“Best Candidate” or “Orbán Puppet”? Reactions to Várhelyi’s Approval by EP Committee
Ábrahám Vass 2019.11.19.
Yesterday, following a bumpy ride, the EP’s Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) has finally okayed the Hungarian commissioner-designate Olivér Várhelyi‘s appointment. In reaction, while Fidesz praised him and once again blamed the “pro-migration” forces for their “scheming,” the opposition, although claiming ready to work with him, also questioned his independence and promised to “keep an eye on him.”
Gov’t: “best candidate,” worst opposition
According to the Government Information Centre, the Hungarian opposition’s “scheming” to prevent Hungary from sending a commissioner to Brussels had failed. “The government welcomes that the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee has supported Oliver Várhelyi’s appointment as European commissioner,” the centre wrote in a statement. Hungary considers the EU’s neighbourhood and enlargement portfolio crucial in terms of strengthening the bloc, the integration of the Western Balkan region, and the defence of the Balkan migration route, it added.
Fidesz MEP Kinga Gál said Várhelyi would be “one of the most qualified” members of the new commission. She praised Várhelyi’s performance at last week’s hearing, adding that he would do an “outstanding job” in his new post. Gál expressed hope that the new commission would take office soon and work in line with Hungary’s interests.
Earlier, the Hungarian government’s original candidate for the job, László Trócsányi, “wholeheartedly congratulated Várhelyi on his hearing,” adding that “he is the best candidate.”
Momentum and DK: concerns about Várhelyi’s independence
Liberal Momentum’s MEP Anna Donáth commented that “in the past weeks the EP’s representatives have set the framework for Várhelyi, and today’s decision indicates that he has to fulfill his work for the EU within this framework. If he is unable to do so, he will soon become the least significant member of the Commission.” She also added that the fact that Várhelyi is the last one to be approved by the EP, sends a strong signal to the Hungarian government: there is hardly any trust left in those appointed by Viktor Orbán.
The party’s other MEP, Katalin Cseh, added that it isn’t a positive sign that the Commissioner of a country subject to the Article 7 procedures will have to overview the democratic standards of the candidate countries. This raises serious credibility concerns that can only be dispelled if Várhelyi proves his impartiality and independence beyond any doubt,” she added.
Leftist-liberal Democratic Coalition (DK) MEP Klára Dobrev said Várhelyi “is visibly well versed in Orbán’s peacock dance and double talk.” “One thing I will promise,” she said in a statement posted to her Facebook channel, “is that DK’s MEPs will keep an eye on him.” Dobrev said DK would immediately initiate Várhelyi’s removal from office if he ever violated his duty of independence.
Socialist (MSZP) MEP István Ujhelyi claimed that he was ready to work together with the members of the new commission. “Now that he has renounced Orbán’s policies not just verbally but also in writing, the Hungarian commissioner will still be closely watched in his work.” In his statement, he warned that Várhelyi “mustn’t stray a single step from the European path laid out both by the EU treaties and himself for the coming years.”
Jobbik MEP Márton Gyöngyösi, beside noting that “although few people have more knowledge about the EU than him, he is known for his notoriously aggressive style and servitude towards Fidesz,” also expressed hope that Várhelyi would dispel concerns that he is a “partisan soldier” and would “go from serving those above him to helping those under him.”
The EP’s plenary is expected to vote on the new Commission on the 27th of November.