Race for Brussels job hots up in Hungary

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Two candidates have put themselves forward as candidates to fill Hungary’s seat in the next European Commission. EURACTIV Hungary reports from Budapest.

Gábor Iván, the official in charge of preparations for Hungary’s EU presidency in 2011, has emerged as a likely candidate to become the country’s next commissioner, according to reports in the Hungarian press. 

But Iván, who is currently under-secretary at the foreign ministry, could face competition from János Veres, a former finance minister who announced his candidacy for the Brussels job last week. 

“I am one of the people whose name will emerge when this question becomes timely,” said Veres on national television. Veres served as finance minister in the cabinet of Ferenc Gyurcsány, which collapsed last March. Gyurcsány was replaced by fellow socialist Gordon Bajnai (EURACTIV 14/04/09). 

The conservative daily Magyar Nemzet, quoting socialist sources, considers that Gábor Iván is a stronger candidate for the post. The paper adds that Iván enjoys the confidence of Bajnai, with whom they shared university benches. 

Moreover, Iván is very experienced in EU affairs and is currently in charge of preparing Hungary’s EU presidency, set to take place in the first half of 2011. 

The foreign ministry declined to comment on the news, but ministry officials told EURACTIV Hungary that Iván’s nomination “cannot be excluded”. 

Sources familiar with the matter said the move would give Iván an option to “escape abroad”, as centre-right opposition party Fidesz is widely expected to win the parliamentary elections early next year and form a new government. Fidesz won a landslide 56.3% of the vote in the June European elections. 

Whoever takes the job, the nomination will be one of the last marks that the current socialist government will leave on European affairs, the Hungarian press commented. 

Nominating the Hungarian commissioner is the prerogative of the country’s prime minister. The prime minister’s office declined to comment, but a spokesperson told EURACTIV Hungary that the government would first choose a portfolio for the Hungarian commissioner, and then start to look for the right person. 

“Any news related to this is either [leaked by] self-interest or is pure guessing,” a spokesperson said. 

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