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26th Sep 2022

Hungary braced for testing presidency as Europe struggles

  • The list of agenda items is piling up for the Hungarians (Photo: EUobserver)

The incoming Hungarian presidency of the European Union is bracing itself for an unexpectedly difficult six months (Jan-June 2011) at the helm, likely to test the diplomatic skills of the presidency first-timers to the full.

The ongoing fight to shore up eurozone stability, together with calls for EU treaty change and acrimonious EU budget talks are among the prickly issues on the packed agenda, with Turkish accession talks and the Roma ethnic question also potential flashpoints.

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"It's hard for us to forecast what kind of Europe we will inherit," Hungarian ambassador to the EU Peter Gyorkos told a small group of journalists on Thursday (25 November).

While the main threat remains a potential splintering of the eurozone currency club, the recent breakdown in EU budget talks for 2011 could also provide an unexpected headache for the Hungarians if the issue drags over into next year.

Budapest is also unhappy with the rising tensions over the EU's next multi-annual budget (post 2013), even before the European Commission comes forward with proposals on the subject next summer.

"For us it could be a very heavy heritage", Mr Gyorkos says of the two budget debates, with added spice set to come from the commission's ‘own resources' communication next June.

"We will stick to the treaty," he says on the subject, acknowledging the need for unanimity between member states on any proposals for EU institutions to gain their own funding stream, a concept deeply opposed by certain national capitals such as London.

"We are aware that it is the most sensitive of sensitive issues," he adds.

Pushing forward with talks on greater economic governance with the European Parliament also numbers among the tough economic portfolios to be tackled.

Hungary is equally aware of the difficulties in solving Europe's Roma conundrum, with the recent dogfight between Brussels and Paris highlighting the potential explosiveness of the issue.

"To solve this issue it will take decades," says Mr Gyorkos, indicating that Budapest will seek to raise the issue in a range of Council of Ministers configurations following a commission proposal expected next April.

Progressing accession negotiations with Turkey is another divisive issue, with France and Germany pushing for 'privileged partnership' rather than full membership.

The opening of one or two accession chapters is on the Hungarian agenda, as is the continued fine tuning of EU inter-institutional relations under the Lisbon Treaty.

Some EU and member state officials have been alarmed at what they perceive as a concentration of power under Herman Van Rompuy, the bloc's first president of the European Council, the body representing EU leaders.

"Mr Van Rompuy has taken on a number of issues that should instead be run by the rotating presidency, helped by the current political limbo surrounding the Belgian government," one Polish official said earlier this month.

Mr Gyorkos is unperturbed however, ruling out the need to claw back power. "The rotating presidency still prepares the meeting for EU ministers, and these determine much of what is discussed in the European summits," he says.

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