As Europe's justice, consumers and gender equality commissioner, Věra Jourová intends to be the "voice" of people’s interests. My portfolio puts people at its centre, she adds, highlighting that it is her "duty to make sure that the fundamental values enshrined in the treaties and the European charter of fundamental rights are more than just words". Jourová was also keen to emphasise the important practical applications of justice policies, calling them"essential for supporting economic growth because sound and predictable justice systems can foster a business friendly environment in which investment and cross-border trade can flourish".
"Discrimination has no place in our union, whether on the basis of nationality, sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, or with regard to people belonging to a minority"
"Justice policy initiatives will be key to increasing consumer trust in the digital single market and doing away with barriers to cross-border trade for business. Justice policy initiatives will also be key to help build a capital market union which should also address fragmentation and lack of efficiency in insolvency regimes in the EU." She also points to the role of gender equality, which is "both about protecting women’s rights and about their economic empowerment, which benefits the economy and society as a whole”. "I want to give people more choice as consumers," stresses Jourová, "allowing them to fully benefit from the opportunities of the single market, both online and offline; and as individuals, free to be who they want to be without suffering from discrimination. I want to ensure more protection of personal data, of victims and vulnerable groups, and of EU taxpayers' money through the European public prosecutor’s office. And I want to build trust. Citizens need to have trust in judicial systems and judicial systems need to trust each other. This is essential both for the single market and for cross-border justice cooperation, including the fight against crime and terrorism."
Jourová says her work in 2015 will involve a focus on finalising the ongoing data protection reform, which she calls "essential both for trust in the digital single market and for fundamental rights". She also plans to "contribute to the new European agenda for security, where justice policies have a key role to play". "We need to make better use of EU criminal justice cooperation, prevent radicalisation, and stand up against hate crime. My role will be to ensure that security and fundamental rights go hand in hand."
A key part of the Czech official’s brief, and a personal priority, is the unblocking of negotiations on the EU's antidiscrimination directive. "Discrimination has no place in our union," she says, "whether on the basis of nationality, sex, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, or with regard to people belonging to a minority." With commission president Jean-Claude Juncker highlighting progress on the directive as a crucial area of activity, Jourová held talks with ministers at the justice council in December and says she is "now convinced that the remaining obstacles can be overcome". "I am also engaged in bilateral exchanges with member states and listening to the voices of other stakeholders, including civil society organisations and experts, to ensure that the final text meets the highest quality criteria and makes a real difference on the ground," she adds.
"We need to make better use of EU criminal justice cooperation, prevent radicalisation, and stand up against hate crime"
Jourová also voices her support for Juncker's new working structure, saying it allows the college to "focus on key priorities and bring in the relevant expertise from across the commission". "In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris, I have worked closely with first vice-president Frans Timmermans and migration, home affairs and citizenship commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to ensure a holistic approach that addresses the need to step up law enforcement cooperation as well as the fight against racism and xenophobia and the protection of fundamental rights. Our close cooperation will ensure that the future European agenda for security strikes the right balance between freedom and security."
Looking to relations between the EU's institutions, Jourová underlines her "close and strategic cooperation with the new parliament", adding that she finds "bilateral exchanges of views with MEPs very valuable". Jourová also wants to be a presence in national parliaments, where she plans to "debate justice, consumers and gender equality issues". "I strongly believe in direct contact and down-to-earth cooperation, which can help us all come up with fresh ideas," she adds.
Jourová concludes by presenting very clear idea of what she believes is her role as commissioner. "I stand for more choice, more protection, and more trust", says the Czech official, who sums up her aim as achieving "a Europe where all citizens, strong and weak, can live in dignity and enjoy the same rights and freedoms".
Věra Jourová is European justice, consumers and gender equality commissioner