts of the Eastern member states,” she said referring to the current Polish administration, which wants to get rid of communists in the judiciary system. But although this might look good, she asks herself why now, almost 30 years after the fall of the regime.
“I really don’t want us to come back to era before 1989. And when we think about what might happen, if we are not careful about the rule of law, government will make arrangements to be there forever,” she said.
Without naming a country in particular, she said there was a tendency in Europe of elections being no longer free, also because the judiciary system, which should assess them, no longer worked, and journalists could not contribute for presenting the objective picture, and that television was no longer public, , but a state TV.
“This things I remember from the time before 1989 may happen now. Well believe me, I will do everything not to let this happen”, Jourová said, adding:
“And I will be authentic in this. It will not be Brussels which dictates. It’s the person who lived half of her life in a regime where freedoms were not guaranteed. This will be my equipment for the dialogue. And I will use all the openness and fairness and diplomatic skills, because I really worry about the development we see in Poland and in Hungary”, she said.
“This is not a ‘ticking-the-boxes’ portfolio. This is going to be permanent work and continuous with the member states, fine-tuning the definitions how we understand the rule of law principle, how far transparency should go, how elections should be better protected and how to protect independent journalism and freedom of speech, because for me protecting independent journalism and well-functioning public media are a matter of protection of the freedom of speech”, she said.
Jourová condemned the anti-Semitic attack in eastern Germany which had taken place the same day.
“It’s another horrible chapter and it shows there is a big task for the national security bodies to guarantee better security for Jewish citizens. Because the situation when the Jewish citizens announce “we are planning to leave Europe, because we fear you” is unbearable and doesn’t show anything good about today’s Europe”, she said.
The Czech commissioner also revealed a secret by saying that she had been the initiator of a the mechanism to be put in place under the von der Leyen Commission, under which all member countries would be monitored for upholding the rule of law.
“I must say I was a strong driver of this idea”, she said, explaining that the goal of the initiative was not imposing sanctions, but opening an early dialogue precisely to avoid such outcome.
Jourová said she would continue with her current team, and had offered all of them to stay.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]