The day after the Hungarian government raided the offices of two NGOs working for democracy in the country, the President of the European Commission announced that the current foreign minister of Hungary, Tibor Navracsics, should have the portfolio of Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship.
The Orban government in Hungary has attempted to curb media freedom, has raided the offices of foreign-funded NGOs and has intimidated minorities in the country, thereby undermining fundamental values of the European Union. We have already stated that Europe must act to stop Hungarian despotism. Now the commission portfolio of Education, Youth, Culture and Citizenship cannot be given to someone from the Orban government: this risks normalising such behaviour and blocking the Commission from taking stern action against it.
Civil society and citizens throughout Europe have the right to be both shocked and feel intimidated that programs and actions of the European Commission touching on such fundamental values should be entrusted to the representative of a government that has consistently attempted to undermine democracy, freedom of expression, fundamental rights and diversity.
The European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the government of Norway, international NGOs including European Alternatives, Amnesty, Transparency International, Greenpeace, and CIVICUS and thousands of citizens living in Hungary have all raised the alarm concerning the actions of the Orban government. Outgoing Commissioners such as Neelie Kroes also raised the alarm. Europe has a responsibility to live up to its proclaimed values.
If giving the Hungarian candidate the responsibility for Education, Youth, Culture and Citizenship is a tactical ploy by Jean-Claude Juncker to assign to European countries those dossiers relating to the areas they have problems with, there is a very strong risk of this strategy backfiring and the Hungarian presence in the Commission blocking any decisive European action to deal with the progressive undermining of fundamental rights in the country.
The European Parliament will hold hearings of the nominated Commissioners and will vote on the Commission as a whole. The European Parliament must vote against the nomination of Tibor Navracsis. The Parliament must call for the Hungarian commissioner either to be someone disconnected from the Orban government, or for the proposed Hungarian commissioner to be given a different portfolio.