Frans Timmermans, the vice president of the outgoing European Commission, has warned the Hungarian and Polish governments that the EU’s fight to protect the rule of law will not end when he completes his term as rule of law commissioner, Politico Europe has reported.
“I can say very clearly that all those who believe that this is sort of the end of an era because I’m going to hand over my portfolio to other colleagues in the commission, and they believe that this puts an end to this debate, are absolutely wrong,” he told reporters on September 16, adding that a majority in the new European Parliament also supports continuing the commission’s struggle.
He also pointed out that the Hungarian government very often tells one thing to EU officials and something completely different to the Hungarian public.
Mr Timmermans, who is going to be one of the three executive vice presidents of the incoming European Commission and responsible for the European Green Deal, has been involved in a series of disputes with the Polish, Hungarian and Romanian governments.
His statement comes after the first hearing in the Council of the European Union as part of the so-called Article 7 proceedings reviewing the situation of the rule of law in Hungary.
During the hearing, European national governments grilled the Hungarian justice minister, Judit Varga, about widespread corruption, the deterioration of the rule of law and democratic backsliding in Hungary under prime minister Viktor Orbán.
“[The] general picture painted by the European Parliament’s report about the respect for fundamental values in Hungary is worrying,” a French government representative told Politico.
“[The hearing] was a vendetta of pro-migration forces,” Mrs Varga said after the hearing. She also noted that the Hungarian government would be open to voluntary proceedings on reviewing the country’s rule of law situation provided that the review would be carried out not by the EU, but national government representatives.