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Viktor Orban courts controversy with European Commission nominee

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reacts during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) as they visit the Hungarian border town of Sopron.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban reacts during a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel (not pictured) as they visit the Hungarian border town of Sopron. Copyright REUTERS/Yves Herman
Copyright REUTERS/Yves Herman
By Orlando Crowcroft
Published on Updated
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László Trócsányi was the architect of many of Hungary's most controversial policies towards migration.

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More than a couple of European Union executive Ursula von der Leyen’s 27-strong team of commissioners raised eyebrows when it was announced on Tuesday.

But it is the nomination of Hungary’s László Trócsányi as commissioner for enlargement that has been the most controversial due to his closeness to Viktor Orban and his previous role as architect of the Fidesz goverment's most controversial policies and reforms.

As justice minister between 2014 and 2017, Trócsányi was at the forefront of Orban's reforms of the judiciary, as well as the criminalisation of NGOs helping refugees.

'Bad news all round'

Florian Bieber, director of the Center for South East European Studies at the University of Graz, told Euronews that Trócsányi “cannot credibly promote rule of law.”

“It is bad news all around,” Bieber said. “He might not be confirmed by the parliament, but the signal is fatal and if it remains in Hungarian hands even after his defeat [i.e. with another candidate from the country], it would not be much better.”

Zsuzsanna Végh, an associate researcher at ECFR, said that the inclusion of Trócsányi in von der Leyen's team at the head of such an important department is already being portrayed as a major victory for Fidesz.

"This is the area Orbán wanted for Hungary, thus it seems that he got what he wanted," she said.

That said, she says that von der Leyen could struggle to get approval for Trócsányi.

"He would be a controversial candidate either way, but for a position where he would need to focus on supporting [...] democratisation [...] he surely lacks the credibility," she said.

"Should his nomination go through it would send a bad message to candidates and associate partners, suggesting that democratic values and principles the EU has been preaching about are actually not important."

Middle East

James Moran, associate senior research fellow and a former EU ambassador in the Middle East at CEPS, told Euronews that Trócsányi will effectively be reporting into Joseph Borell, candidate for EU foreign policy chief.

“His appointment is on the basis that he will work under Borell, and in a sense he would be junior to him in that regard. I expect that he would have a limited amount of influence,” said Moran.

As for the focus of the commission going forward, Moran said that the MIddle East, from the crisis in Libya to the peace process in Israeli and the Palestinian Territories, will be at the top of the agenda.

Ven der Leyen will be the first woman to head the European Commission and her team represents an almost even gender split, with 13 women and 14 men. Ven der Leyen has pledged to tackle climate change and improve relations with the United States.

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