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Future Czech EU Minister expresses “growing concern” at situation in Hungary

Prague, Czech Republic – Mikulas Bek, the nominee for the post of Minister for European Affairs in the incoming Czech government, expressed his “growing concern” at the situation in Hungary.

“For years, I have been monitoring the situation in Hungary with growing concern,” he said during an interview with local daily Denik N. “As a former rector, I was concerned about the way Hungary was positioning itself to the autonomy of universities,” he explained, referring to the Orban government’s progressive capture of key academic and cultural institutions over the past few years.

M. Bek served as the rector of Brno’s Masaryk University, one of the largest in the country, from 2011 to 2019.

Talking to Denik N reporters, M. Bek also said the Czech Republic should focus on strengthening relations with key partners, including France.

His comments come a few days after he described the Visegrad Group – a Central European political alliance between Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic – as “overrated”, hinting to a possible shift of Prague’s stance on the rule of law dispute opposing the EU and Hungary, as well as Poland, and a greater emphasis on Czechia’s relations with Western European partners.

The prospective Czech EU minister also described as “really serious” the Polish Constitutional Court ruling putting in question the primacy of EU law over domestic legislation.

The appointment of Mikulas Bek, however, has yet to be confirmed by President Milos Zeman, who is currently meeting with prospective ministerial candidates and has a notoriously bad relationship with the STAN senator.

It also remains to be seen whether the former rector’s comments are shared by the rest of the five-party coalition set to take the reins of government, including incoming Prime Minister Petr Fiala, whose ODS party appears to have a more accommodating relationship with Poland’s PiS and Hungary’s Fidesz.

The incoming Czech government is not expected to take office before mid-December. Its official position on matters of Central European cooperation and EU policy won’t be known until then.