On 14 October 2020, Hungarian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Tamás Deutsch of the Non-attached Members posed a written parliamentary question to the European Commission:
“In a recently published video MEP Anna Donáth acknowledged talking to Vice-President Jourová about the rule of law situation in Hungary ‘every three days’. In a later social media post Ms Donáth admitted that it was Vice-President Jourová who had sought out her opinion on several occasions.
Ms Donáth’s statements appear to prove the widespread assumption that EU officials and institutions are being misled by false and one-sided information from Momentum Mozgalom politicians and other Hungarian opposition representatives about the actual situation in Hungary. This case also raises questions about the Commission’s methods of collecting information about current developments in the Member States.
With particular regard to the conflicting statements, I wish to ask the Commission:
1. Can the Commission confirm that the Vice-President has been in regular contact with Ms Donáth about the situation in Hungary?
2. Can the Commission confirm whether Vice-President Jourová herself initiated these regular discussions?
3. Bearing in mind that pro-government MEPs would also have been available for discussion if requested, does the Commission believe this unilateral consultation is in line with the requirements to which Vice-President Jourová is obliged to adhere in discharging her duties, namely those of neutrality, objectivity and accountability?”
On 4 February 2021, Vice-President Jourová responded on behalf of the European Commission stating: “As part of their institutional duties and responsibilities, all members of College, including the Vice-President for Values and Transparency, are in regular contact with a wide range of stakeholders from across the EU. This includes political representatives at EU and national level, including national politicians from government and opposition parties alike and representatives of civil society and professional organisations. Of course, Members of the European Parliament will always have a particular place in these contacts, regardless of their affiliation. The Vice-President for Values and Transparency has always been open to dialogue with all constituencies.
When the Commission is taking any formal step, its way of working is always designed with objectivity in mind. For the rule of law report, the Commission set out a clear methodology for monitoring developments in Member States, as discussed with Member States through the network of national rule of law contact points. This made clear that there would be a variety of sources of information, including Member States’ national authorities and civil society. The Commission then made its own assessment of the situation in each Member State. This typifies the openness and neutrality with which the Commission works.”
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