The European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee has approved Hungary’s candidate for European commissioner after coordinators of the legislative body’s political groups accepted Oliver Varhelyi’s answers to the additional written questions he was given following his hearing last week.
EP spokesman Jaume Duch said on Twitter that the foreign affairs committee had backed Varhelyi’s candidacy with a two-thirds majority as required for his approval as commissioner.
Commenting on his approval by the committee, Varhelyi said:
The EP’s Conference of Committee Chairs is expected to review the evaluations and recommendations given for the commissioner candidates and bring a formal end to the hearings on Thursday. European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen’s team must also be approved by the EP plenary. The vote is expected to be held on Nov. 27. At last Thursday’s hearing, Varhelyi vowed to carry out his duties as commissioner independently of any government, emphasising his intention to follow the EU’s policy objectives.
In reaction to Varhelyi’s approval, the Government Information Centre said 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 Varhelyi’s appointment as European commissioner,” the centre said 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 Gal said Varhelyi would be “one of the most qualified” members of the new commission. She praised Varhelyi’s performance at last week’s hearing, adding that he would do an “outstanding job” in his new post. Gal expressed hope that the new commission would take office soon and work in line with Hungary’s interests.
Istvan Ujhelyi of the Socialist Party said he was ready to work together with the members of the new commission. “Now that he has renounced [Prime Minister Viktor] Orban’s policies not just verbally but also in writing, the Hungarian commissioner will still be closely watched in his work,” Ujhelyi said in a statement. He warned that Varhelyi “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 Marton Gyongyosi expressed hope that Varhelyi would dispel concerns that he is a “partisan soldier” and would “go from serving those above him to helping those under him”.
Klara Dobrev of the Democratic Coalition (DK) said Varhelyi “is visibly well versed in Orban’s peacock dance and double talk”. “One thing I will promise,” she said in a statement posted on social media, “is that DK’s MEPs will keep an eye on him.” Dobrev said DK would immediately initiate Varhelyi’s removal from office if he ever violated his duty of independence.