MEPs weigh up additional answers from Olivér Várhelyi

Written by Martin Banks on 18 November 2019 in News
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The Hungarian commissioner-designate will have until Monday afternoon to answer additional questions from MEPs following his hearing with members of the foreign affairs committee last week.

Photo credit: European Parliament Audiovisual


Olivér Várhelyi, Hungarian commissioner-designate for the Neighbourhood and Enlargement portfolio in Ursula von der Leyen’s new Commission, has been ordered to provide more information before MEPs are prepared to approve his appointment.

After his initial hearing, MEPs demanded more reassurances from him because they say this crucially-important portfolio must be in the right hands.

Tonino Picula, S&D coordinator in the committee on foreign affairs, said, “Várhelyi is certainly a very experienced diplomat, but he did not fully convince us today. We want to see a clear vision towards our Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods in these challenging times.”


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“The Socialists and Democrats remain the strong supporters of the EU enlargement process and we want to make sure that this crucially important portfolio is in the right hands.

He went on, “The fact that he will be under the supervision of the High Representative Josep Borrell is already a guarantee. Nevertheless, we would like a written commitment that the actions that Várhelyi undertook in his previous capacity as Permanent Representative of Hungary to the EU will not compromise his future responsibilities.”

“It means he has to draw a clear line between his previous functions, and what he wants to do.”

“Várhelyi is certainly a very experienced diplomat, but he did not fully convince us today. We want to see a clear vision towards our Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods in these challenging times” Tonino Picula MEP

Further comment came from colleague Kati Piri, S&D vice-president for foreign affairs, who added. "From the beginning, we had concerns about the choice of Várhelyi as the Hungarian Commissioner-designate for Neighbourhood and Enlargement. We set, as a red line, that he needed to clearly and fully distance himself from Viktor Orbán and his government’s actions that breached core EU laws and values on multiple occasions and have been the cause of the Article 7 procedure launched by the European Parliament.”

“At his hearing he said that he will not take instructions from Hungary and that he will be acting in the general interest of the European Union, quoting the respective article of the Treaty. However, to ensure the support of our group, Várhelyi should explain in writing that he is a genuinely committed European.”

“This is crucial, considering that as a Commissioner responsible for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, he would have to be the proponent and the guardian of the European values and laws in the Western Balkans, Turkey, Eastern Europe, North Africa and in the Middle East.”

“He also made it very clear that as European Commissioner, he will act in the European interest and will not accept any instructions from outside” Michael Gahler MEP

The EPP group has thrown its weight behind Várhelyi, saying he “has shown that he is fit for the job.”

German member Michael Gahler, group spokesman on Foreign Affairs, said Várhelyi at his hearing had presented “his ambitious agenda” for EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and for the EU’s relationship with our neighbours in the East and South.

Gahler said, “He also made it very clear that as European Commissioner, he will act in the European interest and will not accept any instructions from outside.”

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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