When Hungary became a member of the European Union on 1 May 2004, it joined an economic and political community with a population of almost half a billion. It shares in the tasks of the EU and enjoys the benefits of membership. Hungary plays an active role in policy formation for the community of twenty-seven Member States. Many Hungarian officials work in the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament.
Summing-up the Hungarian Presidency
As Prime Minister Viktor Orbán predicted at the end of last year, 2011 has indeed turned out to be one of the most difficult years for the European Union, but Hungary – building on the work of its Trio partners – tried to steer the work of the Council firmly and steadily. We faced difficult challenges and encountered unforeseeable events, but the Presidency has shown remarkable flexibility in dealing with them in full cooperation with the other institutions. We must say that Europe works – sometimes reactively, but it works and gave answers to the crisis that would have been unimaginable in “normal” circumstances.
The problems Europe is facing are the same that Hungary has to cope with. In this spirit, we presented a programme for a “Strong Europe” at the European level, and two plans for a stronger Hungary (Széchenyi Programme for SMEs and the Comprehensive Economic Reform Programme). Thus, our contribution to Europe’s comprehensive response to the economic crisis – we have reached an agreement on 99% of the Economic Governance and the successful completion of the first ever European Semester – is in line with the guiding principles of our national policies to restore growth and budgetary health.
It is vital for Hungary that the stability of the Euro is maintained. Consequently, we fully supported the Eurozone countries in all their efforts, even if we decided not to join the Euro Plus Pact for the time being. In fact, the measures we are taking in Hungary go in the same direction as the Pact but several steps further.
As recent protests in Europe have shown, we need to make our societies more inclusive while we are improving our competitiveness. We are proud that the European Council endorsed the Hungarian Presidency’s report on Roma inclusion and we look forward to the implementation of the EU framework for national Roma integration strategies up to 2020.
Of course, Member States bear the ultimate responsibility for economic recovery and for lifting their Roma population, but the Union shall and can contribute to their efforts. The idea that States pool their sovereignty and resources to leverage their efforts – the idea of European integration – has been cultivated by several Central European politicians from Coudenhove-Kalergi to István Bibó. Now, as members of the European Union we are proud to put Central Europe back on the map by the subsequent Hungarian and Polish presidencies.
To put words into action, we have received the European Council’s endorsement of the EU strategy for the Danube Region and we are planning to close accession negotiations with Croatia still during our presidency. Every presidency starts with ambitious goals. The question is, quoting Jean Monnet, “whether he is ambitious to be or ambitious to do”. In this spirit, we have seen our role not as a decision-maker, but as a facilitator, a driving-force for solutions.
We must thank our Trio partners for a great cooperation proving that the trio-system works and brings an additional element of continuity to the work of the Council. We must also thank the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy without whose vision the European Union could not advance and High Representative Catherine Ashton for a great cooperation that allowed us to play the role of a Supporting Presidency. Finally, without the support of the General Secretariat of the Council and its Secretary-General, Pierre de Boissieu the Presidency could not have achieved all the results listed herein.
The Commission has always been very cooperative, especially in difficult files, like driving forward the accession negotiations with Croatia.
The European Parliament has played a special role during these 6 months. Since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty has brought increased powers to the European Parliament, negotiations between Parliament and Council have become the main focus of any presidency. We focused on creating an atmosphere of a Parliament friendly Presidency, where true negotiations are conducted between equal partners. In this spirit, we have made progress on difficult issues, like the access to classified documents, participation of the Parliament in international negotiations or correlation tables. We paid special attention to the upcoming negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework by elaborating a way which would guarantee the proper involvement of the Parliament in the negotiations from the beginning.
We hope to have been a competent and pragmatic presidency in cooperation with all other EU Institutions and we look forward to helping the Polish Presidency of the Council in its efforts to continue our work.
A short evaluation of the main results of the last six months
The Hungarian Presidency’s main achievements:
Helping to put Europe’s economy back on track
- Economic Governance package of six legislative proposals (Based on agreement in the Council, we have found agreement on all 2000+ amendments proposed by the Parliament, but one issue, which is still under discussion. However, we cannot exclude the possibility of resolving it during our Presidency.)
- Successful completion of the first ever European Semester
- In order to strengthen financial markets, we have achieved an agreement in Council on the Short Selling Regulation, on the Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive (DGSD) and on the Single Euro Payments Area Regulation (SEPA). We have also found final agreement with the European Parliament on the Financial Conglomerates Directive (FICOD) and on Cross-border transport of Euro Cash.
Making the EU and our neighbourhood more secure and inclusive
- We are planning to close accession negotiations with Croatia during our Presidency.
- Success with Croatia creates a visible momentum for driving enlargement in the whole Western Balkans. In this regard, we paid special importance to chairing the Western Balkans Forum upon the mandate given by the High Representative.
- Today, we have achieved progress on accession negotiations with Iceland opening four chapters and already temporarily closing two.
- Concerning our neighbourhood, we welcome the Council conclusions on the European Neighbourhood Policy, where a good balance has been found between the attention to the Southern and to the Eastern dimension.
- We have achieved Council conclusions on thve Schengen evaluation for Romania and Bulgaria stating that both countries implement all provisions of the Schengen acquis. Considering the tension in this file at the beginning of our Presidency, this is an achievement that nobody thought would be feasible.
- Comprehensive legislative answer to the migration challenges in the Southern Mediterranean (agreement on the pan-European rules of origin, agreement on Frontex Regulation, agreement on review of EIB credit mandate, adoption of regulation on IT Agency for the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice IT systems)
- Endorsement by the European Council of the EU Strategy for the Danube Region
- Council conclusions on the EU framework for national Roma integration strategies up to 2020 and endorsement by the European Council of the Presidency's report on Roma inclusion.
Keeping Europe’s energy flowing in the 21 st century
- Adoption of conclusions on the Energy Strategy and Energy Infrastructure priorities (as foreseen and endorsed by the February European Council)
- Adoption of the Energy Roadmap 2050
- Agreement with the European Parliament on the Regulation on Energy Market Integrity and Transparency (REMIT) to be confirmed by Coreper.
Consumer and Business friendly Europe, completion of the Single Market
- Enhanced cooperation on unitary patent (with the general approach agreed today in Council)
- Agreement on the Consumer Rights Directive
- Agreement on the Food information for consumers
- Conclusions on the Single Market Act defining the main priorities for action
The EU at the service of citizens
- Conclusions on the future of Cohesion Policy
- Presidency conclusions on the future of the Common Agricultural Policy
- Agreement by the Council on revised rules against cybercrime and on political guidelines on the Regulation on Succession.
No matter how well we plan in advance, there is always that extra element which makes or breaks a presidency. This is our ability to react to unexpected events and manage the unpredictable. Looking back at the past, each and every presidency has been forced to react to crises. We have prepared for this and created a flexible working structure for the Presidency. The unpredictable events did indeed come, stronger and more plentiful than anyone could have expected. The European Union has reacted quickly and effectively to the events in the Eurozone, Japan and in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA), and even where we only had a small role to play in these answers, we are proud of it.
The events in the Eurozone, the aftermath of the financial and economic crisis, events in Japan and the MENA and the outbreak of E.coli bacteria cases have required quick action and determination from the Presidency:
- Events during our Presidency in Portugal and Greece have confirmed the need for a comprehensive European response, giving even more emphasis to our work on the Economic Governance and the European Semester.
MENA and Japan
- Upon the biggest challenge to the Schengen system arising due to the North African migration crisis, we have been able to channel it into the work of the Council without creating irresolvable splits among the Member States.
- We have passed several rounds of sanctions regarding Libya, Syria, Yemen and Egypt. The first round of sanctions has been adopted under our guidance by record speed.
- We have acted immediately on possible migration pressures. In line with the tasks defined by the European Council, the Presidency has defined a structured approach to short and long-term migration challenges in the Justice and Home Affairs Council. Together with the Commission, we started a structured debate with the countries in the region to tackle the problem.
- Upon tasking by the European Council, we have achieved the necessary policy responses (agreement on the pan-European rules of origin, agreement on Frontex Regulation, agreement on review of EIB credit mandate, adoption of regulation on IT Agency for the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice IT systems)
- On behalf of the Presidency, János Martonyi has activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in cooperation with the Commission for Libya and for Japan. The Hungarian Embassy in Tripoli has been representing the EU, coordinating between Member States, facilitating the release of several journalists and reporting to the High Representative. For its work it has been praised by the High Representative and by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
- Minister for Foreign Affairs, János Martonyi and occasionally ministers of state have represented the EU towards third countries upon the mandate of the High Representative on 17 occasions at international meetings.
- We have called an extraordinary Energy Council, to deal with energy security challenges and carried on the work in the respective council working group. We have avoided the escalation of the debate and channelled it into a structured discussion on nuclear safety.
- We have called and extraordinary meeting of agricultural minsters to react to the outbreak of E.coli bacteria cases, thus facilitating short-term measures and again avoiding an irresolvable split between the Member States.
The legislative files closed during our Presidency:
This document is too short to list all the legislative and non-legislative files that we closed. during our Presidency, but here are a few numbers to illustrate the volume of the work: in total 103 files have been solved, out of these 43 OLP legislative files with the European Parliament (20 in 1 st reading, 6 in 2 nd reading and 1 in 3 rd reading) and 60 Council or Presidency conclusions have been adopted.
Overview of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union is available here.