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Social Democrats to go it alone with EU commissioner Kuzvart

The Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla told reporters after meeting opposition politicians on Thursday that former Environment Minister Milos Kuzvart would be nominated as the country's first European Commissioner. Mr Kuzvart's nomination has failed to receive the support of the two smaller parties in the ruling coalition, and he's also opposed by the main opposition party, the Civic Democrats. So is Milos Kuzvart up to the job? A question we put earlier to political analyst Jiri Pehe.

"I'm not as critical of Mr Kuzvart as many other people. I think he certainly meets some of the criteria that one could expect from a European Commissioner. He's a former minister, he's done some good things, some bad things, he's not a diplomat and he has no experience of foreign policy, which speaks against him. On the other hand one could presume that a former minister who met a lot of foreign partners does have some diplomatic experience. So Mr Kuzvart is not a very well-known and charismatic figure, but he is, I think, a good bureaucrat who from this point of view at least fits the profile of a European Commissioner."

And his language skills?

"I cannot judge his language skills. I do know that he speaks good English. I had the chance to be present once or twice at meetings where he spoke in English and I thought it was certainly good enough to communicate on the international scene. I can't judge his German because I've never heard him speak it. I think that although it's very often argued that such a person should speak at least two foreign languages, in fact if you are able to communicate well in English, I think it's sufficient on the European level."

Do you think he really can represent this country seeing as he doesn't have the support of even all three parties in the ruling coalition, not to mention the opposition?

"I would prefer of course someone who has support across the political spectrum and that would be an ideal candidate. However, Czech politics, as we all know, never produces that kind of consensus. When it comes to appointments of important people we always have a split political scene. So I'm not surprised that there is no unity. I could imagine a stronger candidate. On the other hand, Mr Kuzvart is the candidate of the Social Democrats and he is also supported by the Communist Party, which means that at this point he's the candidate of the majority, because the Communists and the Social Democrats together have a solid majority in the parliament. So one couldn't really say that Vladimir Spidla is nominating the European Commissioner on the basis of minority support."

Rádio 7, Český Rozhlas - 30. 1. 2004