Janez Lenarčič Proposed as Slovenia's EU Commissioner (Details, Biography)

By , 17 Jul 2019, 14:23 PM Politics
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STA, 17 July 2019 - PM Marjan Šarec has put forward Janez Lenarčič, Slovenia's permanent representative to the EU, as the country's candidate for European commissioner. Describing the career diplomat as an experienced expert, Šarec told the press that coalition partners had already been notified of the proposal, which will be discussed by the government on Thursday.

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"He is experienced, he knows how the EU operates, he has been working in diplomacy for a long time. This is what we presently need," Šarec said about Lenarčič.

A seasoned diplomat, Lenarčič has also served as ambassador to the OSCE, as director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, as secretary of Slovenia's permanent UN mission, and as diplomatic adviser to the highest state officials.

Šarec said he had been weighing different options carefully since the EU election and came to the conclusion that, given the composition of the government, Slovenia needed a neutral candidate.

He also noted that his Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and the fellow coalition SocDems had each secured two MEP seats as the most successful coalition parties in the recent EU election, which is why he would not have found it fair to have the candidate come from either of the two parties.

He said that many opportunities had been missed by Slovenia and that it is right to give a chance to somebody who knows the workings of the EU. Šarec is confident that the fellow coalition parties will also recognise the national interest of Slovenia and the importance of unity.

"If I look at the interests of Slovenia and the expectations of people outside, I'm convinced that this is the right decision," the prime minister said, adding he had waited a little before making his choice public to prevent a smear campaign against Lenarčič.

The SocDems, who had rooted for their MEP Tanja Fajon, responded to the news by speaking of a unilateral decision that sent an unpleasant message.

Criticising what they see as political horse-trading that led to the election of Ursula von der Leyen as Commission president with the support of far-right votes from Hungary and Poland, the SocDems said they expected "Slovenia would have acted differently and pick a Slovenian commissioner candidate with democratic legitimacy as a key condition" alongside competences, experience and reputation.

Šarec also touched on Fajon today, saying he found it hard to imagine how her participation in the Commission would be possible after the MEP had publicly denied support to von der Leyen.

As for von der Leyen's wish to have member states each put forward a male as well as a woman candidate, Šarec said he expected most countries would not do that.

He argued having two candidates would spell trouble for the rejected one: "We know what happens with candidates who are not selected."

Asked which department on the Commission Slovenia would like, Šarec said it would strive for one of the departments suiting it the most, one of the options being enlargement. He said he had already discussed the topic with von der Leyen.

Commenting on his expectations regarding the new Commission head, Šarec said he expected she would behave differently than her predecessor.

"I expect her to respect the rule of law and not take sides, to be more active when it comes to the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans and to secure equal treatment for all member states," he said.

In his first reaction, Lenarčič spoke of a great honour and responsibility, while stressing that this was only the first step in the appointment process.

He said that the trust expressed in Lenarčič by the PM now needed to confirmed by the government. If this happens, he will first also have to win the trust of von der Leyen and then also of the relevant committee in the European Parliament.

A brief biography of Janez Lenarčič

STA, 17 July 2019 - Janez Lenarčič, Slovenia's current ambassador to the EU who has been proposed for the post of European commissioner, is a career diplomat. He has served as ambassador to the OSCE, as director of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, as secretary of Slovenia's permanent UN mission, and as the PM's diplomatic adviser.

Lenarčič, born in Ljubljana on 6 November 1967, graduated in international law in Ljubljana in 1992 and started working for the Foreign Ministry the same year.

Between 1994 and 1999 he worked with Slovenia's permanent mission at the UN, initially as the third and then as the first secretary. In 2000 he started serving as adviser to the foreign minister and the following year he became the diplomatic adviser to the prime minister, the late Janez Drnovšek.

In 2002 and 2003 Lenarčič worked as state secretary in the PM's office, to be appointed in 2003 the head of the Slovenian mission to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). During Slovenia's OSCE presidency in 2005 he headed the organisation's permanent council.

In 2006 he was appointed state secretary for European affairs, serving also during Slovenia's first presidency of the EU in 2008 during the centre-right government of Janez Janša. He was the head of the task force in charge of preparing Slovenia's EU presidency.

In July 2008 he was appointed director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights and confirmed for a second and final term at the same post in May 2011.

In September 2014 Lenarčič became state secretary in the office of the then PM Miro Cerar, where he was in charge of foreign and European affairs.

He served under Cerar's centre-left government until July 2016 when he took over as Slovenia's permanent representative to the EU.

When assuming office in Brussels, Lenarčič highlighted migration and an effective control over the external border among Slovenia's as well as the EU's priorities. Another Slovenian priority noted was the country's presidency over the EU in 2021.

Lenarčič is considered an apolitical expert and has been in the conversation for the commissioner post for some time.

He speaks English, French and Serbian.

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