Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s outgoing Foreign Minister, has been appointed to serve as EU Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship.
Navracsics can draw on the work of the commission’s culture and education directorate as well as the employment, social affairs and social cohesion directorates and the statistical office Eurostat. He will be in charge of liaising with the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, and the foundation helping to improve work and living standards and the European Foundation for Training.
Hungary nominated Navracsics in July to serve as commissioner in the new European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker. Appointed as foreign minister of the new Orbán government in June, he announced his candidacy online on 30 July for one of the European posts, saying “Difficult job. Great honour”.
Navracsics said he found the role picked for him “well-suited”. He said although he had expected a portfolio close to his current ministerial charge, this area is close to him too, given his experience as a university professor and earlier role as justice minister.
Government spokesperson Éva Kurucz called the nomination a great success, and added that issues around youth, education and culture were of strategic importance. She called high youth unemployment and low efficiency of education issues among Europe’s gravest problems.
The ruling Fidesz-KDNP parties welcomed Navracsics’s nomination to the “outstanding post” and said that his activities would be crucial for the future of young people in Europe. It noted that tens of millions of young people in the community were unemployed, whose lives could be changed through targeted schemes.
The opposition E-PM alliance said the post going to Navracsics means “he is not being taken seriously”. Benedek Jávor, a European MP of the party, insisted that all areas Navracsics would be responsible for were national competencies.
The leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) said Navracsics would be given “the least important” position in the European Commission. DK spokesman Zsolt Gréczy referred to him as “a bad nominee by a bad government” who would be “the weakest link” with a “practically empty portfolio”.
Radical nationalist Jobbik said Navracsics’s nomination clearly indicated the “weight” of Hungarian diplomacy. MP Márton Gyöngyösi, deputy head of Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, insisted that the post was “not too heavy” and of a technical nature, concerning areas outside the EU’s direct control.
András Schiffer, co-leader of the green LMP party, said the post was “much more important strategically” than other posts Navracsics was earlier suggested to receive.
József Tóbiás, head of the opposition Socialist Party, said Navracsics’s nomination was a “slap in the face for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán which the whole country can feel”. He insisted that the prime minister had abandoned European values and “preferred war to partnership”.