Civic Democrat MEP Zahradil To Stand Down At Next Year’s European Elections
Zahradil, 60, has been an MEP since 2004, being elected immediately after the Czech Republic joined the European Union. Photo credit: Zahradil.cz.
Prague, June 5 (CTK) – Jan Zahradil, a long-term Civic Democrat (ODS) MEP, will not be defending his mandate in the European Parliament (EP) elections next year, but will remain an ODS member and wants to end his political career at the domestic level, he told reporters today.
Zahradil, 60, who has been an MEP since 2004, being elected immediately after the Czech Republic joined the European Union, will be replaced at the head of the ODS EP group by former senator and MEP Veronika Vrecionova, 57. She will also become a member of the Civic Democrats’ board.
“This is something I have been thinking about for a long time. In politics, you rarely have the luxury to decide when and under what conditions you will close a chapter of your political career. Fortunately, this has happened to me now,” Zahradil said.
In 2011, Zahradil, a former ODS deputy chairman, was elected leader of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR), becoming the first Czech to hold such a post in the European Parliament. In the 2019 EP elections, he was the ECR candidate for EP president.
Zahradil has long opposed the further integration of EU member states and the extension of European legislation. He supports a so-called “multi-speed” Europe, in which each country chooses whether or not to participate in a particular area of cooperation.
He has been criticised by some political opponents for his foreign policy positions.
Vrecionova is the chairwoman of the Association for Rural Renewal. She has been a member of ODS for 18 years and was elected to the EP in 2019.
Prime Minister and ODS leader Petr Fiala today described her as a successful politician who helped form the party’s policy on the environment, countryside and agriculture.
“Next year, we are facing elections to the European Parliament. The ODS primary elections will not be until the autumn, but I will be seeking an electable place on the candidate list and I would like to be very involved in the election campaign ,” Vrecionova said.
She added that she had no ambition to be the leader of the candidate list, which she said would be sought by, among others, ODS deputy head, MEP and former minister Alexandr Vondra. She said she would like ODS to at least defend its current four EP seats next year, but hopes for the party to gain one or two more.
It is not yet clear whether the senior government ODS will run alone in the EP elections or in the Spolu coalition with the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) and TOP 09, as it did in the 2021 general election. The decision will be made in the autumn.