A strong pro-Lisbon and future-oriented stance

1. How does the future of the EU after the Irish ‘No’ look like?


Accord­ing to the offi­cial stand­point of the Hun­gar­i­an Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, although Hun­gary regret­ted the out­come of the Irish ref­er­en­dum in June 2008, it sup­port­ed the view to respect the deci­sion of the Irish people.[1] It is impor­tant to empha­size that this was not the first time when the Union had to face a neg­a­tive vote on a treaty. After the Irish ‘No’, it is of utmost impor­tance to find a solu­tion that is legal­ly and polit­i­cal­ly accept­able for Ire­land, the oth­er 26 mem­ber states and the EU as a whole. Polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic issues in the sec­ond semes­ter of 2008 proved that there is a real need for a coher­ent Union that can react to chal­lenges quick­ly and that is close to its citizens.

Hun­gary remains com­mit­ted to polit­i­cal inte­gra­tion and sin­cere­ly sup­ports a more demo­c­ra­t­ic, effec­tive and trans­par­ent Union. Budapest is con­fi­dent that the Lis­bon Treaty would be a sig­nif­i­cant step to achieve these goals. There­fore, Hun­gary does not cur­rent­ly find it nec­es­sary to search for alter­na­tive sce­nar­ios. The Hun­gar­i­an gov­ern­ment is sat­is­fied with the agree­ment reached at the Euro­pean Coun­cil of Decem­ber 2008 as it makes the Irish rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Treaty of Lis­bon pos­si­ble, by address­ing the key con­cerns of the Irish peo­ple. It is hoped that giv­en these guar­an­tees, the Irish peo­ple will approve the treaty on the next ref­er­en­dum. In this case, the Union must also ensure that the doc­u­ment enters smooth­ly into force: nec­es­sary insti­tu­tion­al deci­sions and appoint­ments (Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil, High Rep­re­sen­ta­tive) must be tak­en in due course. The elec­tion of the new Euro­pean Com­mis­sion has to be car­ried out accord­ing to the usu­al procedure.

The entry into force of the Treaty of Lis­bon and the devel­op­ments it brings about would make pos­si­ble for the EU to final­ly close the issues of insti­tu­tion­al reforms and con­cen­trate ful­ly on oth­er urgent chal­lenges that have a direct effect on cit­i­zens’ every­day life. The Hun­gar­i­an gov­ern­ment believes that there is a real need to raise the aware­ness of the peo­ple on EU affairs and the cit­i­zens need to be involved in the polit­i­cal process. The June 2009 elec­tions of the mem­bers of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment pro­vide an appro­pri­ate oppor­tu­ni­ty for this.

The great­est Hun­gar­i­an oppo­si­tion­al force, the coali­tion of Fidesz – Hun­gar­i­an Civ­il Alliance and the Chris­t­ian Democ­rats are of a sim­i­lar view. Accord­ing to József Szá­jer, MEP (Euro­pean Peo­ples Par­ty – Euro­pean Democ­rats, EPP-ED) the EU must stop the ’navel gaz­ing’ behav­iour regard­ing insti­tu­tion­al and ’con­sti­tu­tion­al’ issues, and it must do all efforts to close these debates and to ade­quate­ly face the present and upcom­ing inter­nal and exter­nal challenges.[2] Accord­ing to Mr. Szá­jer, the EU is for the time being too weak to act effi­cient­ly in many respects while it is still far from its cit­i­zens. The Lis­bon Treaty will be a good rem­e­dy for these con­cerns, and it is to be wel­comed that the EU launched strate­gic think­ing up to the hori­zon of 2020–30. In Mr. Szájer’s view, the reflec­tion on the future of the EU must embrace such aspects as the preser­va­tion of the Euro­pean social mod­el, the devel­op­ment of the knowl­edge-based soci­ety, or the strength­en­ing of Euro­pean iden­ti­ty (in fact he also leads a group in Hun­gary elab­o­rat­ing key issues for the EU up to 2025).[3]

2. Transatlantic relations renewed after President Bush: top priorities


Balanced and fruitful EU-US ties

On the two-day infor­mal meet­ing of EU for­eign min­is­ters in Avi­gnon, France in Sep­tem­ber 2008, the Hun­gar­i­an For­eign Min­is­ter, Ms. Kinga Göncz, under­lined that “the best pos­si­ble moment had been cho­sen to review the future of EU strate­gic rela­tions with the Unit­ed States, two months before the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions. The EU can iden­ti­fy pre­cise areas where co-oper­a­tion with a new US pres­i­dent is most impor­tant, such as Afghanistan, the fight against ter­ror­ism and the Mid­dle East”.[4] Regard­ing the lat­ter issue, accord­ing to the Hun­gar­i­an For­eign Min­is­ter the new pres­i­dent should “approach the sit­u­a­tion in a com­pre­hen­sive way and avoid nar­row­ing it down only to the Israeli-Pales­tine con­flict. They must con­sid­er the inter­ests of all par­tic­i­pants affect­ed by the cri­sis, for exam­ple, those of Syr­ia.” [5] The Hun­gar­i­an For­eign Min­is­ter also endorsed the com­mon con­vic­tion that “the two pil­lars of the transat­lantic alliance are bound by a com­mon set of val­ues. Fine-tun­ing stand­points is all the more impor­tant as new and influ­en­tial pow­ers arrive on the scene (Chi­na, India and Brazil) and it is no longer pos­si­ble to avoid a restruc­tur­ing of inter­na­tion­al institutions”.[6] Fur­ther pri­or­i­ties are for Hun­gary ener­gy secu­ri­ty of the region and a kind of sta­bil­i­ty spill-over from the EU to south­ern and east­ern parts of Europe main­ly pro­mot­ed by the Union but strong­ly backed by the US.

The oppo­si­tion also agrees with the most impor­tant inter­na­tion­al issues to be set­tled by a more prag­mat­ic EU-US coop­er­a­tion and they empha­size that the upgrad­ed transat­lantic rela­tions under pres­i­dent Oba­ma should be devel­op­ing on an equal foot­ing between the par­ties. In close con­nec­tion to this József Szá­jer, Hun­gar­i­an MEP (EPP-ED), high­light­ed at a con­fer­ence in Budapest that the Fidesz – Hun­gar­i­an Civic Alliance is inter­est­ed in a strong Euro­pean Union able to act effi­cient­ly on the inter­na­tion­al scene.[7]

3. Financial crisis and challenges of global governance: the EU response


Global crisis – fragmented answers

The finan­cial cri­sis hit the EU mem­ber states in dif­fer­ent ways there­fore the reac­tions to it have not been uni­form either. In fact, a joint supra­na­tion­al approach could not be applied due to the fact that eco­nom­ic poli­cies belong to nation­al com­pe­tences – only their coor­di­na­tion is effec­tu­at­ed at the EU lev­el. These are the rea­sons why the EU does not have a sin­gle strat­e­gy to fight the cri­sis. The Euro­pean Eco­nom­ic and Recov­ery Plan of 200 bil­lion Euros proves this fact very well: 170 bil­lion is orig­i­nat­ing in the nation­al bud­gets, while 15 bil­lion would be set aside from the EU bud­get and 15 bil­lion could come from the Euro­pean Invest­ment Bank. Such a sig­nif­i­cant amount of mon­ey inject­ed into the trou­bled economies of Europe may quick­ly entail the increase of bud­get deficits in the Euro­zone coun­tries threat­en­ing the Euro’s sta­bil­i­ty and also show­ing a bad exam­ple to the mem­ber states still out­side the sin­gle cur­ren­cy area. So all in all, this is far from a gen­uine Euro­pean response to the prob­lem – and this crit­i­cism is shared by many Hun­gar­i­an experts.[8]

In regards to the inter­na­tion­al pow­er con­stel­la­tions, sig­nif­i­cant changes must be reck­oned with in the near future. Obvi­ous signs for this are the trans­for­ma­tion of G7 to G20, reflect­ing the grow­ing weight of great and dynam­ic economies such as Chi­na, India or Brazil. In expert cir­cles a kind of rearrange­ment of the inter­na­tion­al finan­cial insti­tu­tion­al sys­tem is also expect­ed. As there was Basel II there should also be a Bret­ton Woods II.[9] The present insti­tu­tion­al set up should be revised (e.g. giv­ing the Inter­na­tion­al Mon­e­tary Fund (IMF) a greater con­trol­ling role, and even envis­ag­ing the merg­er of the Bank of Inter­na­tion­al Set­tle­ments, the World Bank and the IMF, etc.). In the reformed inter­na­tion­al insti­tu­tion­al sys­tem yield­ing greater voice to emerg­ing economies seems to be inevitable. With­in these devel­op­ments, the EU (and espe­cial­ly the Euro­zone) should play a more coher­ent role but this would require greater com­pe­tences for the Union in terms of both tack­ling such cri­sis sit­u­a­tions with­in the EU and being able to rep­re­sent a sin­gle coor­di­nat­ed posi­tion on such issues in the glob­al reform processes.

Hun­gary actu­al­ly also made its impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion to the cri­sis man­age­ment efforts at the Euro­pean lev­el. At the occa­sion of the EU sum­mit in Octo­ber 2008, the Hun­gar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter tabled four pro­pos­als in this regard.[10] The first one was about refo­cus­ing the EU’s cohe­sion pol­i­cy in favour of the small and medi­um sized enter­pris­es. The sec­ond one sug­gest­ed to tem­porar­i­ly sus­pend the bud­get deficit lim­it of 3 per­cent of GDP in cri­sis times. The third one referred to widen­ing the inter­ven­tion scope of the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank to the whole of the EU, and final­ly, Mr. Fer­enc Gyurcsány also pro­posed to have a joint finan­cial super­vi­sion sys­tem at Euro­pean lev­el. These pro­pos­als were actu­al­ly backed by the Hun­gar­i­an oppo­si­tion as well. The chair­man of Fidesz – Hun­gar­i­an Civic Alliance, Mr. Vik­tor Orbán, react­ed pos­i­tive­ly to these points and ensured the Prime Min­is­ter that these issues will also be sup­port­ed by the Hun­gar­i­an EPP-ED members.[11]




[1] Based on infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by high offi­cials of the Hun­gar­i­an Min­istry of For­eign Affairs.
[2] Mag­yarország töb­bre képes, speech deliv­ered at a con­fer­ence orga­nized by Hun­gar­i­an EPP-ED mem­bers in Budapest on the 16t Jan­u­ary 2009, avail­able at: http://www.fideszfrakcio.hu/index.php?Cikk=127160 (last access: 27 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
[3] Euró­pa 2025, avail­able at: http://szajer.fidesz-eu.hu/galeria/File/SZEK_Europa_2025.pdf (last access: 27 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
[4] Transat­lantic rela­tions and the sit­u­a­tion in the Cau­ca­sus were in the focus of a two-day infor­mal meet­ing of EU For­eign Min­is­ters in Avi­gnon, France—Kinga Göncz’s state­ment after the meet­ing, press release of the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs, 6 Sep­tem­ber 2008, avail­able at: http://www.kulugyminiszterium.hu/kum/en/bal/european_union/Latest+news/080906+avignon.htm (last access: 27 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Mag­yarország töb­bre képes, avail­able at: http://www.fideszfrakcio.hu/index.php?Cikk=127160 (last access: 27 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
[8] Based on round table con­fer­ences at the Insti­tute for World Eco­nom­ics in Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary 2009.
[9] Based on round table con­fer­ences at the Insti­tute for World Eco­nom­ics in Jan­u­ary and Feb­ru­ary 2009.
[10] Gyuc­sány négy javaslat­tal érkezett Brüsszelbe, EurActiv.hu, avail­able at: http://www.euractiv.hu/gazdasag/hirek/gyucsany-negy-javaslattal-erkezett-brsszelbe (last access: 27 Feb­ru­ary 2009).
[11] Ibid.