Brussels, October 6 (MTI) – Tibor Navracsics, Hungary’s European commissioner-designate for culture and education, has answered questions put to him by European Parliamentary groups, before a vote MEPs are set to take in the cultural committee on Monday afternoon on his candidacy.
The questions to Navracsics, two each, were from members of the centre-right European People’s Party, the liberals and the eurosceptics.
Navracsics was grilled by members of EP committees last Wednesday, some of whom have formulated critical opinions against his candidacy.
In response to the EPP’s questions on how he would deal with a budget cut in his portfolio, Navracsics said he was disappointed by the cuts and would tap on synergies and strengthen European citizenship through all programmes, according to a copy of the questions and answers obtained by MTI on Monday. On the Bologna education reform he commented that its introduction had made European universities more transparent and attractive, but there was room for improvement.
He answered the liberals’ questions about Hungary’s media laws by citing the EU’s basic treaty and passages on self-expression, pledging he would commit himself to those principles as a commissioner. Navracsics said the original text of Hungary’s media law did not reflect his personal opinion on several points. He added that the laws were created to make the media sector more transparent while respecting press freedom and competition in the sector.
“The media law guarantees the independence of the National Media and Infocummunications Authority by its institutional and financial autonomy,” he said in response to charges of political bias at the NMHH.
Asked about the introduction of the ad tax which hurt RTL Klub, a commercial media outlet unfriendly to the government, Navracsics said the tax was a common practice in the EU, too, and was aimed at fair burden-sharing and not at influencing editorial decisions.
Media freedom and pluralism are of key importance for democratic societies. He said he regretted that on occasion in the past the Hungarian government, of which he was no longer a member, had not attributed due importance to this significant aspect.
The eurosceptics asked Navracsics if he was “ready to publicly condemn” reforms to the Hungarian media and justice systems, which were “not in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights” and to distance himself from the opinions of the ruling Fidesz party, the Hungarian government and Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
Navracsics said the government had been open to discussing criticism from the EU and the Council of Europe on laws, and had built in their concerns into amended versions of legislation, which then adhered to all norms. He added that he had learnt it would have been wiser to start these negotiations earlier and conduct them with more sensitivity and regard to the importance of the basic charter and rule of law in the European Union.
Navracsics’s responses will be reviewed at a closed-door session by the culture committee before a vote on his candidacy as the Hungarian Commissioner-designate for Education, Culture, Youth and Citizenship. The committee cannot veto a single candidate; the plenary must give its opinion about the new body as a whole.