The Socialists and Democrats today backed Olivér Várhelyi as Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement following additional written commitments he has provided. However, the S&Ds will be keeping a vigilant eye on him, as he must not be Orbán’s man in the Commission, but independently act in the interests of the European Union.
Tonino Picula, S&D coordinator in the committee on foreign affairs, said:
“Under the pressure of Socialists and Democrats, Mr. Várhelyi delivered commitments in writing that allow us to approve him. Distancing himself from foreign policy of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán, he committed to take appropriate actions in case an enlargement country violates the rule of law, restricts media or academic freedom or does not fight corruption. We’ll ensure his words in writing have meaning in practice.
“Our concerns have not evaporated, but bearing in mind that he will be acting under the supervision of the High Representative Josep Borrell, we are ready to start working with him.”
S&D vice-president for foreign affairs, Kati Piri, added:
“While Várhelyi in his written answers took a clear distance from Hungarian government’s foreign policy, he did not go as far as speaking out against Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government's domestic actions, which led to the Article 7 procedure against Hungary by the European Parliament.
“Mr. Várhelyi has not taken away our concerns that he is a risk as Commissioner responsible for Enlargement, whereby rule of law will be a key component of his tasks.
“Make no mistake: Our green light today is not a blank cheque. We will be keeping a vigilant eye on him, permanently reminding him that he is not Orbán’s man in the Commission. Furthermore, he will be under the guardianship of Josep Borrell.
“It is in our common interest not to further delay the start of the new European Commission.”