Hungary has nominated its ambassador to the EU, Olivér Várhelyi, as its new candidate for the European Commission after the Parliament blocked the first candidate put forward by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Monday (30 September).
Várhelyi will replace former justice minister László Trócsányi as Hungary’s candidate for the European Commission. Trócsányi was rejected earlier on Monday by the EU parliament’s legal affairs committee, citing conflicts of interest.
Orbán said he had spoken earlier on Monday to future EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who requested that he replace Trócsányi.
“I did not reject the (incoming) President’s request but I will not have anyone pick and choose from Hungarian politicians,” Orbán said. “Under the circumstances I can only propose a technocrat, someone who knows the EU inside out and is not a political nominee.”
“And indeed I designated our EU Ambassador, Olivér Várhelyi, as Hungary’s official candidate and asked Madame President to contact him.”
The move spares von der Leyen a political headache. Without a replacement, she would have had to decide whether to push through the candidate in the face of lawmakers’ rejections or pick a fight with Orbán.
She also faces a similar issue with the Romanian candidate, Rovana Plumb, who was designated as the next EU transport commissioner.
Both Plumb and Trócsányi, who was ear-marked to become the EU’s next Enlargement Commissioner were told by lawmakers that their confirmation hearings could not take place because of problems with their financial statements.
Romania has yet to put forward a new name.
Zoltán Kovács, the spokesman of Hungarian Prime Minister Orbán’s, defended Trócsányi on Twitter.
“Trócsányi’s true crime is that he helped protect Hungary from migration,” he said, adding that “pro-immigration parties” were unable to tolerate as a commissioner someone who had closed Hungary’s border to migrants.
Von der Leyen’s team will have to pass a vote of confidence in the European Parliament before taking office on 1 November for five years.
[Edited by Frédéric Simon]