Šefčovič to oversee Energy Union

FOR SOME time it seemed that Slovak diplomat Maroš Šefčovič would oversee the transport and space portfolio in the European Commission, satisfying Slovakia’s voiced ambitions to get a strong economic department. Šefčovič is now however promoted to serve as EC vice president for the Energy Union, far surpassing expectations.

Maroš ŠefčovičMaroš Šefčovič (Source: SITA)

FOR SOME time it seemed that Slovak diplomat Maroš Šefčovič would oversee the transport and space portfolio in the European Commission, satisfying Slovakia’s voiced ambitions to get a strong economic department. Šefčovič is now however promoted to serve as EC vice president for the Energy Union, far surpassing expectations.

“He got a position which is extraordinarily strong,” Prime Minister Robert Fico said of the new arrangement, which emerged after Slovenia’s Alenka Bratušek, originally assigned for the post was rejected by members of the European Parliament.

While Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák understands Šefčovič’s new assignment as acknowledgement of his qualities, he suggested that the change of the Slovak diplomat’s portfolio should not be viewed as a matter of success or failure, the SITA newswire reported.

Over the past four years, Šefčovič worked as EU commissioner for inter-institutional relations and administration. The future European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker proposed the transport and space policy portfolio, initially intended for Šefčovič, to land with Slovenian candidate Violeta Bulc.

After another round of hearings and a subsequent vote at the European Parliament, Juncker’s new commission looks ready to take over on November 1.

 

Energy security

 

Šefčovič indeed will be mainly in charge of building the so-called Energy Union, aiming at more energy independence from Russia.

“The current crisis between the EU and Russia over gas supplies indicates that this problem is becoming very important and strategic,” Šefčovič said, as quoted by the TASR newswire, adding that this agenda is among the priorities of the future EC president Juncker as well as to-be Chairman of the European Council Donald Tusk.

Šefčovič and incoming European Commissioner for Energy Miguel Canete are taking up their posts just ahead of winter, when the EU in its talks with Russia needs to secure sufficient energy supplies for all member countries.

“This process needs to be looked on both from the mid- and long-term horizon, and especially with an eye towards preventing dependence on a single source, towards diversifying sources of energy carriers, building a single energy market and to remove obstacles that we face,” Šefčovič said, as quoted by TASR.

Šefčovič said that his ambition would be an energy union in order to have a well-functioning energy market and allow EU member states to speak with one voice, giving the EU much stronger bargaining power than today, when each EU country bilaterally negotiates gas energy contracts with Russia, for example.

“The missing elements in the energy infrastructure within the EU need to be completed so that we can help each other and deal properly in energy, gas, oil and all energy carriers,” Šefčovič added, as quoted by TASR. “Special funding has been earmarked towards this. It is close to €6 billion that needs to be used towards the completion of this capacity.”

Fico sees Šefčovič’s nomination through the prism of energy security and the relations of the EU with Russia.

“If Maroš Šefčovič definitely takes this position, he certainly will not only be in charge of issues pertaining to energy security and the relations of EU member states with one another, but also towards the Russian Federation which supplies to the EU market approximately 30-32 percent of all the gas,” Fico said, as quoted by SITA, adding that this makes even more importance for Slovakia to have Šefčovič there “because it is good news for Slovakia”.

 

Šefčovič’s EU career

 

Šefčovič is the second Slovak to hold an EC post. He was first selected for the job when he was still serving as the Slovak ambassador to the EU. He joined the first commission of Barroso in late 2009, just one month before the term of that commission expired, to take over the agenda of education, training, culture and youth, after Ján Figeľ, who served as Slovakia’s first commissioner since its entry into the EU in 2004 but resigned after he was elected chairman of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) political party.

In the 2010-2014 term, Šefčovič was nominated by the Fico government and assigned the agenda of the “EU admin”. In the May 2014 European Parliament elections he ran as number one on the slate of the ruling Smer party, but did not take up his MEP post.

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