Wednesday

16th Jan 2019

Culture MEPs rebel against Juncker

  • Navracsics should be commissioner, but not in charge of culture and education, say some MEPs (Photo: European Parliament)

The European Parliament is voting on Wednesday (22 October) on the Juncker commission, which is expected to sail through without problems.

But to a handful of MEPs, dealing with culture and media freedom, this is an affront.

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They say Jean-Claude Juncker flatly ignored them when they approved the Hungarian commissioner, Tibor Navracsics, on condition he be put in charge of something other than culture and education.

Navracsics is a thorn in their side after having been part of a government that clamped down on media freedom, civil society, and independence of the judiciary.

"We want to express our deep dissatisfaction about Juncker selecting Navracsics for the same post. We are furious about this decision, Navracsics was responsible for the media law in Hungary that made the situation much worse," German Green MEP Helga Trupel said in a press conference.

She insisted Juncker should change the Hungarian's portfolio completely, not just exclude the citizenship part, and give it to another commissioner.

"I think there are very good reasons to include citizenship in the culture and media portfolio. It should be the other way around - keep the dossier together and give it to another person, who is more credible," Trupel said.

The German Green MEP was joined in her boycott call by French Liberal MEP Jean-Marie Cavada, who noted that "demcoracy sometimes stops at the gates of the EU institutions" because they failed to take any sanctions against the autocratic government of Viktor Orban.

"This is not just an exotic Hungarian story. If we tolerate this, other countries will follow, and I am including my country that sent a big block of anti-EU MEPs in the last elections," Cavada said in reference to the success of the far-right National Front in the EU elections.

Italian MEP Isabella Adinolfi from the anti-establishment Five Star Movement also joined in on the Juncker boycott, as well as leftist Italian MEP Curzio Maltese.

Their boycott is unlikely to succeed. But it does send a signal for Juncker about not ignoring the human rights and media freedom issue in member states.

He is to present his team of commissioners and their tweaked competences on Wednesday morning before putting it to a vote.

Apart from the Navracsics portfolio, he is also expected to announce changes to his 'first vice-president', Frans Timmermans, who is to also deal with "sustainable development" and oversee another controversial commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, in charge of energy and climate change.

Space - initially foreseen for the transport commissioner - is to stay as part of DG entreprise and go to the Polish commissioner, Elzbieta Bienkowska.

US diplomat lashes out at Hungary's Orban

Victoria Nuland, the US' top diplomat on Europe, has indirectly criticised Hungarian leader Viktor Orban for the “cancer” of “democratic backsliding”.

Hungary raids Norway-backed NGOs

Hungary has been accused of moving away from EU democratic values following a raid on two NGOs earlier this week.

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 approves Juncker commission

MEPs have approved Juncker's new EU commission, with a slightly smaller majority than in 2010, and following a number of concessions on portfolios.

German spies to monitor far-right AfD party

Germany's domestic spy agency, the BfV, is to start monitoring the far-right AfD party in a move endorsed by the government, but decried as a witch-hunt by the party's leaders.

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