Saturday

24th Feb 2018

Juncker rebukes Hungary's EU commissioner

  • The Navracsics letter might have been self-defence against Hungary, pundits say (Photo: European Parliament)

Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker has rebuked Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s EU commissioner, for toeing Budapest’s line in EU affairs.

The rebuke comes after Navracsics objected to the commission’s registration of a European Citizens Initiative which criticises Hungarian PM Viktor Orban.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Juncker reminded Navracsics that, as a commissioner, he must remain neutral and not represent the interests of his home country.

Navracsics, who has the education and culture portfolio, wrote a letter to fellow commissioners last week before they enrolled the citizens inititative at a college meeting from which he was absent.

The initiative, called Wake up Europe!, calls for the commission to trigger the “article 7 procedure” against Hungary for breaches of “fundamental EU values.”

It says the Orban government has acted in a way that is “antidemocratic, xenophobic and contrary to founding principles of the rule of law.”

Article 7 can result in sanctions if “serious and persistent breach of EU values” is established.

The college of commissioners recognised the initiative as legally valid, but did not make any comment on its merit.

The organisers must still collect 1 million signatures from at least seven EU states to force the commission to respond to its appeal. But if Navracsics had been present at the meeting, he could have blocked the recogntion of its validity.

Navracsics' letter said he finds it difficult to accept the college should take such a sensitive step when he is absent. He also challenges the legal basis of the registration.

But this week, Juncker sent a letter to Navracsics, seen by EUobserver, saying that, under Article 17.3 of the EU treaty, “commissioners must not defend the view of the government that proposed their appointment, but must be solely committed the general interest of the Union.”

The article states the commissioners “shall neither seek nor take instructions from any government or other institution, body, office or entity.”

Juncker adds that it's his “prerogative to bring certain issues to the attention of the college.”

The 24 November meeting was the last date for the commission to take a decision on the citizens initiative before faling foul of a two-month deadline.

Juncker also reminds Navracsics, who was at a Council meeting on the day, of his duty to attend college meetings. “Even a justified absence is therefore no reason not to discuss an item in the weekly meeting of the college,” he writes.

EUobserver reached out to Navracsics, but he did not want to comment.

Fit for purpose

A popular university teacher of political science, he previously served as Orban’s justice minister and foreign minister.

When MEPs grilled him last year they said he is fit for the EU job. But, amid criticism of Orban’s abuse of parliament and of rule of law, they took away the “citizenship” segment of his portfolio.

“Commissioners are supposed to be independent, they do not represent their country of origin, and they do tend to maintain a neutral position,” Paul Ivan, senior policy analyst at the European Policy Center, a think tank in Brussels, told EUobserver.

He added there are some limits to that “since they are politicians and they are the ones in the college who are most well informed about their own country.”

Rare in public

The Juncker and Navracsics letters were not meant for public consumption and bad tempered exchanges between commissioners and their boss rarely get out into the open.

“Even if issues happen [with regards to a commissioner’s independence)], they don’t necessarily come out in the public sphere,” Ivan said.

“Navracsics’s letter could also serve him to defend himself from any possible criticism from Hungary that he didn’t stand up for his country.”

Focus

Hungarian PM breaks ranks on Juncker

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has said he will not support Jean-Claude Juncker's bid to become president of the European Commission even if the European People's Party wins the European elections.

EU leaders nix transnational lists, cool on 'Spitzenkandidat'

The 'Brussels bubble' ideas for transnational electoral lists was put on ice at the summit, while Jean-Claude Juncker's idea for an EU 'super president' was also rejected. The 'Spitzenkandidat' proposal backed by the European parliament also suffered a rebuff.

News in Brief

  1. EU calls for immediate ceasefire in Syria
  2. UK's post-Brexit vision is 'pure illusion', Tusk says
  3. EU leaders express solidarity with Cyprus in Turkey drill row
  4. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  5. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  6. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  7. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  8. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. EU agrees budget to focus on defence, security and migration
  2. EU leaders nix transnational lists, cool on 'Spitzenkandidat'
  3. Regions chief: calls for smaller EU budget are 'impossible'
  4. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  5. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  6. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  7. European far-right political party risks collapse
  8. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?