On Wednesday European Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker revealed the portfolios intended for his new team of commissioners. The Czech Republic’s nominee Věra Jourová was assigned the portfolio of justice, consumer policy and gender equality, unexpectedly dashing the country’s hopes of winning a strong economic portfolio in the European Commission.
News that the Czech candidate had been assigned the EC justice portfolio could not have come as a bigger surprise, not least to Věra Jourová herself who, in her first reaction to the news openly admitted her disappointment to the media, expressing regret that she had missed out on the regional development portfolio which she considered herself an expert on, or even the transport portfolio which the Czech government lobbied for as “second-best”. Several hours later, in an interview for Czech Television, Ms. Jourová swallowed her disappointment and put a brave face on the outcome.
“It is a strong portfolio and a very interesting one because in one way or another it concerns the everyday lives of all EU citizens.”
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who led the negotiations on the country’s portfolio with the president elect, echoed these sentiments, saying that if handled well the portfolio presented an opportunity to make significant far-reaching policy decisions affecting the lives of millions of people across the EU. However his words were drowned in a volley of criticism from all sides. His own coalition partners were less than sympathetic. ANO leader Andrej Babiš said it was “a disappointing result” and in an aside to journalists noted “I did not lobby in Brussels, ask the prime minister what went wrong”, while Christian Democrat leader said that given its size and position the Czech Republic should have been able to do better. Opposition politicians placed the blame squarely at the prime minister’s door saying that the portfolio assigned the country reflected the Czech Republic’s standing in the EU and the manner in which it was perceived in the alliance. They pointed out that the portfolios Prague had lobbied hard to get went to Romania and Slovakia not some EU heavy-weights against which the Czech Republic would find it hard to compete.
President Miloš Zeman likewise spoke openly of a failure, saying that with a bit of effective lobbying Prague should have been able to secure the regional development portfolio the Czech nominee was considered an expert on.
Meanwhile, Minister Jourová, who is currently in Brussels, said she would now work hard to acquaint herself with the justice, consumer policy and gender equality portfolio she had been assigned ahead of the traditional “grilling” by members of the respective commission. If she defends the post she will, among other things, be expected to establish the institution of a European prosecutor who would investigate abuse of EU funds and address the matter of quotas for women on the supervisory boards of European companies which she has in the past sharply criticized as the wrong way to go about securing gender equality.