19 November 2019

Olivér Várhelyi, the new Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement

Olivér Várhelyi (Szeged, 1972), the Hungarian candidate designated for the position of Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, received the green light of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament on 18 November after going through his second hearing. Várhelyi is specialized in European issues and was part of the team that negotiated Hungary’s accession to the EU. In 2003 he became the Head of the Legal Service at the Permanent Representation of Hungary to the EU. Later in 2006 he returned to Budapest to serve as Head of the European Union Law Department at the Hungarian Ministry of Justice. From 2008 to 2011 he worked in the European Commission as Head of Unit in the Directorate General for Internal Market and Services. Between 2011 and 2015 he held the position of Deputy Permanent Representative and since 2016 he was the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Hungary to the EU. According to his mission letter, Várhelyi will have to “review and update the partnership priorities and Association agendas” for the different countries of the southern neighbourhood, paying attention to their respective needs, interests and situations. He is tasked with setting “realistic but ambitious objectives for reforms and economic development”, but also to promote good governance, protect the common environment, aim for a comprehensive partnership on effective migration management and support economic growth and employment across the region. To meet these goals, he will make use of the EU financial instruments and will work closely with the High Representative. He will also be responsible for enlargement policies, including in relation with Turkey. Várhelyi received the approval of the EP with the favourable vote of the S&D group, which asked additional questions after the first hearing. MEPs concerns were related to Várhelyi’s independence from the positions held by the current Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. The Greens/EFTA and the GUE/NGL voted against his nomination. The HR/VP designate Josep Borrell congratulated him on his appointment.

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