Friday

21st Sep 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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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 parliament will not budge on office expenses

Hungarian centre-right MEP Livia Jaroka sticks to earlier decision: documents related to the minor reform of the expenses system, requested by EUobserver, should remain secret.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

Sefcovic launches bid to be EU Commission president

Europe must have a robust foreign policy and nurture high-tech industries, Slovak EU commissioner Maros Sefcovic has said in his bid to succeed Jean-Claude Juncker as the next EU commission president.

'Every group split' ahead of EU copyright vote

Political groups in the European Parliament are split about how to vote for a directive that would reform the EU's copyright regime - amid warnings that freedom of expression and creators' rights are at risk.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us