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Cablegate: Czechs to Appoint Former Minister of Agriculture

VZCZCXYZ0008
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPG #1089 2631310
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201310Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY PRAGUE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9647
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS PRAGUE 001089

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

EUR/NCE FOR ALEX TRATENSEK, INR/EUC FOR ADRIAN HARMATA AND
DAVID ARMITAGE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EUN EZ PGOV PREL EAGR
SUBJECT: CZECHS TO APPOINT FORMER MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE
AS THEIR NEW EU AMBASSADOR (C-RE7-01285)

REF: SECSTATE 124973

1. (SBU) The former Czech Agriculture Minister, Milena
Vicenova, will become the new Czech Ambassador to the
European Union. She will replace Jan Kohout, who was
formally recalled by the President on September 19. Vicena
is likely to take up the post before the end of the year.
The Embassy, particularly the Foreign Agriculture Service,
has had an excellent, long-standing working relationship with
Minister Vicenova. Of note, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture funded her participation in the Cochran
Fellowship program in 1999. While she is multilingual, known
as an intelligent interlocutor, and strong on agriculture
issues, she appears to be a relative novice with respect to
EU bureaucracy, which could hamper Czech preparations for its
EU Presidency beginning in January 2009.

Priorities - Known for Anti-Corruption
--------------------------------------
2. (U) After more than ten years working in various sections
within the Agriculture Ministry, Vicenova was briefly
elevated to Agriculture Minister between September 2006 and
January 2007. During her tenure, she was known for her
efforts to address corruption, removing several high-ranking
officials. Officially, her ministry's top two priorities
were preparing for the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)
"health check" in 2008 and the Czech EU presidency commencing
in January 2009.

Agriculture Reform and Biotechnology
------------------------------------
3. (U) On agricultural matters, Vicenova was known to
support agricultural reforms that led toward market
liberalization. As well, she viewed biotechnology
positively, although she was always quick to point out that
the Czech Republic was bound by the EU legislation on
genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Nonetheless, the
Czech Republic is among the liberal states within the EU that
supports a science-based approach.

An Unknown on EU Matters
------------------------
4. (SBU) For the last several months, prior to this
appointment, Vicenova has been with the National Education
Fund as a project manager and also advising the Ministry of
Regional Development on EU funding. While Dr. Vicenova has
very strong credentials in the area of agriculture, since she
is a former veterinarian with many years experience within
the Agriculture Ministry, her knowledge and experience
working on EU matters appears relatively limited. In
addition to her focus on the EU during her brief tenure as
Minister, and her current work on EU funding, Vicenova served
as MinAg Director of EU Relations in 2003.

Comment: ODS wants their own Ambassador
----------------------------------------
5. (SBU) Kohout's tenure in Brussels was due to end in early
2008. The government faced the choice of extending him
through the 2009 EU Presidency, or replacing him now (the MFA
is shifting many senior staff in the summer and fall of 2007,
and does not plan to make any significant personnel rotations
next year so that all staff are familiar with their
responsibilities before the Presidency begins). While Kohout
has a reputation here as having served well in Brussels, he
is also known as a sympathizer of the opposition Social
Democrats (CSSD), and in fact was briefly considered as a
possible CSSD nominee as Prime Minister. The ruling ODS (out
of government for eight years prior to the 2006 election) has
made no secret of its desire to see its own people in key
positions. The choice of Vicenova has generated little
grumbling here, aside from the predictable complaints from
CSSD. Vicenova is not a member of ODS or any political
party. She, like several other independents who served
briefly in last year's minority ODS government, is seen as a
competent and dedicated public servant. She can be expected
to faithfully carry out instructions from Prague.
GRABER

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