Hungary has taken over from Belgium the EU Term Presidency, which it will hold for six months, on the 1st of January 2011. It is the first time that Hungary, which joined the EU in 2004, is taking on the duties of EU Term Presidency. Hungary has very important goals as EU Term President. If Hungary succeeds, the EU will have gained much. Hungary places “the human factor” at the centre of its goal of “rational, sustainable and comprehensive growth” for Europe.
For the EU, which has come to lean more and more on neo-liberal policies and has grown distant to democracy, this choice of Hungary is important. For EU members which are being rocked by street protests and EU countries which are in the grip of bankruptcy cannot continue on according to market preferences and market balances. Hungary’s first activity as EU term president will be the EU Leaders Summit to be held in February. This summit meeting will be on the issues of energy and innovation.
Another important summit to take place under the term presidency of Hungary will be held in March and the “social dimensions of EU 2020 Economic Strategy” will be clarified in this meeting. Hungary will also hold the second summit of the Eastern Partnership countries in May. Hungary’s Priorities As Term President, Hungary has four basic priorities. These are “growth and employment for the preservation of the European social model”, “stronger Europe”, “citizen friendly Union” and “enlargement and neighbour countries policy”. Hungary is aware that growth and employment are needed for the preservation of the European social model and that this is vital for the EU. The EU’s restructuring in the economic field continues.
The process of fiscal consolidation is ongoing in this phase. Apart from restructuring and fiscal consolidation the EU needs to form a growth policy. There is also the need to augment economic policy coordination within the EU. The complex situation is very fragile and points towards a process which will be sensitive to every impact. The EU Term Presidency foresees improvements to the standards of living of EU citizens as part of the “EU 2020 Strategy”. The raise in living standards, which is a very ambitious target under crisis circumstances requires first of all the creation of jobs and support for sustainable competition. To this end, Hungary aims at improving the condition of small and medium scale enterprises.
For this, however, states need to spend very large sums in giving financial assistance to small and medium scale enterprises. It is inevitable that this will bring inflationist pressure on the markets. Yet on the other hand one needs to accept that had the leaders of Europe realised this choice at the beginning of the crisis, today there would be fewer rich bankers in Europe, but a lot more happy people! In the list of things which Hungary wants to do for the EU as Term President there are “fight with poverty” and “integration of the Roma”. Hungary argues especially for the improvement of the condition of poor families with children and, unlike France, that the Roma should be respected. Of course it is important for Hungary that the EU should be strong.
How high the bill can be for the EU turning inside and remain insensitive to the world was seen with the brutal genocide in Bosnia in the 90s. In order to become stronger the EU needs to be consistent in strategic fields domestically, that is within Europe. These strategic fields will allow the EU to pursue an effective foreign policy and to find itself a place in international balances. Hungary claims that the EU’s domestic policy is shaped by the three fundamental elements of food, energy and water and promises that during its term presidency it will attach importance to policies in these fields. It is for this reason that Hungary argues the Common Agricultural Policy should be revised, a common energy policy be set up and a new field of common European water policy be founded. The formation of a new EU strategy for the development of the Danube region, which has been much talked about recently, and its acceptance will coincide with Hungary’s term presidency.
Hungary may utilise the steps to be taken over food, energy and water policies as opportunities to strengthen compliance and solidarity among member states. At this point the significance, value and risks of Turkey may come to the foreground. Among Hungary’s ambitious targets there is also one about rendering the EU “citizen friendly”. Should Hungary succeed in this aim, the Union will have covered the greatest ground in its history. As any realistic person accepts, there is a weak dialogue between EU institutions and EU citizens. The EU should waste no time in getting more interest and support from the public. For this reason Hungary needs to ensure that the Stockholm Programme is implemented and that the Schengen Area is enlarged with the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania. The Schengen Area ensures the free movement of goods, services, labour and persons. Free movement is the fundamental condition of the EU being an area of “freedom, security and the law”.
Free movement is also one of the three columns which form the essence of the EU and bear its name. The Stockholm Programme was ratified in December 2009. Another name for the Stockholm Programme may be “the legal agenda regarding justice and interior affairs for the 2009-2014 period as determined by Sweden during its term presidency”. The Stockholm Programme replaced The Hague Programme in December 2009 and it sets up a framework for the EU in policy relevant to police and customs cooperation, rescue services, penal and civil law cooperation, asylum and immigration and visas. Among the targets Hungary wants to see accomplished under its term presidency is the “preservation of cultural multiplicity as an European value”.
Under the heading of “enlargement and neighbouring countries policy”, Hungary will spend sleepless nights dealing with Russia, the Arabic world, Latin America and the Western Balkans. As Hungary’s term presidency draws to a close, Croatia may have succeeded in taking its first steps through the EU door. Hungary has taken over the EU Term Presidency at a difficult time for the EU and a very difficult time in the history of Europe. The projects, programmes and perceived steps are impressive. However, just how much the rest of the EU desires this will come to be seen as Hungary passes over the term presidency.