Commentary V4

Could Maroš Šefčovič become the V4’s candidate for EC President?

Rumors are rife that Maroš Šefčovič will be the V4 countries´ joint candidate for the position of President of the European Commission.

Andrej Babiš often says that EU leaders, especially the President of the European Commission (EC) Jean-Claude Juncker, do not understand much about the Czech Republic and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Babiš and his colleagues from the V4 countries have a plan on how to change it - Maroš Šefčovič is their joint candidate for the position of President of the EC.

Several sources close to Andrej Babiš and the EC confirmed the fact that Maroš Šefčovič, one of the Vice Presidents of the European Commission and an unsuccessful candidate for the Slovak President, is the V4 candidate for the President of the EC.

The President of the EC has a key role. The Commission oversees compliance with the common rules within the EU and is the only one to propose new European standards. Then, the Member States and MEPs vote on these standards. The Commission's chief also assigns the issues to be addressed by the Commissioners.

Deciding on a new EC President will come quickly after the EP elections. On Tuesday, the Prime Ministers or Presidents of the Member States will meet at a summit in Brussels to discuss the best candidates. Next month, they should agree on the final candidate.

The outcome of the EP elections, which now will be significantly more differentiated, could increase Šefčovič's chances. The current dominant factions, the EPP and the Socialists, have suffered major losses in the elections and will have to negotiate more with others than they used to do in the past. This can help candidates who had not appeared before the elections. Moreover, in a recent poll by global communications agency Burson Cohn & Wolfe, Šefčovič ranked best among the European Commissioners from Central and Eastern Europe.

Juncker, the current EC President, finishes his term this year and is not interested in another mandate. His successor will be proposed by a summit of the leaders of the member states, who must take the result of the EP elections into account since it is the European Parliament who will decide on the Commission President at their proposal. Thus, the V4 countries will have to seek support for Šefčovič outside their region as well.

The politicians with the support of the most influential states of the EU, such as EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier or the Chief Executive of the World Bank Group Kristalina Georgieva, are also expected to apply for the post.

According to diplomatic sources, the V4 states may eventually support one of these candidates in exchange for Šefčovič becoming the head of EU diplomacy. If Šefčovič replaced Frederica Mogherini, who has repeatedly been criticized by the V4, the V4 countries would gain a significant impact on European foreign policy. 

However, there will be more candidates for this post as well. According to speculations, the Dutch Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans or the Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, who both are seen as more powerful in the EU, are interested in becoming Mogherini´s successor.

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