Bratislava, Slovakia – Maroš Šefčovič, a career diplomat and current European Commission vice-president in charge of the energy policy, confirmed on Friday that he will be running for president of Slovakia in the elections to be held in March.
His bid is backed by Slovakia’s ruling Smer party, although he declined to confirm whether he’s the party’s official candidate. He announced he would run on a pro-European platform, saying he wanted to reinforce the place of the small Central European country and Eurozone member at the core of the European Union.
Andrej Kiska, Slovakia’s current head of state who beat Smer nominee and former Prime Minister Robert Fico five years ago, has already said he would not seek reelection.
“I am worried by voices questioning where we belong. We (Slovaks) want to be an active member in the core of the EU and I want to ensure that nobody questions that”, Šefčovič told reporters in Bratislava, referring to the rising Euroscepticism in the EU, and especially among Central European countries.
Šefčovič announced that he would take a leave of absence from the European Commission in February ahead of the March presidential elections. He will face, among other possible new contenders, Robert Mistrik, a scientist and political new-comer nominated by Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the main opposition party.
In Slovakia, the President doesn’t wield much power in day-to-day government affairs, which are mostly the prerogative of the Prime Minister. He nonetheless plays a strong role in key issues, including forming new governments and appointing top judges from the Constitutional Court.
In September last year, Maroš Šefčovič announced his bid to become the Spitzenkandidat of the Party of European Socialists (PES) for the post of EU Commission President and replace Jean-Claude Juncker after the European Parliament elections in May. But he withdrew from the race two months later, instead endorsing Frans Timmermans for the top job.
“As diplomat by profession and sportsman by heart, I understand the power of team spirit”, he said on Twitter. “To boost the PES’ unity and focus all energy on a powerful programme, I support Frans Timmermans. I’ll play an active role in the campaign.”
Maroš Šefčovič, 52, was born in Bratislava and studied at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations and at Comenius University in Slovakia. A career diplomat, he held numerous positions in the Slovak Foreign Ministry and in foreign posts, including in Canada and Israel. After Slovakia joined the EU in 2004, he spent most of his career in Brussels, first as permanent representative to the EU and then as Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth. He’s been vice-president in charge of the bloc’s energy policy since 2014.