Tuesday

19th Nov 2019

Opinion

The best by-product of the Czech EU presidency?

Judging from the first comments, last week's grilling of the new commissioner-designate for enlargement and neighborhood policy Stefan Fuele revealed to some a surprisingly promising figure for the European political landscape.

The career diplomat's prudent formulations and seemingly modest ambitions have repeatedly paid off for him, notably over the course of 2009.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Stefan Fuele landed the EU job somewhat unexpectedly (Photo: European Parliament)

Last April's fall of the Czech government in the middle of the EU presidency could not have been better timed for Mr Fuele who was about to leave Brussels after four years of having represented Prague as its ambassador to Nato.

The stalemate situation in the Czech parliament produced a bi-partisan agreement on a caretaker cabinet and created a demand for bi-partisan public servants - a category which Mr Fuele perfectly embodied.

With limited EU experience, but broad political support, Stefan Fuele was to his own surprise chosen as interim minister for European Affairs with a simple task: to steer the badly shaken EU presidency to a decent conclusion. As the Czech political chaos lingers, the caretaker cabinet's mandate did not see its promised end.

Initially, the autumn debate on the Czech nomination for the EU commission revolved around various names, but the stalemate mathematics could provide only for one candidate, whom all parties "would not mind."

With zero visibility - and actually modest expectations - of the future portfolio for their nominee, the Czech government made after all quite a wise selection. If nothing else, Mr Fuele's long diplomatic experience compensates for his relatively low knowledge of EU issues.

On one hand, Mr Barroso's subsequent assignment of portfolios produced reasonable expectations that enlargement and neighborhood policy issues will remain in capable hands. On the other hand, however, in the course of his career, Mr Fuele has only defended the interests of the Czech Republic – his abilities to serve independently (from Prague) have yet to be proven.

During the parliamentary hearings, he already struck some different tones to the generally enlargement-cautious line of the EU commission. The outgoing executive has always been careful not to link enlargement perspectives with neighbourhood policy. But Mr Fuele did not rule that out, especially in the case of Ukraine. He has also expressed support for Turkey's EU membership, which is a rather divisive issue among member states.

Expectations lie eastwards of the current EU border as well. The recent claim of the Ukrainian Prime Minister that (if elected president) she will lead Kiev to the EU within five years has to be regarded as a promise which not only reflects the quality of Ukrainian political culture, but also the anxieties in several post-Soviet capitals whether the EU will or will not stick to its pledges that any European country can become a member.

At the end of the day, the Union's boundaries are drawn in the capitals, not by the commission.

The EU can have a passable enlargement commissioner but his or her personal qualities matter little when there is the political impetus to enlarge. Or, we can have a brilliant commissioner wasting his or her energy since there is no coherent vision about further enlargement. Though Mr Fuele may eventually prove to be the latter case, for the moment he enters the stage as a man whom "nobody minds."

The writers are researchers with the Association for International Affairs (AMO), a Prague-based foreign policy think tank.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

EU investment bank 'wide open to abuse by fraudsters'

Fundamental reforms are needed if the EIB is to become more accountable, democratic and transparent. Establishing a firm grasp on corruption to ensure that public money no longer feeds corrupt systems is a vital first step.

European beekeeping in crisis

Europe's bee population is dying. The number of pollinator species threatened by extinction is increasing each year, and human activity is the main cause.

Corruption in the Balkans: the elephant in the room

Over the years, both real and perceived levels of corruption in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia have remained high. The necessary reforms in those countries, to put it mildly, are not yet effectively carried out.

Israeli labelling ruling lets consumers make choice

Beyond the Israel-specific dimension of this decision, the EU court places ethics back at the heart of European consumer choices and reminds us that our daily, mundane purchases may have considerable and unforeseen geopolitical implications, particularly as regards occupied territories.

Cleaning up both the EU and Western Balkans

There has been little substantial analysis, since the Macron veto, of why so much money and effort in the Balkans has failed to result in the political and economic transformation needed to prepare candidates for full membership.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary, Poland block EU conclusions on rule of law
  2. France: wide EU backing for enlargement change
  3. EU Council calls for policy action to protect marine life
  4. ECJ: Poland's judicial independence in doubt
  5. Suspected 'middleman' in Caruana Galizia case arrested
  6. European populists more favourable to Russia
  7. Hungary's new commissioner approved by MEPs
  8. Balkan coal power plants fail to meet emissions targets

'A game of roulette' - life as a journalist now in Turkey

Turkey has more journalists behind bars than any other country in the world. The authorities seem to equate journalism with terrorism: everyone has the right to express themselves, but, in their eyes, legitimate journalism is a threat to security.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us