Yesterday, the new European Commission president, Ursula Von der Leyen, proposed Hungarian politician László Trócsányi as enlargement commissioner. Given his background, it’s a move that threatens the credibility of the Commission’s role to promote human rights, rule of law, and fundamental values in the European Union and third states.
Trócsányi would lead the European Neighbourhood Policy and Negotiations portfolio, ensuring that countries that are candidates for EU membership, like Serbia, comply with core minimum EU standards for future membership. States that wish to become EU members are expected to fulfil the Copenhagen criteria, which include having functioning democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law and human rights.
In her “mission” letter to Trócsányi, Von der Leyen urged him to focus “…on the rule of law, the fight against corruption, and the role of an independent media and civil society.”
Trócsányi’s track record makes him completely unsuitable for the task.
As justice minister between 2014 and 2018, Trócsányi was a key architect in eroding rule of law and democratic institutions in Hungary.
Under his leadership, the ministry tried to introduce a new administrative court system under executive control to make it easier to dismiss legal challenges against right to asylum, free assembly, voting, and police complaints. Trócsányi was also a champion of the law that criminalized assistance to asylum seekers and migrants. Similarly, he had a hand in the legal provisions which ended up chasing Central European University out of Hungary.
During Trócsányi’s tenure, the outgoing European Commission challenged several of the controversial legal measures for being in violation of EU rules, launched legal action against Hungary, and brought the country to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The erosion of the rule of law that he helped oversee ultimately led the European Parliament in September 2018 triggering Article 7 proceedings – a political sanctions mechanism – against Hungary for breaching EU rule of law standards.
If Hungary applied today, it likely wouldn’t meet the basic human rights and rule of law criteria for EU membership.
Giving Trócsányi responsibility for enlargement would mean he oversees the monitoring and enforcing of human rights and rule of law standards in EU candidate countries – standards he helped undermine as a minister.
The European Parliament should do its duty and stand up for basic rule of law and fundamental rights, examine his record closely, and vote to block his appointment.