The Spanish–Belgian–Hungarian Presidency Trio’s cooperation was formally concluded in Budapest, on 29 June 2011. In the past 18 months, the three countries have shared the objective to achieve “more” and not less Europe, in response to a number of challenges.
The eighteen-month long Presidency Trio was one of the best innovations of the Lisbon Treaty, Minister of State for EU Affairs Enikő Győri declared at the a joint press conference held after the last meeting with her two partners, Diego López Garrido of Spain and Olivier Chastel of Belgium. “For me, the European Union is about cooperation and harmony,” Ms Győri said; and she thanked her Spanish and Belgian counterparts for their work during this period.
The Trio members have held regular consultations as early as during the preparation period, prior to the start of the trio presidency; and frequently at the level of their state ministers for EU affairs. Enikő Győri highlighted that Spain, Belgium and Hungary not only held consultations on every difficult issue, but also used a common logo to emphasise the continuity of the three Presidency semesters. “We had the same objectives: más Europa, plus d’Europe, több Európa, (more Europe) and we acted upon this to achieve it,” Ms Győri said.
The minister of state reiterated that the fruits of a Presidency’s work were sometimes reaped by the following Presidency. For instance, the Hungarian Presidency signed the regulation on the European Citizenship Initiative, which credit should be given to the Belgian Presidency. “The Trio also means that work is continuous,” Ms Győri stressed; adding that several of the Presidency’s achievements will be completed during the Polish Presidency’s term.
Economic and institutional challenges, unexpected events
The Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian ministers of state have all agreed that the EU have had to face serious challenges in the past 18 months. Ms Győri first mentioned the economic issues, but also the reinforcement of community policies, with reference to the Hungarian Presidency’s achievements in the CAP, cohesion policy and energy policy. In this, the Presidency also contributed to the appropriate weight of these policies in the European Commission’s proposal on the multi-annual budget, that was announced on 30 June.
Spanish Minister of State López Garrido, touched upon some unexpected events. He mentioned the E. Coli epidemics, the gas crisis between Russia and Ukraine, and Iceland’s volcanic ash cloud, which had paralysed for days, the air traffic flow in several Member States. According to Mr López Garrido, it was noticeable that Europe had often lacked the necessary competence to tackle such problems in certain fields.
Belgian Minister of State Chastel, mentioned some of the difficulties faced, like for instance the change in the usual way of work when the Lisbon Treaty came into force, which reformed the operation of the EU’s institutions back in December 2009.
The Belgian Minister of State highlighted that Hungary had held its first ever Presidency of the Council of the EU, and Budapest attained success despite many concerns before January 2011, over the country’s ability to cope with the task. “Congratulations. You set up a very good team and did a great job,” Mr Chastel said.
In response to a journalist’s question, Mr López Garrido said that the three Presidencies have fulfilled 90-95 percent of the Trio programme’s objectives. The Spanish Minister of State touched upon the issue of combating gender violence, which was an unfulfilled objective. The Spanish, Belgian and Hungarian Presidencies kept it on the agenda, but were not able to reach an agreement, hence leaving the task to the Polish Presidency.
Ms Győri added that the failure of inter-institutional consultations on cloned food also caused dissatisfaction. “Nevertheless, I think people expect us to let them know what they eat,” she underlined.