“Today the most important task for the European Union is to reduce public debts and to create jobs,” head of government, Viktor Orbán, told the Hungarian Parliament, on 4 April 2011, giving an account of the first half of Hungary’s Presidency.
Viktor Orbán started his speech by saying, one aim of the Hungarian Presidency is to strengthen Europe, and the other is to designate the place of Hungary in post-crisis Europe. In the assessment of the first half of the Hungarian Presidency, the Prime Minister opined that Hungary now has a more prestigious position in the region, and in Europe than before. He stressed that Hungary will draw on its consolidated home policy fora successful renewal of Europe. In his opinion, “Our task is not to revert to pre-crisis Europe, but to find its new, post-crisis form.”
Mr Orbán also reminded that this year has been the toughest for the EU since the fall of communism. He stressed the need for a renewal because, “The old policy made debts to skyrocket.” The Prime Minister recalled that a cycle of increasingly hard economic crises, has hit Europe from time to time, while solutions remained unchanged. In his opinion, after “following the same pattern” the EU needs new tools and crisis control mechanisms. The two most important tasks of the Union and Hungary, are the reduction of public debt, and job creation, underlined the Hungarian head of government.
The serious internal problems of the EU, were coupled with unexpected international events. Viktor Orbán mentioned the changes in North Africa and the natural disaster and nuclear accident in Japan. He pointed out to MPs that the Treaty of Lisbon removed the EU’s foreign and defence policy from the powers of the rotating presidencies. Therefore, the Hungarian Presidency has focused on the human dimension of crisis management, humanitarian aid and the handling of migration in the South-Mediterranean region.
Talking about the work accomplished by the Hungarian Presidency, Mr Orbán mentioned 750 working group meetings, 16 formal and 9 informal council meetings has been organised by Hungary so far. The Hungarian Presidency’s accomplishments, include: the finalisation of the regulation on the European citizen’s initiative, the directive on cross-border healthcare, the provision of food information to consumers, the political agreement on the collection of electrical and electronic waste, the adoption of the Presidency’s conclusions on the future of Common Agricultural Policy forward 2020, the decision of the European Council on the establishment of a single gas and electricity market, andthe enhanced cooperation for a unitary European patent system.
Mr Orbán highlighted the six legislative proposals on common economic governance. This package was in the focus of the Hungarian Presidency’s commitment, and indeed, the last EU Summit approved the Council’s general approach. This is the “Greatest accomplishment,” in the first half of the Presidency, the Prime Minister stated, adding that negotiations with the European Parliament are still to take place.
Concerning the Euro Plus Pact, Viktor Orbán stated that it is not part of the responsibilities of the Presidency, “It was not initiated by us and it is not managed by us.” He explained that Hungary considers five of the six elements of the inter-governmental agreement desirable, and will adopt them. However, “We emphatically reject” the sixth one, the harmonisation of the corporate tax bases, and for that reason, “We did not join the pact,” he added. “We do not even think of raising taxes, and will not join a pact that would require us to do so,” the head of government concluded.
He stated that the most important task of the Hungarian Presidency, is to create the common economic governance, and regardless of the Euro Pact, “We are on the right path and on schedule.”
“The crisis is still far from being over, so there is no way to predict how it will continue to develop in the future. It is certain that hard times will come; there will be several waves of the crisis, testing the strength of Europe and Hungary. Nevertheless, or precisely because of that, the Hungarian Presidency will remain committed to its work,” the Hungarian Prime Minister closed his speech