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Update: EP committee confirms rejection of Trócsányi

László Trócsányi, Hungaryʼs candidate for EU commissioner in the incoming European Commission (EC) of Ursula von der Leyen, has been voted down once again by members of the European Parliamentʼs Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), which cited concerns over conflicts of interest and connections with Russia.

László Trócsányi (photo: Gergely Botár/kormany.hu)

Todayʼs vote in the committee confirmed the results of last Thursdayʼs vote, finding both Trócsányi and Romanian candidate Rovana Plumb ineligible for an EC position.

At a closed-door meeting of the committee, MEPs voted by 13 to 7 to reject Plumb as “unable to exercise” her functions as transport commissioner in the future EC. They gave a similar verdict against the candidacy of Trócsányi, with 12 votes in favor of rejecting his candidacy as future enlargement commissioner, and 9 against.

Previously, President of the European Parliament David Sassoli asked the committee to explain their decision, and their recommendations to EC President-elect Ursula von der Leyen.

On Monday, the committee said that Trócsányi and Plumb were both denied the positions due to a conflict between their financial and other interests.

Plumb was called before the committee last week to account for two loans worth nearly EUR 1 million that she did not declare in her original financial declaration scrutinized by MEPs. Trócsányi, a former Hungarian justice minister, came under scrutiny over links between a law firm he founded and work it carried out for the Hungarian government.

The committee will ask von der Leyen to request new candidates from the national governments of Hungary and Romania instead of the rejected ones.

According to EU news website Politico.eu, it will be up to von der Leyen to decide whether to comply with the recommendation and have the governments come up with other candidates, or whether to ignore the committee and put the two forward for further hearings in front of relevant EP committees.

Government scents ‘revenge’

“It is out of spite that the internationalist, pro-immigration forces do not want someone to become a member of the European Commission, in the person of László Trócsányi, who played an active part in protecting Hungary’s borders,” Zoltán Kovács, state secretary for international communication and relations at the Cabinet Office of the Prime Minister, said in an interview on government-controlled Kossuth Radio on Sunday morning, as quoted by official government website kormany.hu.

Kovács was cited as accusing the EP’s committee of “trampling on European law” by continuing the “campaign of revenge launched against Hungary by the pro-immigration parliamentary majority by determining a conflict of interests with relation to the appointment of László Trócsányi as EU commissioner.”

Trócsányi himself issued a statement following the committee’s second rejection, threatening legal action against the decision.

“The blatant injustice, the lack of transparency, the clear and deliberate violation of the rules of law and procedure, and the failure to respect the basic principles of democracy, remind me of a time that I thought was over,” the statement from Trócsányi read.

Russian connections

Politico.eu notes that MEPs also cited concerns about Trócsányiʼs connections to Russia in rejecting the Hungarian nominee.

Letters sent by the committee chair, seen by Politico.eu, reveal that the committee was especially concerned by “his connections to Russia, especially having regard to his role as minister of justice in the extradition of Russian suspects to Russia, who were subsequently allegedly released, despite a prior extradition request from the U.S.”

The United States complained publicly last November about Hungaryʼs decision and said it raised “questions about Hungary’s commitment to law enforcement cooperation,” the report added.

Hungaryʼs Ministry of Justice responded that Trócsányi made his decision to extradite the suspects to Russia based on judicial decisions, relevant laws, and international agreements.

The committee also raised concerns in its letter about Trócsányiʼs involvement as minister of justice in a 2018 contract obtained by the Nagy & Trócsányi law firm regarding the Paks Nuclear Power Plant, despite the existence of a conflict of interest clause.

Russia has lent Hungary funding for the expansion of the nuclear plant, with Russian state-owned Rosatom acting as the main contractor for the project.

“Relations with Russia are an important aspect of the job Trócsányi was slated to fill,” commented Politico.eu. “As commissioner for neighborhood and enlargement, he would be dealing with countries such as Ukraine and Western Balkan states where Russia has a major strategic interest.”

Pro-government daily Magyar Nemzet carried a statement by Trócsányi’s former law firm denying that as a cabinet minister he gave them new contracts. It added that he sold his share in the firm, and the contract to represent Hungary in matters relating to the Paks plant date back to the time before his appointment as a minister. His former colleagues in the firm have occasionally given legal advice to the government but always free of charge, the statement concluded.