On 1 October 2020, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs): Tamás Deutsch, József Szájer, András Gyürk, Balázs Hidvéghi, Lívia Járóka, László Trócsányi, Kinga Gál, Edina Tóth, Enikő Győri, György Hölvényi, Ádám Kósa, Andrea Bocskor and Andor Deli of the Non-attached Members posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“In an interview given to Der Spiegel on 26 September 2020, Vice-President Vera Jourova stated that the Hungarian Prime Minister builds a ‘sick democracy’ and insulted Hungarian citizens by saying ‘most of them are not in a position to form an independent opinion’.
By saying this, Vice-President Jourova offended a Member State and breached the Commission’s principle of neutrality.
Article 2(5) of The Code of Conduct for Members of the European Commission states that ‘Members […] shall not act or express themselves, through whatever medium, in a manner which adversely affects the public perception of their independence, their integrity or the dignity of their office’.
Furthermore, the internal rules of the Commission specify that Commissioners’ press statements should be checked with the relevant departments of the Commission, given that Commissioners represent the official view of the Commission.
1. Did the Commission approve Vice-President Jourova’s statement, and can this be considered the Commission’s official opinion?
2. When does the Commission President intend to remove Vera Jourova from her office and nominate a commissioner, who, in the spirit of the Treaties, behaves in a neutral, unbiased and constructive manner?”
On 29 January 2021, President von der Leyen responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “A Member of the Commission does not require prior approval of the Commission to give interviews and can chose the formulations the Member deems appropriate, as there are different ways to express concerns.
The concerns of the Commission on the issues raised in the interview mentioned by the Honourable Members, namely regarding the respect of the rule of law by Hungary, are publicly known. The Commission refers the Honourable Members to its recent Rule of Law report, among others.
The Vice-President for Values and Transparency has the Commission President’s full trust in carrying out her role and the President does not see any reason for her to resign.”
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