Following today's hearing with the members of the foreign affairs committee, the Socialists and Democrats decided to request further information from Olivér Várhelyi, commissioner-designate for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, before approving his appointment. He will have until Monday noon to answer additional questions.
Tonino Picula, S&D coordinator in the committee on foreign affairs, said:
"Mr. Olivér Várhelyi is certainly a very experienced diplomat, but he did not fully convince us today. We want to see a clear vision towards our Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods in these challenging times. The Socialists and Democrats remain the strong supporters of the EU enlargement process and we want to make sure that this crucially important portfolio is in the right hands.
“The fact that he will be under the supervision of the High Representative Josep Borrell is already a guarantee. Nevertheless, we would like a written commitment that the actions that Mr. Várhelyi undertook in his previous capacity as Permanent Representative of Hungary to the EU will not compromise his future responsibilities. It means he has to draw a clear line between his previous functions, and what he wants to do.”
S&D vice-president for foreign affairs, Kati Piri, added:
"From the beginning, we had concerns about the choice of Olivér Várhelyi as the Hungarian Commissioner-designate for Neighbourhood and Enlargement. We set, as a red line, that he needed to clearly and fully distance himself from Viktor Orbán and his government’s actions that breached core EU laws and values on multiple occasions and have been the cause of the Article 7 procedure launched by the European Parliament.
"Today he said that he will not take instructions from Hungary and that he will be acting in the general interest of the European Union, quoting the respective article of the Treaty. However, to ensure the support of the S&D Group, Mr Várhelyi should explain in writing that he is a genuinely committed European. This is crucial, considering that as a Commissioner responsible for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, he would have to be the proponent and the guardian of the European values and laws in the Western Balkans, Turkey, Eastern Europe, North Africa and in the Middle East.”