The European Commission told EurActiv.com today (20 October) that Hungarian Commissioner Tibor Navracsics told Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker that his commitment to the EU remains “unshaken”, despite the fact that he voted against the executive’s policies in the Hungarian referendum.
Navracsics said that in his home country, he had voted ‘No’ in the 2 October referendum, in which Hungarians were asked whether they approved EU-wide quotas to relocate asylum seekers. The quota system was proposed by the Juncker Commission, of which he is a part, by unanimity.
“I think the Union cannot take decisions, which are obligatory for Hungary, without asking the Hungarian parliament,” Navracsics said in an interview.
The referendum question was: “Do you want to allow the European Union to mandate the resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary, without the approval of the National Assembly?”
Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán suffered a blow in his revolt against the European Union after low voter turnout (44%) voided his referendum. Orbán, however, remained defiant, as 98% of those who voted answered “No” to the question asked.
Nobody in Brussels would have noticed Navracsics’ interview, until MEP Csaba Molnár, from the opposition Democratic Coalition party (S&D), announced he had sent a letter to Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, asking him to take a position.
“If the offense is proved, it requires Juncker to take the initiative, and on the basis of Article 245 of the EU treaty, to dismiss Navracsics from his job,” Molnar said.
Gianni Pittella, head of the Socialists & Democrats group in the European Parliament, asked if Navracsics was serving the interests of the whole of the EU or those of the Hungarian prime minister. He insisted that Commissioners of the EU should enforce the general interests of the community, rather than those of their governments.
“Remarks by Navracsics in connection with the invalid Hungarian referendum make that strongly doubtful,” Pittella said. He argued that the referendum had been aimed to thwart a European decision concerning the resettlement of migrants, as well as a proposal by the European Commission – of which Navracsics is a member.
Commissioners meet with the president of the executive at least once a week, at the Wednesday college meeting. Last Wednesday (12 October), however, Navracsics was in China.
EurActiv asked the European Commission if this week the two had met and discussed the issue. Spokesperson Mina Andreeva said that the two had been in touch, and that Navracsics had clarified the issue in an interview with PestiSrácok and also his office issued a statement.
Indeed, the website PestiSrácok quotes Navracsics as saying that the referendum question was an internal affair, about how Hungary would regulate its internal decision-making process.
Navracsics’ office issued a statement saying that the Hungarian Commissioner rejects remarks questioning his EU commitment.
“All statements and interviews by Tibor Navracsics make it clear that his commitment is unshaken and he has acted and will act in line with his commissioner’s oath,” the office stated.
Both Juncker and Navracsics are politicians from the European Peoples Party, the largest political family in the EU, at the 2014 European elections.