Hungarian EU Presidency to kick off on energy


A European Council energy meeting will take centre stage next February after Budapest has taken on the rotating presidency of the EU for the first half of 2011. EURACTIV France reveals the key dates in the presidency's agenda.

The Eastern Partnership, Croatia's accession to the EU and the Roma situation also feature among the eighty issues Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban says his country will tackle during its presidency, which begins on 1 January.

The energy meeting between EU heads of state and government is the first key date of note on 4 February and is expected to focus on security of supply.

All Council of Ministers meetings, European Parliament plenary sessions and special summits are also included in the Presidency calendar, seen by EURACTIV France.

Conservative nationalist Hungarian Prime Minister Orban will shape debates at the European Council after being given a 'sneak preview' of member states' positions on key issues with a view to having a better chance of reaching compromises, as is customary for holders of the presidency.

Orban's 'Fidesz' party won April's legislative elections in the Central European country and his EU presidency programme was described as being "very ambitious" by European Commission President José Manuel Barroso at the beginning of October.

Speaking at an economic forum in Poland in September, Hungarian officials identified the implementation of the 'Europe 2020' agenda, economic governance and measures leading to more discipline on national budgets and the Stability and Growth Pact as key chapters of the Lisbon Treaty upon which to build.

Indeed, Hungary takes over the EU presidency at the same time as the 'European semester', a cycle of economic policy coordination, is to be launched.

The spring session of the European Council, at which EU leaders could decide on how to change the Lisbon Treaty to accommodate the agreement reached at last month's summit on tackling sovereign debt problems, will take place on 24 and 25 March.

The Hungarian Presidency is also expected to bridge Eastern and Western Europe.

"We want a strong European Union, not a two-speed Europe, and to strengthen cohesion and cooperation in Central Europe," Hungarian Secretary of State for European Affairs Balint Odor said at the forum.

A summit devoted to the EU's Eastern Partnership should take place on 26 May next year, where security of energy supplies to the Union via those countries and infrastructure development are expected to be addressed.

Hungarian Ambassador to France László Nikicser had earlier this year indicated that Budapest wanted to leave its mark by taking advantage of Hungary being a small country and pushing a more political agenda during the presidency.

"We need to develop new common policies [such as climate, energy or innovation], and then see how we can fund them, not vice-versa," he said at the Presidency trio's launch of their joint programme.

Hungary will also organise an informal Council of Ministers meeting on territorial cohesion, on which a Green Paper was launched by the Commission two years ago, in early May.

The EU's budget for the period 2014-2020 and its scope for EU regional policy should also come under discussion.

Hungary is setting out its programme as the final part of a trio with Spain and current holders Belgium. Warsaw will follow Budapest on 1 July 2011.

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