The agreements concluded at the European Council’s meeting in March, practically decided the question of whether the Hungarian Presidency is going to be professionally successful from an EU perspective, János Martonyi said, at the hearing on 5 April before the Parliament’s EU Presidency working group. According to the Foreign Minister, it is generally perceived that the EU “got going,” during the Hungarian Presidency’s term.
Some of the things that happened during the first three months of the Hungarian Presidency had never occurred before, János Martonyi referred to the unprecedentedly fast negotiation and adoption in the Council of the package of six legislative proposals, establishing economic governance. Through the adoption of the actions aimed to recover from the economic crisis, and prevent its reoccurrence, we can risk saying that European integration will be stronger and deeper upon the conclusion of the Hungarian Presidency than it had been when it started. And indeed, since the beginning, we have considered this stronger integration as the benchmark of a successful Presidency, and this is what the Presidency’s motto “Strong Europe” also refers to, the Foreign Minister reminded.
Of course, we can argue about who have what role in the strengthening of the EU. Relevant factors include the economic crisis, the new institutional structure established by the Lisbon Treaty (for example the Permanent President of the European Council, who has persistently represented his well-considered position concerning the EU’s future), and naturally the Hungarian Presidency also had its role. By now, it has become a general opinion that in the first three months the Hungarian Presidency was extremely successful, János Martonyi said. Concerning that, he also mentioned the agreements of 4 February in the European Council, meaning a breakthrough towards establishing a common energy policy, and the adoption of the Presidency’s conclusions, outlining the future of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Tasks and challenges in the second half
According to the Minister, there are still plenty of tasks left for the second half of the Presidency’s term; for example, concerning the adoption of the Danube Region Strategy. János Martonyi highlighted, this macro-regional cooperation seems to be turning into a model, which other Member States and macro-regions also want to follow. He considered it typical that currently there is a debate precisely on how much should be said about this, in the strategy, which is in progress. He said there was a realistic chance that the European Council’s meeting to be held in June would also adopt the European framework of National Roma Strategies.
Naturally, new challenges will also come up, the Foreign Minister admitted. For example, the question of migration strongly divides Member States, and the Presidency is aware of the political significance of this. Concerning the Schengen accession of Romania and Bulgaria, the Presidency seeks to work out a compromise that will be acceptable for everyone. He called the matter of closing accession negotiations with Croatia open, and underlined that the Presidency could do two things: it encourages Croatia to do its utmost to prepare, it calls attention to the fact that, unless accession negotiations are concluded by the end of June, the danger is not a few months’ postponement, but rather a much longer time. In fact, emerging risks may question the credibility of the entire process of expansion.
Therefore, if negotiations cannot be closed, the entire European integration process would be losing, the Minister said.
The EU has become more popular in Hungary
Responding to a question from a representative, János Martonyi pointed out that, according to certain surveys, the popularity of the EU has already increased in Hungary during the Presidency. However, he also underlined that popularity is related to awareness, if people hear more about the Union (which is what happens during the Presidency), it is perhaps natural that they will find it more appealing. On the other hand, this is only a partial explanation. The most important question is, whether the EU has strong policies that have a positive impact on people’s lives. If people receive messages that through the common agricultural, cohesion or energy policy, they will also receive benefits from the integration, then the support for the EU will be higher.