“The EU has become stronger than it was before, so the Hungarian Presidency’s work has finally ripened,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán pointed out in Brussels, on 24 June 2011 following the European Council’s meeting. He welcomed the summit’s approval on the Roma Strategy, the Danube Strategy and the conclusion of the accession negotiations with Croatia.
A political decision was made on the matter of Croatia’s accession, and this is good, for the European Union, for Croatia and also for the Balkans, Mr Orbán said, during the press conference after the European Council meeting, which he held jointly with President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy and President of the Commission José Manual Barroso. He said that the EU, “After a long hesitation, set the mechanism of enlargement into motion again.” Responding to a question, he stressed that the conclusion of the accession negotiation with Croatia, “Is a promising message for all the Balkan countries.”
The Prime Minister said that the EU has become stronger during the term of the Hungarian Presidency, despite “receiving three gut punches,” referring to the tragedies in Japan, the changes in North Africa and the eurozone crisis. Nonetheless, the EU has grown stronger, the Prime Minister emphasised.
Six-pack is within reach
He highlighted that the reform of the economic governance has finally come within reach. Speaking about the six pieces of legislation that will strengthen the economic governance, Mr Orbán firmly expressed hopes that the only remaining issue will be resolved “within a few weeks”. He underlined that the European Parliament (EP) has submitted 2019 amendment proposals for the six-pack, and in 2018 cases, an agreement on those were reached. “Only one issue has been left open, but we are hopeful that even this one will be settled within a few weeks,” he added.
Mr Orbán appreciated that the European Council has approved the very first EU Roma strategy, which “gives Roma the opportunity to become respected and useful citizens of the Union”.
He spoke with satisfaction about the Danube Strategy as well, reiterating that it concerns a region where many historic conflicts have taken place.
Hungary corrects its mistakes
The Hungarian Prime Minister thanked both Mr Van Rompuy and President Barroso, for “wholeheartedly supporting” the implementation of the Hungarian Presidency’s goals. Mr Orbán called the performance of the Hungarian Presidency the correction of former Hungarian mistakes. He reiterated that Hungary also had contributed to the earlier weakening of the Union, “We were the first to collapse.”
“Today, Hungary does not contribute to the weakness of the EU, but rather to its strength,” the Prime Minister said. “I consider the Presidency to be a great success from the perspective of Hungary as well, and I hope that Hungary’s European policy will be kept on the same track,” Mr Orbán said.
Appreciation of Van Rompuy and Barroso for the Hungarian Presidency
At the same press conference, Mr Van Rompuy congratulated Orbán for “the excellent job he has done during the Hungarian Presidency of the Council. We have worked very closely together and I am glad to continue working with you within the European Council,” the President of the European Council said. Mr Barroso also praised the preparedness and competence of the Hungarian Presidency, the Government and the Presidency team, and spoke highly of the work done in the last six months.
Congratulations to Orbán for Reinforcing Frontex
Mr Van Rompuy appreciated the decision, which was made on 22 June, on strengthening the Frontex, the EU external border control agency; and congratulated Viktor Orbán for reaching the agreement. For example, the amendments to the Frontex regulation, will enable the agency to deploy liaison officers to third countries, in line with the EU’s new neighbourhood policy, he also highlighted.
EU offers partnership to North Africa countries
The President of the European Council said that the EU continues to play a primary role in the historic events, which are unfolding in North Africa and the Middle East. “Without Europe, there would have been an Arab Spring, but without us, there will be no Arab summer,” Mr Van Rompuy said.
The leaders of the EU are offering partnership to the region’s countries, so that they can support both their democratic and economic reforms. “We will build on individual assessments of partners' performance and needs, 'Less for less', and 'more for more’,” the President said.
According to the Commission, Member States have discussed the problems of Europe’s economy with unprecedented openness and honesty. “On Greece, we have once again shown that we can reach an agreement when it was needed. It was important because we have shown that our new way of dealing with economic policy is working,” Mr Barroso said.
The President of the Commission highlighted that the conclusion of the European Semester marks the beginning of the period, when Member States have to implement the commonly adopted principles. “The Commission will present the results of this in its growth report for next year,” he pointed out.
Reinforcing the Schengen achievement
Mr Barroso defended the right to free movement, which is a fundamental liberty set in the Schengen system. According to him, the European Council has resisted the temptation to restrict this right, and rather chose to reinforce it as one of the community acquis.
Rotating presidency is needed
Responding to journalists’ question, Mr Barroso said he considers it important that in addition to the President of the European Council, the new EU treaty also preserved the institution of the rotating presidency, since it brings citizens closer to the Union. “I am confident that during these six months, Hungarians have talked more about Europe, than before,” the President said.
Orbán added that based on his experiences, he considers the inter-institutional division of work set out in the Lisbon Treaty, is well established. The Lisbon Treaty does not exclude the possibility for the Presidency, the third institution alongside the two strong institutions, the European Council and the European Commission, “to develop its own muscles”, Mr Orbán argued.
However, the Prime Minister pointed out that the cooperation has personal pre-conditions, “As far as I can see, there is no legal guarantee for a good cooperation between the rotating Presidency and the permanent President.” Europe not only needs strong leaders, but also leaders who possess good personal cooperation capabilities. If this personal precondition is met, the new structure will work well, Mr Orbán explained.
Responding to a question, the Prime Minister stressed that the Hungarian Presidency’s topics will not be completely abandoned after 30 June, since the Polish Presidency – although it is part of another Trio – is cooperating with Hungary. “I have an informal agreement with the Polish Prime Minister to establish a Polish–Hungarian Duo. We have worked this way even during these past six months," he said.