Telicka passes EP test with flying colours

This week the Czech Republic's candidate for a seat on the European Commission in Brussels, Pavel Telicka, was put through one final grilling before taking up the post. Mr Telicka was a last-minute choice for Czech Commissioner, after embarrassment and confusion, when the government's initial choice, the former Environment Minister, Milos Kuzvart, suddenly and unexpectedly withdrew his candidacy a few weeks ago. In the end the European Parliament's assessment of Mr Telicka's suitability for the post went fairly smoothly, but there were also a few bumps.

Pavel Telicka, photo: CTKPavel Telicka, photo: CTK Mr Telicka may have been anxious but showed few signs of nervousness. According to the Chairwoman of the European Parliament's Committee on Environment, Public Health, and Consumer Policy, Caroline Jackson, Mr Telicka was all he should have been - calm, collected, and well informed about European affairs.

But Mr Telicka was certainly not given an easy ride by the European Parliament. The big question mark was over his past. In his mid-twenties, he was a member of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, just before the regime fell. Mr Telicka's defence was to say that everyone makes mistakes, and he argued that his subsequent actions had proven that he now views things differently. He also pointed out that the Czech Republic has a strict screening process and does not allow any former influential communist to take up important political posts.

According to the Austrian MEP Marialiese Flemming, who is often engaged in heated debate with Mr Telicka over the controversial Temelin nuclear power plant close to the border with nuclear-free Austria, the future Czech Commissioner was "sensational and absolutely perfect".

Pavel Telicka, photo: CTKPavel Telicka, photo: CTK But one MEP who was not impressed was Markus Ferber of the right-wing Bavarian CSU. Mr Ferber brought up the evergreen issue of the Benes Decrees, which sanctioned the expulsion of 2.5 million ethnic Germans from Czechoslovakia in the years following WWII, and have never been revoked. Mr Telicka said there was nothing to add on the issue, and that his view was shared by both the Czech and German governments.

In the long run, one issue concerning the future of the European Commission remains unresolved. Under the proposed EU Constitution only fifteen of the 25 commissioners will have voting rights at any one time. The Czech Republic has heavily criticised the proposal, arguing that it will weaken the Commission and the influence of smaller EU members. Mr Telicka agrees, but he also argues for flexibility and patience:

"The commission should in the coming years be composed on the basis of the principle one member state one commissioner. On the other hand, it is a little difficult for me to prematurely assess the future work of the commission in the 25. I think that it will be very important how the work in the commission will be organised and how it will be structured."

Only 38 years old, Pavel Telicka will be the youngest representative in the European Commission and will be working alongside Irish EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection David Byrne for the next six months. But Mr Telicka has made it clear that neither his youth nor the fact that he will be representing a new member state, will stop him from being an active and efficient EU Commissioner.