Orban Picks New Hungarian Commissioner After EU Parliament Slap

(Bloomberg) -- Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was forced to change his pick for the European Union’s executive arm, after lawmakers in Brussels rejected his first candidate without even giving him a chance of a hearing.

In the latest twist of Orban’s battles with EU institutions, the illiberal leader nominated the country’s envoy to the bloc, ambassador Oliver Varhelyi, for the EU Commission. Hours earlier, Hungary’s government lambasted the European Parliament for blocking the candidacy of Laszlo Trocsanyi, attributing it to the Commissioner-designate’s anti-immigration stance.

The backpedaling followed a phone call between Orban and EU Commission president-elect Ursula von der Leyen on Monday. Earlier in the day, lawmakers in the EU assembly dug in their heels by rejecting Trocsanyi, Orban’s former justice minister, citing irregularities in his declaration of interests.

EU lawmakers also rejected Rovana Plumb, Romania’s candidate for the Commission, for the same reason. Romanian Premier Viorica Dancila said Romania will make a new nomination.

The Commission proposes and monitors regulation in the 28-nation EU, and has been a frequent critic of eastern members, including Poland, Hungary and Romania, over an alleged slide in their democratic standards. Each EU country can propose one Commissioner, and the entire body is subject to approval by the European Parliament following confirmation hearings.

Orban’s new pick, Varhelyi, is a staunch defender of Hungary’s stance, having often clashed with journalists in briefings in Brussels over their coverage. A lawyer by training, the diplomat has previously worked for the Commission. Von der Leyen will interview him before accepting him in her team.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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