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László Trócsányi, a former justice minister, has been selected as the European Union’s commissioner-designate for neighbourhood and enlargement. European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen presented her team and the new structure of the next EC in Brussels on Tuesday.
Trócsányi said the position would be a great honour both for him for and Hungary. “Enlargement and neighbourhood policy are especially important areas which have an impact on the everyday lives of European citizens,” he said in a statement. “At my hearing in the European Parliament, I will pledge to do everything in my power to fully live up to this important role”, he said, adding he would make use of his experiences in diplomacy and international relations.
The European Parliament must give its consent to the entire College of Commissioners after hearings of the commissioners-designate in parliamentary committees. Once the EP has given its consent, the European Council formally appoints the EC.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán welcomed Trócsányi’s selection, saying the bloc’s enlargement was a “great and beautiful task … and Hungarians like such tasks”. As a seasoned politician who “understands the essence of Europe”, Trócsányi is well suited to help aspiring EU members to “take over European rules, norms and values”, he said. The EU faces a number of challenges, and the integration of the Western Balkans is among the most important for Hungarians, Orbán added.
At a press conference, Von der Leyen said Hungary’s objectives “are clear regarding the integration of the Western Balkans, which are in line with the those of the new European Commission”. The integration of those countries will be a focal point of the new EC’s work, she said. “I think Hungary is the country that will precisely cooperate accordingly,” she said.
Hungary’s Fidesz-KDNP group in the European Parliament welcomed Von der Leyen’s announcement to designate Trócsányi to take up “one of the most important commission posts”. Enlargement policy has been one of the most prominent portfolios of the commission for decades, the group said in a statement. Hungary has been a leading supporter of EU enlargement and Croatia’s accession from the beginning, it said, adding that the integration of the Western Balkans would remain a priority of the Hungarian government. “We believe that enlargement can bring about a true reunification of Europe,” the group said. Trócsányi is an internationally recognised professional and his diplomatic experience makes him entirely suitable for one of the most important commission posts, the statement said.
Commenting on the selection of Trócsányi, the opposition Democratic Coalition said he was “unfit” to be a member of the European Commission. Csaba Molnár, an MEP of the leftist party, said the former justice minister had facilitated Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s “every anti-democratic and anti-rule-of-law endeavour”. Socialist MEP István Ujhelyi said in a statement that he would, “on principle”, not vote for a European Commission that offered a position to “the legal architect-in-chief of the illiberal state”.
The Neighbourhood and Enlargement portfolio has been led by Johannes Hahn, while Trócsányi’s Hungarian predecessor, Tibor Navracsics, has been Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport.