An unexpected turn of events: Tibor Navracsics has to be satisfied with the post of education, culture, and youth

Today around noon Jean-Claude Juncker, future president of the European Commission, made his final decision on his “cabinet” or, in EU speak, the “college.” EurActiv published an excellent and telling infographic that depicts the structure of the cabinet as well as the relative importance of the commissioner-designates. Juncker will have seven deputies, the most important of whom is Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands who will be “first vice-president.” He will be in charge of “better regulation, inter-institutional relations, rule of law and charter of fundamental rights.” The other six come from Italy, Bulgaria, Estonia, Slovenia, Latvia, and Finland. So, as you can see, the new member states are well represented. One must also keep in mind that the future president of the European Council will be the Polish Donald Tusk.

In the infographic the seven vice-presidents are followed by the rest, not in alphabetical order but by what seems to me a ranking of the importance of the posts. Hungary’s nominee, Tibor Navracsics, who to everybody’s surprise got the post of commissioner of education, culture, youth & citizenship, is in the penultimate place, just before Cyprus’s Christos Stylianides (humanitarian aid & crisis management).  Most papers published in Brussels dealing with European affairs describe the post as lightweight. According to Euobserver, “the least weighty dossiers have gone to Belgium’s Marianne Thyssen (employment) and Hungary’s Tibor Navracsics (citizenship). ” The paper added that “the latter may face difficulties in the EP, which has to hear all commissioners, because he belongs to the increasingly authoritarian government of Viktor Orban.” The Hungarian-language Bruxinfo also pointed out that “the portfolio does not belong to the most heavyweight ones” but notes that Navracsics’s staff is huge, the second largest within the commission. As for his possible difficulties in the European Parliament, Benedek Jávor, the Együtt-PM EP member, reported on his Facebook page that, according to rumors in Brussels, Navracsics might be drilled hard at his hearing and there is a possibility that he will not be confirmed.

Navracsics himself was also surprised, and most likely disappointed, with the post because he was hoping for a job that has something to do with foreign affairs. But he put on a good face. Naturally, for Fidesz the position was elevated to one of the utmost importance. As a Fidesz official statement said, the future of Europe depends on Navracsics’s work in the next five years. Indeed, education is very important and it is true that many European countries could do a great deal better in that department. The problem is that education is the domain of the member states, and therefore Navracsics will not be able to make a substantial difference in educational policies across the EU.

Navracsics and his fight with Vice-President Vivien Reding was not forgotten

Navracsics and his fight with Vice-President Vivien Reding was not forgotten

Juncker initiated a major structural change, whereby the vice-presidents will be the overseers of the rest of the commissioners. In his letter to Tibor Navracsics he described the new system this way:

I will entrust a number of well defined priority projects to the Vice-Presidents and ask them to steer and coordinate work across the Commission in the key areas of the Political Guidelines.  This will allow for a better focus and a much stronger cooperation amongst Members of the College, with several Commissioners working closely together as a team, led by the Vice-Presidents, in compositions that may change according to need and as new projects develop over time.

In Navracsics’s case this will entail close cooperation with  the Finnish Jyrki Katainen, vice-president for jobs, growth, investment and competitiveness; with Latvia’s Valdis Dombrovskis, vice-president for euro and social dialogue; and with Estonia’s Andrus Ansip, vice-president for digital single market. Keep in mind that under Navracsics’s short tenure as foreign minister Hungary closed its embassy in Tallinn. Juncker emphasized in the letter than the vice-presidents have his total trust and their decisions on certain projects are final. They speak in his name. The success of the Juncker Commission will largely depend on these “über-commissioners,” as Eurobserver called them.

Navracsics gave a press conference for Hungarian journalists where he admitted that “it is possible that education in comparison to the portfolio of internal market is considered to be less weighty but every job is worth as much as we manage to make of it,” which is certainly true. The commissioner for internal market, industry, entrepreneurship & SMEs is the Polish Elźbieta Bieńkowska, and the fact that Navracsics mentioned this particular post I think says something about the frustration of the Hungarians. There are all those others in the region who did much better.

According to the new government spokesman, Éva Kurucz, Navracsics’s post is about the future and his nomination to the post is an “outstanding success.” Fidesz’s EP delegation agrees. The youth of Europe is of the utmost importance and Navracsics has twenty years of academic experience behind him. Of course, there is nothing surprising about Fidesz and the government extolling the importance of Navracsics’s new job, but the enthusiasm of LMP’s András Schiffer is hard to understand. Perhaps he would like to get a few more brownie points from Viktor Orbán and a few more invitations to Fidesz and government functions. According to him, the education portfolio is strategically more important than any of the others that had been mentioned in the last few weeks, which is patently not true.

The opposition parties’ opinion of the post was predictable. Jobbik blamed the Orbán government for not lobbying harder for a more important post. MSZP’s József Tóbiás blamed the Orbán government and Viktor Orbán himself for getting this lowly portfolio. According to him, the fault lies not with the Hungarian people but with Viktor Orbán and his regime. “It is a slap in the face for Orbán but it is we Hungarians who feel the pain.” DK’s spokesman, Zsolt Gréczy, called this particular portfolio the weakest of the twenty-eight. After all, the EU has no common educational or cultural program. He added that DK will not support Navracsics’s candidacy. That means that DK’s two delegates in EP’s socialist delegation will vote against him. MSZP, as far as I know, hasn’t decided yet.  Benedek Jávor, the sole representative of Együtt-PM, rightly pointed out that it will be difficult for Navracsics “to promote cultural diversity while at home his government dictates what real culture is, how youth should be educated, and wants to make self-organization of the citizenry impossible.” All very true.

Final approval of the Juncker Commission will take place in October at the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. I agree with some of the commentators: there might still be surprises concerning Navracsics’s appointment. If I were Viktor Orbán I would hold my tongue for a couple of more months. Otherwise, “the slap in the face” might be even harder and more painful than it is now.

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petofi
Guest

“…the fault lies not with the Hungarian people…”

Not quite. I’d say the fault lies precisely with the Hungarian people. (Of course, a politician, in his grand-ular fashion, will absolve the voters.)
No. All that is happening is attributable to the ethics and learning (or lack) of the masses.

I would say that, if people thought more about it, they would come to the same conclusion as I:

Hungary now has exactly the government and the leader IT DESERVES.

Hank
Guest

Frans Timmermans, the number one vice-president and new right hand man of Junker, will also be dealing very much with Hungary and its slide to authoritarianism (he is also commissioner for human rights and the rule of law). In the past one and a half year, as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, he paid particular attention to and was very concerned about the situation in Hungary. He was one of the initiators of the initiative to create new EU instruments that can be used to deal with EU members that ignore the basic values of the EU (an initiative supported by Germany, Denmark and Luxembourg if I’m not mistaken and still in the workings). He seems to have a personal interest in Hungary, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we’ll hear a lot more about him on this issue.

Laci
Guest

At ELTE University an openly extreme right wing person appeared at a class in a military fatigue like attire and talked about his extreme right wing ideas. Then it turned out he was the lecturer of the class.

http://praesensperfectum.tumblr.com/post/97168472651/ma-olyan-tortent-az-elten-hogy-en-ebben-a-pillanatban

Koller
Guest

According to András Stumpf, a right wing pundit at Heti Válasz, the *decidedly moderate* weekly mouthpiece of Fidsz the civil organisations which Orban raided two days ago are like UD Zrt.

UD Zrt. was (is?) the infamous private security firm made up of Fidesz loyal formerly communist state security officers who sabotaged the conservative political party MDF at Fidesz’ behest, and committed various other shenanigans.

http://valasz.hu/publi/karok-104094

carlito
Guest

OT. The Holocaust Public Foundation moves closer and closer to Maria Schmidt’s House of Terror (needless to say with the active help of well selected jews).

http://magyarnarancs.hu/belpol/vegrehajtas-a-holocaust-kozalapitvanynal-haraszti-folytatja-91708

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Hank

Thanks on the update about Frans Timmermans. Viviane Reding’s former portfolio has been split, and I’m worried about the inexperience of Věra Jourová (who gets Justice, while Fundamental rights go to Timmermans, and… Citizenship to Tibor Navracsics).

On a side note, to those who only think of the EU in terms of heavyweights like Germany, France, Italy and the UK – often because it allows them to play the tune of ‘David vs Goliath’ on the populist chord: you’re missing all we owe, since the beginning of the European project, to Benelux countries.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh: As for his possible difficulties in the European Parliament, Benedek Jávor, the Együtt-PM EP member, reported on his Facebook page that, according to rumors in Brussels, Navracsics might be drilled hard at his hearing and there is a possibility that he will not be confirmed.

Indeed the hearing will be interesting, much more so than if the portfolio had been Health & Food or Regional Policy.

However, I’m not sure the new chair of the Culture and Education committee (Silvia Costa) nor the first VP (Fidesz’ own Andrea Bocskor) will be leading the charge …

Also, I wouldn’t bet on a rejection as the Parliament might have more obvious targets, starting with the Climate Action & Energy commissioner. Also, it is a relatively minor portfolio and though the Hungarian gov’t is trying to spin things their way – as they should – that fact may be considered punitive enough for now.

smallIDEA
Guest

Orban has managed to breach the EU machine.
This will become a historical moment, just like the pre-Mohacs events.
Hungary will be infamous again for breaking up the EU, and losing the battle for Europe.
Will Russia rule Europe?

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

A few precisions on the new portfolio:

– Sport is included (‘Erasmus+’, not stadium building)
– the Media part (of ‘Creative Europe’) moves to the commissioner for Digital Economy & Society
– Multilingualism moves to the commissioner for Employment, Social affairs etc.

googly
Guest
Petofi, I disagree – I believe the Hungarian voters bear as much blame for this government as a cuckolded spouse does for being cheated on. Yes, there are still free media outlets, but Fidesz has done a masterful job of discrediting them and the opposition, to the point that many voters see Fidesz as the lesser of two evils, or are so discouraged by the lies and corruption on all sides that they just don’t bother to vote. Unlike us, most people don’t have the time, inclination, or sophistication to seek out alternative sources of information or come to a full understanding of what political and economic systems work best. Besides, after seeing the campaigns run by the opposition in the last few elections cycles, I’m surprised that anyone votes for them. Eva, You wrote: “the enthusiasm of LMP’s András Schiffer is hard to understand”. What’s so hard to understand? There is room alongside KDNP for LMP to become a “house” political party, like a house band: a band or party that wouldn’t exist except to serve the “house”, in this case Fidesz. Here’s how it might be spelled out: Dear Hungarian voter, do you value the environment and want… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Googly,

It is a grave mistake to give the society a ‘pass’–fact is that down deep, there is not only a thrill but a great deal of envy and respect for the ‘clever’ boys who beat, cheat and steal from the system. The plebeians want the same; to emulate them.

In Hungary, a respect for Society is nonexistent. At the very least, those idealists are laughed at and dismissed as hopelessly impractical. In other words, service to society and country are not ever expressed as ideals; or passed on to the young as such. (Of course, this is not inclusive of the rabid Nationalism promoted by Fidesz, which is not an ‘ideal’ but a tool to promote authoritarianism.)

Zoon
Guest

Petofi, Googly, people do like the current system.

Some may hate the corruption, some small minority doesn’t like the policies, but by and large people like the system.

They complain as Hungarians always do, but deep down they know that this is what they have been waiting for.

Most people can be part of something big and successful (Fidesz) and are happy to join the project. It’s great to fight for Hungary and resists the new evil (the EU). The Jobbikniks only want more of everything so far and are a bit fed up with corruption, but otherwise they love the policies.

The biggest difficulty is exactly to face this reality: this is what most people, if we allow democracy, want.

I think Serbia was a good example. People are often self-destructive, there’s nothing special in this. Hungarians do love Fidesz-Jobbik and will keep them in power for generations to come.

petofi
Guest

@Zoon

There’s no question that people ‘love’ the system; the real question is ‘whether they ought to’…
Are people in possession of knowing what is Good? what the society should aspire to?

It’s one thing to feed into twisted wishes of people and another thing to raise their aspirations
and belief in following ‘the right way’ (see Lao Tzu).

Minusio
Guest

Juncker has not disappointed me as one of the cleverest and most committed Europeans around.

He rightly punished Merkel for her lack of Europeanism by sidelining this unspeakable Oettinger, he put several people in their (lowly) place, he instituted a line structure, i.e. a hierarchy and monitoring instrument topped by very good people, he gave Hill the job to break the City of London’s refusal to introduce more banking regulations (which irony!). All in all: a brilliant job! Just as I had hoped for. I think we can expect more good things from him.

“Navracsics might be drilled hard at his hearing and there is a possibility that he will not be confirmed.” He will be grilled and ridiculed, but as the Commission can only be confirmed or rejected in corpore, it is most likely that he will be confirmed together with the rest. By giving him this lowly job, Juncker made it easy for the EP to swallow him, at the same time sending clear signals to Orbán.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Mr Navracsis will have the responsibility for the ‘Creative Europe’ programme, which among other things aims at Fostering the mobility and visibility of creators and artists – in particular those lacking international exposure.

Well, the Government he still belongs to apparently intends to help, Fidesz style: police cars have been spotted in front of the (fantastic) Krétakör theatre company, one of the ‘dirty thirteen’ organizations sponsored by Ökotárs. Mobility in a paddy wagon, exposure in the the dock…

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140911_A_Kretakorhoz_is_kivonult_a_rendorseg

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Minusio: fully agree with your last paragraph, it is the most likely outcome. But then… what happens if both Bratušek (who’s got some problems at home) and Cañete become casus belli?

Minusio
Guest

@Marcel Dé

Once the Commissioners are confirmed by the EP they are no longer dependent on the support from their home country. Case in point: Andor, László.

Guest

London Calling!

God help the EU with Navracsics for education. What education ‘Hungarian Style’? Education ‘Hoffman Style’?

Adoption of Wass in the curriculum?

Limiting of text books to the Oligarchs’ publishing houses?

Duff books on history?

And rewriting of history?

Juncker must be out of his mind if he can’t remember Navracsics’ run ins with Neelie Kroes and Vivien Reding.

I know the education portfolio has limited influence alongside EU members’ education policies but letting that smarmy Navracsics anywhere near education matters is dangerous to the cohesion of the EU.

God help us….

Navracsics?

…….unbelievable.

Regards

Charlie

Minusio
Guest

@Charlie

Sorry, but you are vastly overstating your case. The education portfolio cannot come up with any of the horrors you depict.

And rest assured: Juncker is not out of his mind. Since Jacques Delors he is probably the only capable – and independent – person in this position.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Minusio: sure – my irony fell flat, it seems. Though in support of CharlieH, I’d say that commissioners often bring their home environment and networks, and that both dont play in Navracsics’ favor. Naturally, many have to swallow bitter pills (just thinking of what Moscovici will have to eat for the next five years) 🙂

Btw, I also agree on Juncker. Hope it works.

@Eva S. Balogh

https://twitter.com/DennisAbbott/status/509990722175791104

petofi
Guest

I forget now who first posted the link to Peter Pomerantsev’s “Russia and the Menace of Unreality”….

(http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/09/russia-putin-revolutionizing-information-warfare/379880/?single_page=true)

…but it’s “must reading”.

One can marvel at how well Orban has learned these KGB lessons.

Guest
Minusio Marcel read me properly, with only slightly tinted spectacles. I don’t share any optimism with Juncker – he has empowered the chosen ‘seven’ and given them full delegated authority. Mistake. As you will see in my estimation. Time will tell. The EU’s fundamental structural problem starts here – the subordination of democracy by these commissioners who are out of touch with the man on the Clapham omnibus. We have recently had a ‘straight banana’ directive limiting the power of vacuum cleaners to 1600 watts – to be further reduced in a few years. As if this is going to save any significant energy? Doing 15mins of hovering with a 2000 watt hoover over 15mins with a 1600 watt hoover is so miniscule that one wonders what planet the EU is on? Instead of occupying themselves with real issues such as member states who have become dictatorships we get this unbelievable meddling – giving newspapers such as our Daily Mail a stick to beat the EU. What ever happened to subsidiarity? I don’t share Minusio’s championing of Juncker – and btw he hardly brought ‘London’ to heel – they agreed with legislation to limit the banks; there was a disagreement… Read more »
Guest

Btw “….Juncker has not disappointed me as one of the cleverest and most committed Europeans around…..

“Are you the Judean People’s Front?”

gdfxx
Guest

Charlie: “As if this is going to save any significant energy? Doing 15mins of hovering with a 2000 watt hoover over 15mins with a 1600 watt hoover is so miniscule that one wonders what planet the EU is on?”

Not to ignore the fact that to collect the same amount of dust, you would have to run the less powerful vacuum cleaner 3 more minutes, because I doubt that manufacturers could make them more efficient. But let’s stay in filth at home, so the planet can be “clean”. The next step: let’s eat the meat raw, after all the first humans did the same before they discovered that fire could have useful roles too. And if we discontinue refrigeration, together with the raw meat-eating the problem of the overpopulation will be also solved.

Guest

@Charlie:

Like most others here I’m more optimistic about the EU and Juncker – it’s lot of small steps to take.

Re vacuum cleaners:

This new limit is just one little step again like the proscription of high wattage lamps and the signs on fridges – but they all force industry to innovate, use LEDs, better insulation an more efficient motors, so it’s not a bad thing.

Orbán will have “his day” or rather the EU will work it out – as we say in German:

Gottes Mühlen mahlen langsam aber trefflich fein or Gut Ding will Weile haben!

The mills of god grind slowly – even if I don’t believe in any god …

Guest

God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

Too true – very mysterious.

chandlerozconsultants
Guest

Reblogged this on hungarywolf.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@CharlieH

Whatever happened to the Popular Front of Judea?

Obviously, time will tell. I don’t share Juncker’s political options, but I value his skills and his commitment. As for the man on the Clapham omnibus, shouldn’t he go to the voting booth first?

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