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Home » Focus, Hungarian EU Presidency

Meeting the EU’s priorities

Submitted by on 12 Dec 2010 – 12:33

By János Martonyi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Hungary

Hungary will take over the tasks of the EU rotating presidency at a time of strategic importance. After long years of institutional debate and a period marked by urgent crisis-management measures, the European Union must at last define the instruments that will ensure its long-term economic and financial stability, and at the same time its competitiveness.

The first six months of 2011 will be decisive in this regard: this is the time for economic policy coordination and once the European Semester is introduced, we will start the implementation of the EU 2020 strategy and open the debate on the future of European policies fundamentally defining the EU–such as cohesion, agriculture, the further improvement of the internal market or new policies like common energy policy.

The priority of the Hungarian Presidency will be to harmonize the interests of all 27 member states and deliver final results on issues that dominate the EU’s agenda. We are convinced that the European Union must preserve all those common values that have underlined its development up to the present, and which have so far contributed to strengthening solidarity and cohesion between the member states. Meanwhile, we should also turn to the future and focus on creating the instruments needed to face new challenges.

The main tasks will arise from the need to increase economic growth, employment, job creation and strengthen EU’s competitiveness at the global stage. The world is still passing through a rather vulnerable economic phase, where adequate solutions necessitate wide scale and tightly knit international co-operation. At a European level, the strengthening of financial markets’ regulations and the enhanced coordination of national economic policies are in progress. We must point out that national measures should not increase protectionism, and free trade and investment should be upheld.

The aims of the Europe 2020 strategy to create more and better jobs, a greener economy and to foster education address the key factors of our competitiveness. We have the European Semester to be launched in March 2011 to strengthen fiscal discipline, even through sanctions, if necessary. These sanctions also have to be more effective than today, and must have a clear legal base. In order to contribute to the fiscal discipline of enhanced economic coordination, Hungary has implemented an outstanding budgetary correction this year, thus fulfilling the commitment of keeping the budget deficit under 3.8% of the GDP. We are also committed to decreasing the budget deficit to 3% of the GDP in 2011.

The role of old and new European policies must be discussed thoroughly in the upcoming period, as this will constitute the basis of the debate on the next multiannual financial framework of the Union. The debate on traditional values and the possible future of the common agricultural and cohesion policy will be of upmost importance during our presidency, while a common energy market will play a major role as well. Europe needs its own energy security. We have to abolish the existing gaps in order to create a common energy market, to strengthen infrastructure and to find solutions for community financing. We also have to be more unified and effective in our relations with third parties to diversify sources, routes and energy suppliers.

At the same time the EU should remain open to those neighbouring countries that are willing to undertake the necessary inner reforms to consolidate the fundamental European values. It is a matter of our credibility. It would be of great significance therefore, if the accession negotiations with Croatia were concluded during our presidency. We will do our outmost to promote the enlargement process regarding Turkey and the other candidate countries in the Western Balkan, but at the same time to ensure a substantial and meaningful cooperation with the members of the Eastern Partnership, too. The EU’s role as a global actor has to be guaranteed. With the help of a well functioning European External Service, we might have the necessary preconditions to achieve this aim.

Apart from discussing big European dossiers on the agenda, we think it is very important for Europe to pay attention to the human factor as well as to values arising from the diversity of different communities, ideas, languages and cultures. Therefore the Hungarian Presidency shall give priority to such issues as demographic challenges, focus on families or offering viable European solution to Roma integration. We believe that diversity is the main source of that special creativity and intellectual richness which have characterized Europe for centuries and which are also indispensable in preserving our future competitiveness.