New Commission set for being voted on

Hungary's Oliver Varhelyi was finally approved by MEPs

Photo: EPA Oliver Varhelyi during a hearing before European parliament's foreign affairs committee.

The new European Commission is set to be voted on next week by Parliament after last Monday Hungary's commissioner-designate Oliver Varhelyi was finally approved by European parliament's foreign affairs committee. But there is still an obstacle, and Parliament has to agree to vote the Ursula von der Leyen-led Commission without a UK commissioner. Britain denies to name a commission before snap elections to be held on 12 December.

Nevertheless, the Commission will be most probably approved at a plenary on 27 December after Varhelyi has answered to a series of written questions by MEPs following his hearing a week ago when socialists and liberals expressed concerns over his closeness to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban. “I will neither be bound nor influenced by any statement or position of any PM of any country or any other representatives of any government,” Varhelyi wrote to Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs.

Lawmakers previously refused to give Varhelyi, currently Hungarian ambassador to the EU, a green light, but instead asked him to answer additional questions in written form. The decision came after some MEPs raised concerns about the candidate's independence. Critics, for example, accuse Orban of maintaining a too close links to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and supporting non-democratic regimes. Some were particularly concerned about a speech made by Orban in Baku last month, where he appeared to pledge Varhelyi's assistance to the Hungarian government's Turkish and Azerbaijani allies.

However, in his written answers, Varhelyi distanced himself from the Hungarian leader's foreign policy positions. “The EU is a key trade partner of Azerbaijan. However, I will not shy away from clearly addressing the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and raise relevant issues,” Varhelyi wrote. “The same applies to Turkey,” he added. Varhelyi is set to get an enlargement portfolio in the new Commisssion.

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