Hungary, Poland outline EU presidency priorities

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Hungary and Poland have set out mirroring priorities for their terms as the next two holders of the EU's rotating presidency, calling for greater cooperation between Central European countries in dealing with EU affairs. EURACTIV.sk reports.

Balint Odor, Hungarian deputy state secretary for European affairs, said the basic principle of their approach will be to promote the EU interest above all else and sort out ongoing issues "by playing the role of honest broker".

Hungary's own vision of Europe will also be reflected during its mandate, Odor said at the opening of the 20th Economic Forum for Central and Eastern Europe in Krynica, Poland, last week (8 September).

"We want to see a strong Union, not a two-speed Europe, by strengthening cohesion and cooperation in Central Europe," Odor explained, expressing his desire for relations between EU institutions to be built upon following changes brought in by the Lisbon Treaty.

According to Odor, more than eighty issues feature in the presidency's priorities. He 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 its key chapters.

Hungary takes over the EU presidency on 1 January 2011, when the 'European semester', a cycle of economic policy coordination, is set to be launched.

Recognising the important role that Hungary will play in negotiations over the EU's budget after 2013, Odor stressed that "solidarity and cohesion should be maintained," adding that a common methodology for reaching a compromise will be created so that presidencies will not have to start from scratch in future.

Cooperation between Central European member states in such areas as energy security or infrastructure are also to be addressed during the Hungarian Presidency.

Polish agenda

Janusz Sznajder, advisor to the Polish minister of foreign affairs, stressed that 85% of the work of previous rotating EU presidencies had been on ongoing EU issues, with only 10% on crisis management and 5% on priorities set by the mandate holder.

An adviser to the foreign minister nevertheless identified six general priority areas: the internal market, the Eastern Partnership, energy security and developing an external energy policy, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, the EU's 'financial perspectives' and intellectual property.

Sznajder also expressed Poland's intention to act as a fair moderator in resolving disputes, saying the country "wants to show its ability to work for the Community".

The Polish government will cooperate with NGOs and think-tanks to discuss its priorities in order to "see them through different eyes," he explained.

He added said the Polish presidency would also consult closely with the Hungarian one, build on the integration of the 'Visegrad' countries (Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia) and help revive cooperation between the 'Weimar triangle' of Germany, France and Poland.

Former German Economy Minister and ex-Prime Minister of Nord Rhine-Westphalia Wolfgang Clement said that both presidencies present a big opportunity for Central Europe to do well on the European stage.

Reacting to Hungary's ambition to continue building on the relationship between the EU institutions, Clement criticised the present situation of the EU having three presidencies – one for the European Commission, one for the European Council of heads of state and government and one for the rotating presidency of the EU Council of Ministers.

"I don't think the EU needs so many," he said, citing US President Barack Obama's cancelled visit to the EU as a result of "not knowing which one he should meet".

"The main problem is that the EU project is one of governments, not people, and therefore needs integration more than ever," Clement added.

He also noted the contrast between enthusiasm for the EU decreasing in the West while increasing in the East (EURACTIV 27/08/10). "The EU needs a public," he said. "There is no European public. Every government has one, but each speaks of EU problems from a national viewpoint."

Polish MEP for the European People’s Party (EPP) and Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Trade Pawel Zalewski said that France and Germany would be very important partners for both presidencies. He underlined that the voice of Central Europe was being neglected amidst calls for more Community spirit. "We want to hear that they want to listen to us," he stressed.

The 20th Economic Forum opened last Wednesday (8 September) in Krynica, Poland. The four-day event, hosted every year in the small spa town close to the Polish-Slovak border, gathers officials and representatives from large companies, NGOs and the media from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and neighbouring countries.

It is one of the most significant international events in the region, billing itself as the 'Central European Davos', in reference to the annual World Economic Forum in the Swiss town. Among this year's attendees were the presidents of Poland, Ukraine and Estonia and several EU figures, including European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Jerzy Buzek.

Three topics dominate the agenda this year: the EU's Eastern neighbours, energy and the economic crisis. EURACTIV is staging its own seminar during the forum, entitled 'Effective communication: How to get a message across to EU decision-makers', with Commission Vice-President Maroš Šef?ovi? as the main speaker.

  • 1 January 2011: Hungary assumes EU's rotating presidency for six months.
  • 1 July 2011: Poland assumes EU's rotating presidency for six months.

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