Orban nominates EU ambassador as commissioner-designate

Viktor Orban has nominated Olivér Várhelyi, Hungary’s EU ambassador, as the country’s new commissioner-designate after a parliamentary committee rejected the first nominee last week.

László Trócsányi (left), Olivér Várhelyi (right) | Photo credit: European Council Audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

02 Oct 2019

The nominations of Rovana Plumb of Romania and Hungary’s László Trócsányi were rejected by Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, which cited a conflict of interests.

The new Hungarian nominee will still have to go through the hearings as well, while Romania has yet to decide who to send as a replacement Commissioner candidate.

Roger Casale, of New Europeans, welcomed the rejection of the two nominees, telling this website: “This is an unprecedented move and a testimony to the growing strength and impact of civil society lobbying in Brussels.”


An open letter has also been signed by hundreds of organisations across Europe including the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme, the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, New Europeans and the European Civic Forum.

It has been sent to all MEPs and reads: “A former Hungarian Justice Minister (László Trócsányi) who has contributed so much to dismantling the rule of law in Hungary cannot be given the responsibility to monitor the rule of law in accession and neighbouring countries.”

A further hearing of the Legal Affairs Committee on 30 September confirmed that the issues regarding the two rejected nominees could not be resolved and so the new Commission president-elect, Ursula van der Leyen, has asked the Romanian and Hungarian governments for new nominees.

Two other nominees are expected to face tough hearings for Commissioner-designate: Dubravka Šuica (Democracy and demography) and Věra Jourová (Values and transparency).

Most criticism, though, has been reserved for the nomination of Margaritis Schinas, Commissioner-designate in charge of “Protecting our European Way of Life.” The choice of the title for his dossier has been widely condemned. His hearing is later this week.

“This is an unprecedented move and a testimony to the growing strength and impact of civil society lobbying in Brussels” Roger Casale, New Europeans

Meanwhile, the EPP group says it is “satisfied with the level of preparedness” demonstrated by the Commissioner-designate for Justice, Didier Reynders, during his hearing before the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the Committee on Legal Affairs on Wednesday.

EPP Group Vice-Chairman Esteban González Pons said, "We asked Mr Reynders about things that really matter such as justice, citizens' rights, consumer rights, Artificial Intelligence, the fight against corruption and the rule of law.”

“He gave clear answers and showed us that he has a good knowledge of his portfolio. Now it is up to the committee coordinators to decide but the EPP Group is ready to work with Commissioner-designate for Justice, Didier Reynders, in the European Commission".

Earlier this week, the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee questioned Cypriot Stella Kyriakides, candidate for the Health portfolio.

Kyriakides said that the environmental and demographic changes faced by European societies can be dealt with only through a “one health” approach, placing good health and healthy food under a single policy umbrella.

Her priorities, she told the hearing, include the new “farm to fork” strategy to improve food safety, action against antimicrobial resistance, and making sure that a steady stream of affordable medicines is made available to citizens.

MEPs put forward several questions on how the commissioner-designate would act with regard to the fight against cancer, the situation on pesticides, endocrine disruptors, bee health and in finding ways to get Member States to implement EU legislation more effectively.

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