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Hungary foreign minister rejects Weber for EU's top job, claps back at Article 7 'torture'

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Hungary foreign minister rejects Weber for EU's top job, claps back at Article 7 'torture'
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Hungary's foreign minister has shut down the idea of supporting German MEP Manfred Weber as the next EU commission president, while also taking a swipe at the bloc over how Article 7 proceedings failed to dent support for the ruling Fidesz party.

In an interview with Euronews the day after the EU elections, Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said Weber — the centre-right European People's Party lead candidate for EU's top job — failed to respect Hungarians.

"He showed a total disrespect towards the Hungarians during the campaign. I just would like to remind everybody, which he doesn't like to speak about anymore ... he said that he would not be a president of the European Commission if he needed the Hungarian votes for that."

Euronews' EU correspondent Sándor Zsíros cut in, saying Weber referred to the votes of the ruling Fidesz party, not the Hungarian votes.

Szijjártó replied: “But the votes of Fidesz are coming from the Hungarian people, we got 52% of the public support back at home. It shows that Manfred Weber looks at Hungarian people as secondary citizens, which is unacceptable, which we reject."

"Hungarian people are not of less value than any other citizens of any other member state. So based on this position we cannot support him.”

The Michel Barnier question

The foreign minister dodged whether Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator who is rumoured to be eyeing the top Commission post, would be supported by Hungary.

“He obviously made a good job when it comes to Brexit. He was able to coordinate the positions of the member states and I think he had a huge achievement by preserving the unity of the EU on that matter. But that is, I think, independent from the fact that now we are looking for a candidate for the president of the European Commission," said Szijjártó.

"I cannot go into concrete names because it would not be appropriate for my perspective European Council ... it's up to the leaders of the member states to decide about this."

So who exactly is Hungary fond of as a new leader for the European Union? Szijjártó made unequivocal Hungary's opposition to the current list of lead candidates.

"I can tell you one thing for sure: We do not consider any Spitzenkandidat suitable as the president of the European Commission. There should be someone else. But who else? I can't answer that question."

Rule of law: Article 7 'torture'

The foreign minister also took a jab at the EU after the Fidesz party and Poland's ruling Law and Justice party took a commanding majority in the European elections. The EU had triggered Article 7 proceedings against the two countries over the rule of law.

"Those governments which are under torture by the European Commission, called Article 7, got the two best results in Europe. Fidesz got 52%, Law and Justice in Poland received 46%. These are the top two scores in the European Union during the European Parliament elections."

He also addressed what may play out for Hungary and the EU when it comes to the rule of law, adding that he hopes the discussions will be based more on "rationality and common sense".

"I think there will be brutal debates in the upcoming weeks and months in the EU political arena on the future of the European Union. So far these debates were already hit by emotions. Let's see if the end of the campaign period will cool down the tensions and the atmosphere — or not."

Watch the full interview in the player above.

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