Oliver Varhelyi struck a reassuring note with the EU’s parliamentarians during his confirmation hearing when he told MEPs that “a Commissioner cannot take instructions from the national government of a Member State and reiterated that he would obey the European Union’s rules during his mandate.

Varhelyi, who serves as Hungary’s ambassador to the EU, helped quell many of the MEPs’ concerns, given his warm relations with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Vladimir Putin, when he firmly stated his decidedly pro-EU stance regarding Turkey’s antagonistic relationship with Brussels and Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine.

When asked about the EU’s accession process for Albania and North Macedonia, Varhelyi’s said he supported the opening of the negotiation process for both countries and that the accession process, itself, needed to be both reformed and overhauled.

Varhelyi also answered additional written questions by MEPs from the Greens, Socialists and Democrats, Renew Europe, and the European United Left/Nordic Green Left. Apart from the Greens and the leftist parties, the others concluded that Varhelyi’s written answers were enough of departure from Hungary’s arch-conservative government that they allayed concerns about his independence from Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s policies.

Incoming Commission taking shape

France’s Thierry Breton and Adina-Ioana Valean of Romania, both Commissioners-designate under incoming President Ursula von der Leyen, received the nod from the European Parliament’s committees on November 14 to be given portfolios in the incoming  Commission.

Breton, who said under his watch that “5G, blockchain, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, cloud and quantum technologies” would enable the EU to be a key industrial player, takes over as the EU Commissioner for the Internal Market Portfolio.

As the Commissioner-designate for the transport portfolio, Valean said she would focus on a Green Deal for Europe while also improving the bloc’s working conditions and connectivity.

Moving forward

While the hearings for von der Leyen’s cabinet are almost over, questions still remain regarding the UK and whether it will name a Commissioner-designate before Brussels launches infringement proceedings against the former.

The Council must approve the new list of 27 Commissioners before the European Parliament confirms von der Leyen and her College of Commissioners in Strasbourg.