Ján Figeľ

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Ján Figeľ
Ján Figel.jpg
European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth
In office
1 January 2007 – 1 October 2009
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Himself (Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism)
Succeeded by Maroš Šefčovič
European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism
In office
22 November 2004 – 1 January 2007
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Viviane Reding
Dalia Grybauskaitė (Education and Culture)
Succeeded by Himself (Education, Training, Culture and Youth)
Leonard Orban (Multilingualism)
European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society
In office
1 May 2004 – 22 November 2004
Served with Erkki Liikanen, Olli Rehn
President Romano Prodi
Preceded by Erkki Liikanen
Succeeded by Günter Verheugen (Enterprise and Industry)
Viviane Reding (Information Society and Media)
Personal details
Born (1960-01-20) 20 January 1960 (age 57)
Čaklov, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia)
Political party Christian Democratic Movement
Spouse(s) Mária Figeľová
Children 4
Alma mater Technical University of Košice

Ján Figeľ (born 20 January 1960) is a Slovak politician who was European Commissioner for Education, Training & Culture from 2004 to 2009.[1] His area of responsibility also covered sport, youth, and relations with civil society.

Early career[edit]

Born in Čaklov, Figeľ studied power electronics at the Technical University of Košice for five years, beginning in 1978. From 1983 he worked as a research and development scientist for ZPA Prešov. He joined the conservative Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) in 1990 and was elected to the National Council of the Slovak Republic in 1992, serving on its Foreign Affairs Committee and becoming a member of Slovakia's delegation to the Council of Europe a year later.

In 1998 Figeľ left his parliamentary seat and was appointed State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Unlike most of his colleagues in the European Commission, he never rose to a cabinet-level position, but led Slovakia's accession negotiations with the European Union until 2003. He also represented the Slovak government in the European Convention which drafted the European Constitution. He returned to the National Council in 2002 where he chaired its Foreign Affairs Committee, stepping down in 2004 to take up his Commission post.

From 1995 to 2000 Figeľ lectured in international relations at Trnava University. He is married with four children.

European Commission[edit]

Figeľ served briefly in the Prodi Commission. From Slovakia's accession to the European Union on 1 May 2004 to the confirmation of the Barroso Commission later that year he jointly held the Enterprise and Information Society portfolio, sharing his role for most of that period with the Finnish appointee Olli Rehn, also new to the job. The Slovak government nominated Figeľ for the incoming Barroso Commission which took office on 22 November 2004. His appointment to the Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism portfolio was regarded as something of a disappointment. Figeľ himself said that the role was not his "primary choice", but he accepted it "as a challenge".

From 1 January 2007, in the enlarged Barroso Commission after the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union, responsibility for multilingualism is transferred to Commissioner for Multilingualism, Romanian Leonard Orban.

Selection hearing[edit]

Questioned by the European Parliament, Figeľ said that the goal of a true European labour market would require more investment in education, professional training, mobility, and simpler Europe-wide acknowledgment of qualifications. He said that the promotion of education was vital to the aims set out in the Lisbon Strategy.

He told MEPs that he would like all children in the EU to be taught at least two foreign languages at school, and also stressed his support for UNESCO.

Following his hearing Figeľ received broad but not especially enthusiastic support from MEPs, with the PES describing his performance as "basically satisfactory" and "enough to give him our support", but criticising him for "not distancing himself from the Conservative Christian position as the only cultural tradition."

Current political career[edit]

Figeľ announced his resignation from the Commission on 21 September 2009, following his election as the leader of Christian Democratic Movement in Slovakia.[2] He was replaced by Maroš Šefčovič on 1 October 2009.

From July 2010 he is Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Transport, Construction and Regional Development.

Controversy regarding Figeľ's apartment[edit]

In autumn 2010, Slovak media raised controversy regarding Figeľ's generous EU perks making him a politician with best revenues in Slovakia. Furthermore, Slovak daily newspaper SME recalled that Figeľ in 2001, while Bratislava's Old City district Mayor was his party colleague Andrej Ďurkovský, accepted from this Bratislava district an apartment in downtown Bratislava for almost nothing (156 sq meters for 54.390 SKK, 1.800 €). Figeľ has defended this transaction as legal and justified by his service to the country as EU Chief Negotiator and his family needs. Nevertheless, these allegations pushed Figeľ to declare his intention to offer his apartment to a charity endowment. Slovak Prime Minister Iveta Radičová said that if Figeľ had taken any different course of action it would have harmed the whole ruling coalition, since she could have not used the justification employed by her predecessor Robert Fico, who dismissed scandals connected to his coalition partners by saying that they were their own business.[3]

Legitimacy of his Ph.D.[edit]

On 24 August 2012 Science Insider reported that he "is facing an official inquiry into the legitimacy of his Ph.D., awarded while he was in office."[4]


  1. ^ "Meeting between Rogge and Figel’ on European Council Declaration". Webwire. 26 January 2009. Retrieved 24 February 2011.  C1 control character in |title= at position 32 (help)
  2. ^ Michaela Terenzani – Stanková. "EC representative leaves post for KDH chair – The Slovak Spectator". Spectator.sme.sk. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  3. ^ "Figeľ foregoes his bargain apartment". The Slovak Spectator. Retrieved 12 October 2011. 
  4. ^ http://news.sciencemag.org/scienceinsider/2012/08/former-eu-education-commissioner.html

External links[edit]

Political offices
New office Slovak European Commissioner
Succeeded by
Maroš Šefčovič
Preceded by
Erkki Liikanen
European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society
Served alongside: Erkki Liikanen, Olli Rehn
Succeeded by
Günter Verheugen
as European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry
Succeeded by
Viviane Reding
as European Commissioner for Information Society and Media
Preceded by
Viviane Reding
Dalia Grybauskaitė

as European Commissioner for Education and Culture
European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism
Succeeded by
as European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth
Succeeded by
Leonard Orban
as European Commissioner for Multilingualism
Preceded by
as European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Multilingualism
European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth
Succeeded by
Maroš Šefčovič