MAROS Sefcovic is the EU’s lead negotiator for all things Brexit and has popped up in plenty of news reports with his Tory counterpart Lord Frost over the past few weeks.

Sefcovic recently said the EU’s patience with the UK over the Northern Ireland Protocol is wearing “very, very thin”, and with just over a week to the end of the next grace period - on July 1 - tensions are mounting. Both sides need to reach agreement on how the EU-UK Trade Cooperation Agreement will be implemented going forward.

Currently, Northern Ireland is still in the EU single market for goods due to the Protocol, but navigating the trade border in the Irish Sea has caused upset in NI, as loyalists see it as an attack on their British identity. 

But who is Sefcovic, and what is his experience and political history? The National have taken a deep dive into his life as the deadline approaches. 

READ MORE: EU-UK Brexit Northern Ireland talks had 'no breakthroughs'

Where in the EU is he from?

Sefcovic, 54, was born in Bratislava in Slovakia. He stood for the presidency as the candidate for the populist-left Smer-SD party in 2019 - the largest grouping in the Slovak parliament - but lost out to Zuzana Čaputová, 45, the country’s first female President. 

What are his political views?

Sefcovic’s political views lie mainly in the moderate mainstream, but during the 2019 election campaign he moved to the right to take on what he described as Čaputová’s “super-liberal agenda” which he said was not in line with Slovakia’s Christian values.

He came under criticism for policies surrounding migrants and not supporting LGBT rights during the campaign. However, in the same year he oversaw the choice of progressive principles behind the European Socialists manifesto for the European elections.

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This included “full recognition of migrants”, supporting LGBT rights and access to abortion for all women. It has been reported that many in Slovakia were unconvinced by this seeming change in rhetoric and move to the right during the campaign, due to his history of socialist and progressive values. 

What did he study at University?

Sefcovic studied at the University of Economics in Bratislava and at the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs between 1985-1990. He also studied for a PhD in international and European law at Comenius University’s Law Faculty between 1996-2000.

When did his political career start?

In 1990, Sefcovic took his first diplomatic posting as advisor to the Czechoslovak Foreign Affairs Ministry’s first secretary. He held a number of diplomatic posts until 2004, including Slovak ambassador to Israel between 1999-2002.

READ MORE: Brexit: 'Something has to give' over Northern Ireland, David Frost told

What other roles has he held?

Between 2004 and 2009, Sefcovic served as head of the Permanent Representation of the Slovak Republic to the EU. He then served as European Commissioner for Education, Training, Culture and Youth in the administration headed by Jose Manuel Barroso in 2009.

By February 2010, Sefcovic became European Commission Vice-president (VP) for Interinstitutional Relations and Administration. He held this post until 2014, when he took up the role as VP for Energy Union in the European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker.

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What is Sefcovic’s current role in the European Commission?

He is the European VP for Interinstitutional Relations and Foresight and has held the role since 2019. His main responsibilities include leading on inter-institutional relations, better policy making and strategic foresight, as well as coordinating better regulations, and has overall responsibility for relations with national parliaments, advisory bodies and the European Ombudsman. 

How is he involved in Brexit?

Sefcovic has been co-chairing and representing the EU in the Partnership Council established by the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement. He serves on the council with Lord David Frost, who represents the UK government in the talks, which first met on 9 June 2021. The first meeting revolved around issues implementing the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol. After the talks, both sides announced there had been “no breakthroughs”. 

READ MORE: EU warns Boris Johnson over Northern Ireland border checks

What state are the EU-UK talks at currently?

Last week, the EU warned there was “no alternative” to the Brexit arrangements put in place for Northern Ireland - and the UK formally asked for an extension to temporary measures which allow goods like sausages to cross the Irish Sea from mainland UK to Northern Ireland.

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The extension would allow the goods to go unchecked until September 30. The EU have said they will “assess” the request which was made after the UK government threatened to unilaterally extend the deadline if Brussels did not back down.

The EU warned that it would retaliate if the UK acted without putting an agreement in place first. It is understood that Sefcovic will request talks with Brexit minister Frost to discuss the talks in detail.

There are concerns that without an extension, the ban on goods moving across the Irish Sea border would come into force during the summer’s loyal order parading season - potentially adding to Unionist anger over the Protocol.