László Trócsányi, Hungaryʼs former justice minister, has been designated to lead the Neighbourhood and Enlargement portfolio in the next European Commission (EC), the executive arm of the European Union announced on Tuesday.
European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen presented her new team and the new structure of the next EC in Brussels on Tuesday.
The European Parliament (EP) must still give its consent to the entire College of Commissioners, after hearings of the commissioners-designate in parliamentary committees. Once the EP has given its consent, the European Council formally appoints the EC.
In a mission letter addressed to Trócsányi, von der Leyen said he should work as commissioner to speed up structural and institutional reforms in the Western Balkans.
“It is imperative that we sustain and accelerate progress in the next five years, through a merit-based assessment of each candidate country, keeping a credible perspective on future accession,” she wrote. The EC will stand by proposals to open enlargement negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania, she added.
Von der Leyen also said that Trócsányi should strengthen relations with the six countries in the Eastern Partnership - representing the EUʼs relationship with the post-Soviet states of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine - and put forward a new set of long-term policy objectives by mid-2020, as well as accelerating implementation of the Association Agreements and free trade areas with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova.
“I want you to explore how we can better promote good governance, protect our common environment, aim for a comprehensive partnership on effective migration management, and support economic growth and employment across the region as a whole,” she wrote to Trócsányi. “Once there is more clarity, we should be ready to pave the way for an ambitious and strategic partnership with the United Kingdom,” she added.
If approved by the European Parliament, von der Leyenʼs executive team will be the most gender-diverse in EU history, with 13 women and 14 men. There is no U.K. nominee, given Brexit is currently still scheduled for October 31. Von der Leyen, Germanyʼs former defense minister, will officially replace Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on November 1. The new executive team of 27 - one for each member state - is planned to be in place for five years.
Commenting earlier on the choice of Trócsányi as Hungaryʼs nomination for the European Commission, Sophie in ʼt Veld - a Dutch liberal MEP who sits on the EPʼs Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs - was cited by U.K. newspaper The Guardian as saying he would face “a very rough ride” at confirmation hearings in the European Parliament.
Trócsányi was Prime Minister Viktor Orbánʼs minister of justice from 2014 until his election to the European Parliament this year. As minister, he oversaw the introduction of a number of controversial legal measures challenged with legal action by the European Commission against Hungary.
“Quite frankly, given the track record of this government and this minister, it seems purely hypothetical he will ever pass the basic test,” she said, referring to the EU’s fundamental values on the rule of law. “How can we put someone in charge who does not respect or recognize the treaties?”
For its part, the Fidesz-KDNP group in the European Parliament welcomed the decision to announce the candidacy of Trócsányi as Hungary’s EU commissioner, reported news site hungarytoday.hu. It described von der Leyen’s decision as a significant achievement because “pro-migration forces have made every effort to thwart Trócsányi’s candidacy, but their attempts have failed.”
The Fidesz-KDNP group was cited as saying in a statement that it expects the socialist, liberal, green and communist groups to attack the candidate “by every possible means,” and that MEPs of Hungary’s opposition parties would most likely “lead the way in these unprincipled attacks.”
“Despite this, we trust that instead of the petty party-political intrigues by pro-migration forces, the notion of sensible European cooperation will gain the upper hand during the formation of the European Commission,” the statement added.