The Czechs Europe needs to know

This article is part of POLITICO’s Guide to the Czech EU Presidency special report.

Czech diplomats and lawmakers will play an important role in delivering the priorities set for the country’s presidency of the Council of the EU, which starts on July 1.

Here are some of the key people to know ahead of the Czech presidency.

Tomáš Pojar: Fiala’s adviser 

Pojar is Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s right-hand man on foreign policy, acting as his lead adviser on national security and the key issues discussed at European Council summits. 

A former Czech ambassador to Israel with experience working on EU and security issues at the country’s foreign ministry, Pojar has spent the past years working at the CEVRO Institute, an academic institution with links to Fiala’s conservative Civil Democratic Party (ODS). 

Pojar said that he agreed to take on a new role due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

“I was asked by the new government and by the prime minister to be a part-time external adviser,” he said. “But then, after the invasion, I was asked to do more, and I agreed, because it’s challenging times — and it’s really the key period for Europe and for us.” 

Mikuláš Bek: Musicologist-turned-minister

A musicologist by profession, Bek is the Czech Republic’s minister for European affairs. He spent much of his career in academia, serving as head of the musicology department at Masaryk University and later as the university’s rector. 

He is a former chair of the Czech Senate’s EU affairs committee and, backed by the Mayors and Independents group, became a minister in late 2021. 

In an interview with POLITICO, the minister said that the war in Ukraine will not overshadow the presidency but “but it will be the main motif.” 

Věra Jourová: Pragmatic commissioner

A well-known figure in Brussels, Jourová is currently serving as vice president of the European Commission for values and transparency, after perviously serving as justice commissioner.

And while she is a member of Babiš’s ANO party, the vice president has kept a careful distance from the former prime minister. 

She has cultivated a reputation within the EU institutions as a pragmatist who nonetheless is committed to promoting rule of law, and in particular media freedom within the bloc. 

In a 2020 interview, she described herself as a “centrist person, but a little bit to the left.” 

Edita Hrdá: Career diplomat

Hrdá was appointed the Czech Republic’s ambassador to the EU in 2020, under the government of previous Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. 

She has spent a significant portion of her career working on the Americas, serving as the Czech ambassador to Argentina and Paraguay and as managing director for the Americas at the European External Action Service. Hrdá is also a former Czech permanent representative to the United Nations. 

Dita Charanzová: Digital legislator

A vice president of the European Parliament, elected on the slate of the now-opposition ANO party, Dita Charanzová is one of the best-known Czechs in the Brussels bubble. 

Known for her work on digital issues, Charanzová is an influential member of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection who has worked on shaping the EU’s content moderation bill, the Digital Services Act, and consumer protection law, the General Product Safety Regulation. As a member of the presidency of her political group, Renew Europe, she also oversees the European Parliament’s cybersecurity. 

She was a Czech diplomat during the first Czech presidency of the Council of the EU and has high hopes for Prague’s second act. “I take it very personally … even though I come from the opposition, I really would like to help make it good and work out this time.” 

Still, Charanzová has been worried about what she sees as a lack of preparation and communication with European lawmakers and back home as well. 

“It’s really also about the image of my country abroad. And I hope they will get it right,” she said.

Jan Zahradil: Euroskeptic conservative

A member of Fiala’s ODS party, MEP Jan Zahradil is a former president of the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists.

A vice chair of the European Parliament’s International Trade Committee, Zahradil has come under scrutiny for his past role as leader of a friendship group with China. 

He made it into the European Parliament’s black book of MEPs that got sanctioned by the chamber’s leadership — twice.

Laurens Cerulus and Clothilde Goujard contributed reporting.