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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to nominate Olivér Várhelyi as new candidate for commissioner

On Monday the European Parliament’s Legal Committee confirmed its decision of last week asserting that there is a conflict of interest between the position of the original Hungarian candidate László Trócsányi as commissioner and the activities of the Nagy and Trócsányi Law Firm.

At the press conference held in Budapest after his talks with Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne, Mr Orbán said in answer to a question that in the afternoon Ursula von der Leyen asked him to nominate another candidate.

Photo: Gergely Botár/kormany.hu

The Prime Minister highlighted that he is “in a delicate situation” because former justice minister László Trócsányi was Fidesz’s lead candidate in the EP elections, and they indicated in advance that they were relying on him as prospective candidate for commissioner. This list obtained 53 per cent of the votes, and “we assumed that this would amount to robust enough democratic legitimacy, and would facilitate the decisions of both the Commission’s President and the EP,” but this proved not to be the case, he argued.

“I did not outright reject the President’s request, but I cannot accept that someone else, for instance the EP should pick and choose among Hungarian politicians instead of the Hungarian people,” said the Prime Minister who therefore nominated, in his words, a technocrat for the post, rather than a political delegate.

He observed that there had been no change in the assigned portfolio.

Photo: Gergely Botár/kormany.hu

The Prime Minister described Olivér Várhelyi as a reputable expert on the functioning of the EU.

In answer to a question concerning the rule of law, at the press conference Mr Orbán also pointed out that the Hungarians were not so lucky as the Finnish people as after World War II we were occupied and in Hungary we had dictatorship for more than forty years.

He stated therefore that in Hungary the rule of law is not a legal issue, but an issue of honour.

“When we are taken to task, when the rule of law in Hungary is called into question, it amounts to a breach of honour, and so I suggest they take it seriously,” the Prime Minister said, stressing that international relations are not built upon one country being allowed to insult another, but upon mutual respect, and without facts and evidence no one should be allowed to level accusations at anyone else.

It is difficult, he continued, to compare the quality of the rule of law in different countries; for instance, there are legal institutions which exist in Hungary and constitute the basis of the rule of law which, however, do not exist in Finland. “But I would not say that, for all that, the state of the rule of law is any poorer in Finland than in Hungary,” he added.

“At any rate, I would not suggest that we get to a point in Europe where one prime minister or any official of the EU can visit another country in order to take them to task over the issue of the rule of law because this could result in many things, but surely not in European unity,” Mr Orbán said.

He highlighted that in Central Europe democracy, freedom of the press and constitutionality are not a political game, but a matter of honour, “we take them seriously, and we would like others, too, to take them seriously and not to use them as political weapons against Hungary”.

However, if necessary, we will fight because one fights for one’s honour, he said.

In answer to another question on the issue of linking the rule of law and EU grants together, the Prime Minister said also at present there is a mechanism in the EU’s budget which allows the Commission to suspend the disbursement of funds should one country or another appear not to use the money entrusted to them well.

In addition to this mechanism, they now want to create another one – the Finnish Prime Minister himself spoke about this – he said, stressing that in this case there is a need for a well-considered proposal which offers answers to the most important legal questions. At this point in time, however, he sees no such proposal, he continued. Today there are only political slogans, rather than specific, laid-down proposals. Hungary does not see the need for such a mechanism, but will consider any fully developed proposal, he told the press, and therefore he asked his Finnish counterpart to continue the talks on this issue.

Regarding Hungarian-Finnish bilateral relations, Mr Orbán said that while all the conditions are given for relations in the economy to be just as fruitful as they are in culture and politics, neither the volume, nor the quality of economic cooperation is satisfactory. He therefore agreed with the Finnish Prime Minister that during the period ahead they would seek to find means for improving the percentage and composition of economic and trade relations.

On issues of energy, the Prime Minister said the Finnish Prime Minister effectively shares the same view on his country’s energy future as Hungary. “We, too, take the view that we must build the future on nuclear energy, and in addition to nuclear energy, on renewables,” he stated, stressing that without nuclear energy it is impossible to achieve climate targets.

According to Hungary’s energy programme, by 2030 the energy generated by us will be 90 per cent carbon emission-neutral, he added.

In the context of European issues, Mr Orbán highlighted that they agreed that the institutions that were currently being formed should concentrate much harder and much more on issues that we agreed upon and less on issues upon which there were differences.

They expect the new institutional leaders who will take office shortly to conduct a more successful term of five years than that which we have just completed. They hope that the EU will succeed in reducing the number of conflicts and increasing the number of agreements, he said, also expressing hope that his relationship with the Finnish Prime Minister will be more meaningful as well.