Neighbourhood Portfolio: Hungary's Conflict of Interest and Risks for the EU

Public hearings of candidates for the new European Commission, which should begin its work on 1st November, have started this week in the European Parliament, writes Gary Cartwright.

Twenty-seven politicians, who were nominated to the EU's governing body in Brussels by national governments of the Member States, have already been interviewed by the newly elected European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. The next stage entails rigid and meticulous three-hour discussions with members of parliamentary committees.

Laszlo Trochani

However, two of the candidates have already been rejected. These are representatives of Romania and Hungary. The nominee put forward by the odious Hungarian leader Viktor Orbán, Laszlo Trochani (pictured left), a former justice minister in his government, is a case in point. 

Plan "B" for Orban

The Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs has blocked the nomination of the Hungarian nominee on the basis of a conflict of interest identified by MEPs. It did not take long for Orban to become furious and state that Trochani did not persistently defend the anti-immigration policy of official Budapest, which categorically denies accepting asylum seekers. Instead, the Hungarian leader has assured that he has several other candidates in mind for the position. 

What about the politician Trochani? Formally, he has a good political, diplomatic and academic background. He was Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, France as well as his ministerial role in his own country. In May 2019 he was elected a Member of the European Parliament. However, Trochani is also a toxic figure who holds many unacceptable political views on European values. Hence, it is hard to imagine him promoting these values through the enlargement and European neighbourhood policy portfolio. 

"Trojan horse" in the EU

Trochani is a close associate of the long-standing Prime Minister of Hungary, Victor Orbán. During his term as a Minister of Justice he effectively endorsed official policies which were severely criticised in the European Union for not conforming to European values and principles.

The criticism is about Trochani’s roles in the transformation of Hungary into a non-liberal state, the concentration of power by the ruling FIDESZ party led by Orban, and flirting with Moscow. As a side note, the largest European political family of the center-right “EPP” will suspend the membership of the Hungarian Prime Minister's Party. It will take a very long time to restore confidence, if this is at all possible.

In his capacity as Minister of Justice, Trochani was directly involved in the extradition of two Russian-born arms dealers wanted by the United States. Maybe Trochani’s conflict of interest is in reality about the Russian interests? After all not without reason, Hungary is called the "Trojan horse" of the Russian Federation in the EU.

Risks for President-elect Ursula von der Leyen

Since Trochani has dropped out of the race, the question of who will be the next Hungarian Commissioner remains open and is a source of concern. Hungary has been offered the portfolio of Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy. One can only wonder what motivated the European Commission President-elect and whether the German politician considered all the risks of such decision?

When it comes to enlargement, everything is logical and positive. Budapest can, and has the potential and preconditions to promote the accession negotiations with Serbia and Montenegro by 2025, which is in line with the objectives of implementing the relevant EU strategy.

Hungarian position on the "Neighbourhood" is more problematic. In this dimension Hungary has a clear conflict of interest with Ukraine. The current aggressive, biased, inadequate internal and external policies of Budapest against Kyiv are formally aimed at blocking the European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations of the Ukrainian people. Hungary vetoes NATO-Ukraine commissions, Hungarian MPs in the European Parliament did not vote for resolutions to support Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

Hungary is blackmailing Ukraine over the language issue, trying to realise its imperial ambitions at the expense of its eastern neighbour. The future Hungarian Commissioner will have to support and promote Ukraine’s high European integration aspirations within the framework of European policy. He or she will have to do this under the conditions of Russia's hybrid war against Europe and European values, under the pressure of Kremlin diplomacy, propaganda and influence agents, many of whom work in the Hungarian government.

It is worth recalling that a member of the European Commission should not have a conflict of interest with the national government and in his/her activities be independent from the influence of the capital. The Commissioner should work only and solely in the interests of the European Union, under the exclusive guidance of the president of the European Commission. It will be clear after November 1st whether any new EU Commissioner who is not friendly to Ukraine today, will be able to follow these. 


Read further op-eds by Gary Cartwright: 

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today. 

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/WANTE...

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