17th Sep 2019

'The economy, stupid' to dominate Hungary's EU agenda

  • Martynoi in Brussels on Monday. He has faced serious allegations about his Communist-era past (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Budapest will in its time at the EU helm in 2011 seek to shepherd through EU financial governance laws, block off cash for eastern Europe in the post-2013 EU budget and earmark EU money for energy inter-connectors.

Citing a campaign slogan by former US president Bill Clinton, Hungarian foreign minister Janos Martonyi told press in Brussels on Monday (20 December) that Budapest aims to draw a line under the sovereign debt crisis when it takes over the rotating EU presidency on 1 January and to work on future economic stability instead.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"'It's the economy, stupid.' We all know this famous saying and now with the European Council last week the message is clear: Let's leave the crisis behind us and let's lay the foundations for the future," he said, referring to an EU leaders' meeting which created a permanent bail-out fund for eurozone countries.

With bond market vultures continuing to circle Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy and with some, such as former British prime minister Gordon Brown, predicting worse to come in 2011, the minister may not get his wish.

"Hungarians are optimists by nature. Some say that we are pessimists, but this is only a way of concealing our optimism," he joked.

Mr Martonyi laid out an economic agenda for the next six months which covers: shepherding through six European Commission bills on tougher financial governance; implementation of the so-called Europe 2020 strategy on future economic growth; and launching talks on the post-2013 EU budget, with an accent on preserving EU Cohesion Policy and Common Agricultural Policy spending on poor regions in former-Communist countries in eastern Europe.

Other items on Hungary's to-do list include: completing Croatia accession talks; helping Bulgaria and Romania to get into the passport-free Schengen zone; launching EU-mediated Kosovo-Serbia negotiations; an EU summit on energy policy in Brussels in February; an EU leaders' meeting with counterparts from six post-Soviet countries in Budapest in May; a new policy on Roma integration; and boosting wealth along the Danube river by putting the EU commission's Danube Strategy into play.

Commenting on energy, Mr Martonyi said: "One shouldn't believe energy security is a specifically eastern or central European issue ... It's not just about pipelines in the east. It's also about pipelines and other facilities in the south, about creating a genuine single energy market."

His junior minister for Europe, Eniko Gyori, said Budapest will inject a Hungarian flavour by organising a string of cultural events along the Danube river as well as concerts in EU capitals in honour of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt, born 200 years ago in 1811.

Despite Mr Martonyi and Ms Gyori's upbeat mood on Monday, Budapest has put obstacles in its own way in terms of running a happy EU presidency.

Its team in Brussels numbers a modest 200 people, hardly any of whom have EU experience after the strongly right-wing Fidesz government a few months ago purged the mission of diplomats appointed by its predecessor.

Budapest has also earned itself a bad name in the Brussels press pack for passing new media laws which will see political appointees control content in radio and TV broadcasts in what critics have compared to censorship in the Communist era.

Meanwhile, the outgoing Belgian EU presidency in a separate briefing on Monday underlined the shrinking profile of the rotating chairmanship under Lisbon Treaty rules.

Belgium's EU affairs minister Steven Vanackere said presidencies are "less in the limelight" but still have an "essential role" to play.

In contrast to Mr Martonyi, who deferred to EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton on press questions about Belarus and Cote D'Ivoire, but hardly mentioned her new European External Action Service, Mr Vanackere said 2011 will be defined by a "paradigm shift" in EU foreign policy.

"In 2011, the first steps will be taken on the implementation of the external service and this is essential if we want to create a dynamic EU foreign policy," he said.

The new European Commission: what's next?

Informal interviews with von der Leyen, hearings with parliamentary committees, and votes in the EU parliament and Council await the 26 candidates.


US billionaires funding EU culture war

Conservative US billionaires, some with links to Trump, are paying anti-abortion lobbyists in Europe tens of millions of dollars to shape policy and law.


The EU committee's great 'per diem' charade

Around 30 members of European Economic Social Committee, who live and work primarily in Brussels or nearby, have claimed €1.47m in a 'daily subsistence' allowance from European taxpayers to cover accommodation, food and local transport for meetings held in Brussels.

News in Brief

  1. Apple and Ireland appeal €13bn EU tax ruling
  2. UK PM should provide witness statement, court told
  3. Italy's ex-PM Renzi quits ruling Democratic Party
  4. German top lawmaker scolds Bettel over Johnson snub
  5. Greens decide on Tuesday on talks on Five Star joining
  6. Belgian mayors give Juncker a tongue-lashing
  7. Von der Leyen defends 'way of life' slogan
  8. Court hears case on UK's pre-Brexit parliament shutdown


The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.


Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. Defending the 'European way of life' name splits MEPs
  2. Hungary claims EU 'witch-hunt' over rule of law hearing
  3. Trumpworld In Europe
  4. How EU firms and banks help fund Amazon fires
  5. Amazon fires mean EP must rethink Mercosur trade deal
  6. EU must give full support to Ukraine to dissuade Kremlin
  7. EU divided on how to protect rule of law
  8. Nordic region to become world's most sustainable and integrated

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us