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28th Aug 2016

Focus

Prominent Czech MEP pushed aside for party-fixer

  • Prague: High-flying Czech socialist MEP Libor Roucek is unlikely to make it back into the European Parliament (Photo: wikipedia)

Czech MEP Libor Roucek has just learnt a hard lesson about the true distance between Brussels and Prague.

Of the 22 Czech MEPs he is one of the few known euro-deputies and yet he has ended up ninth on his party list for the upcoming EU elections.

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Polls suggest only four seats will be won by the Czech social democrats (CSSD). This means that, miracles aside, Roucek will have to leave the European Parliament, his political home for the last ten years. In the previous two EU elections, his lowest placing on the list was third.

As a member of the socialist group in the parliament, Roucek has already had his 15 minutes of fame.

He was deputy chairman of the prestigious foreign affairs committee and a deputy chairman of the parliament itself until 2012.

Since he is fluent in English and German, he is often the liaison man between various members of the socialist family in the parliament and is currently the group's vice-president.

His Brussels political status is appreciated at home.

When Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka, also a socialist, wanted to boost his foreign credentials during the electoral campaign, he called Roucek. The MEP swiftly secured a video greeting for Sobotka from European Parliament President Martin Schulz.

Just this week, Roucek, who also speaks Russian, was all over the media because he travelled to Ukraine as part of a delegation of MEPs.

When his party was selecting its candidates for the next EU elections, the criteria were fixed: experience, languages, no scandals.

Roucek felt reassured. "I didn't even campaign for myself. I thought it wasn't necessary," he told this website.

But it turned out to be necessary after all.

Sobotka wanted peace within his party so when a few rebellious regions nominated controversial figures for the EP list – to the detriment of Roucek – the Prime Minister did not protest.

As a result Czechs might end up sending Miroslav Poche to the EU parliament. Fourth on the list, Poche is best known for enrolling fake members into the party.

The matter drew the attention of European Parliament President Martin Schulz who quizzed the Czech PM about it when Sobotka was in his office last week. Asked what was up, Sobotka reportedly replied: "regions".

An even more pragmatic explanation was given by a Czech social democrat member, who wanted to stay anonymous.

"If we need things to be done, we would always call Poche," he said. When asked about Roucek's busy mission abroad, he added: "Who cares? He is never around, so what should we do with him?"

There are rumours now that Roucek might be given the post of the next EU Commissioner as a kind of trade-off.

But he says he does not want a "consolation job".

"I hope people will give me their preferential votes. That's my only chance."

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