The government of Petr Fiala (ODS) will send more Czech clutches to Brussels. The coalition agreed to increase the budget for so-called national experts. They will release 80 million crowns for them next year. This is “free” money from the so-called general treasury administration, i.e. beyond the means available to individual ministries.
The Government Office originally wanted an increase to one hundred million, but the Ministry of Finance opposed it. The main argument of the office of Zbyňka Stanjury (ODS) was that they have to save money and the departments should find money in their wallets if they want to send their people to Brussels. In the end, Prime Minister Petr Fiala (ODS) stood up for the compromise option of 80 million himself, who presented the relevant material on Wednesday at the government meeting.
The Czech Republic currently has 25 national experts at the European Commission in Brussels, and three more will be added during April. It allocated 60 million crowns for this year. Approximately 10 to 15 more people will be “acquired” for an additional 20 million. Stanjur’s office initially did not want to hear about any increase.
National experts are usually top employees of the state administration sent to strategic departments of the European Commission, whose expertise is requested by the main EU executive. They work in Brussels for two to four years and are either fully paid for by the state budget, or the commission contributes to them.
In particular, there are very few experienced Czechs in senior management positions in the European Commission. Even after the successful presidency of the Union last year, nothing has changed.
The country thereby loses natural links that would help the government stay in the picture and get timely strategic information in the commission. At least half of the legislation is born in it, which also applies in the Czech Republic. Dispatched national experts are a way to at least partially compensate for the handicap of a lack of top officials.
“I will tell you how you will suddenly increase the pressure of the Czech Republic in the EU by tens of percent,” said Václav Trejbal, a young Czech expert on the electricity market, to Minister for European Affairs Mikuláš Bek (for STAN) during a recent debate in Brussels. He was sent to Brussels three years ago by the Energy Regulatory Office in Prague.
“I work on the commission in the general directorate for economic competition, and it deals with such things as assessing and approving state aid for the completion of nuclear power plants. Send more people like me here,” added Václav Trejbal.
With the end of the Czech presidency, Petr Fiala identified the ambition to get more Czechs into institutions as one of his priorities. “We will support our citizens in the EU institutions. We have a number of quality candidates,” Fiala told Hospodářské noviny in December. “A greater representation of Czechs in the bodies of the European Union will create the possibility of more intensive informal communication, which is beneficial from the point of view of the country’s interests,” he added at the time.
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