Dynamic French Presidency – benchmark for the Czech Republic
According to the opinion of the Hungarian government the French Presidency successfully fulfilled its commitments concerning the presidency priorities: reaching agreement on the Energy-Climate Package and the health check of the Common Agricultural Policy, adoption of the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, strengthening the European Security and Defence Policy, and launching the “Barcelona Process: Union for the Mediterranean” initiative.
Although the original priorities were overshadowed by a number of unforeseen crises and unexpected situations – such as the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, Russia’s invasion of Georgia, or the global financial and economic crisis – France nonetheless played an active role at the EU level in all these matters. Its dynamism and effectiveness was very well demonstrated during the management of these situations so the Union was able to act together and find rapid and reasonable solutions. The French Presidency also managed to insure the unity of the European Union on the international scene, and to prove that the Union does play a global role in many areas with global responsibility and commitment.
In the final phase of its presidency term on the 11–12 December meeting of heads of state and government of the EU, the French Presidency managed to lead the Union to several agreements of overriding importance and gave new dynamism to open questions.
The agreement on the Energy-Climate Package makes it possible for the EU to represent one common position on the international climate conference in Copenhagen in December 2009 and to demonstrate a good example on the international level towards third countries in the fight against global climate change.
Hungary’s position is that it is in the interest of all member states that the Lisbon Treaty enters into force as fast as possible. Therefore, the timetable and the action plan about the possible coming into force of the treaty before the end of 2009 was welcomed by Hungary.
The Hungarian government highly appreciates the agreement on the European Economic Recovery Plan that can pave the way for reducing the negative effects of the economic crisis and restoring and enhancing the confidence of actors in the economy.
Hungary also welcomes the fact that the summit adopted the report on the implementation of the 2003 European Security Strategy and confirmed the new objectives in order to strengthen the European capabilities. They serve the strengthening of Union action in foreign and security policy matters.
In regards to the Czech Presidency, Hungary strongly supports their work program and their priorities. Budapest thinks that the symbolic motto (“Europe without barriers”) and the main elements of the presidency programme: the three ‘E’-s – Economy, Energy, and External Relations priorities, cover the areas where the Union has to face the biggest challenges. Dealing with the financial crisis in an effective and reasonable way, increasing Europe’s competitiveness, enhancing consumer and small and medium-sized enterprises’ confidence in the market economy, promoting employment, pushing for full removal of all labour market barriers, working for a common energy policy, implementing the Energy-Climate Package, strengthening the EU-US relations and Eastern Partnership are completely in line with Hungarian principles and priorities. Apart from the three ‘E’ priorities, the Hungarian government welcomes and supports the presidency for preparation of the Post-Hague Programme and the further enlargement of the EU. It is also a shared interest to make significant steps in the process of accession of the Western Balkan countries to the Union, especially regarding Croatia.
As a new member state, Hungary is especially interested in the successful fulfilling of the Czech Republic’s commitments concerning its presidency priorities. The close cooperation is of crucial importance since there are several issues on the agenda (Lisbon Strategy, climate change, energy policy, implementation of the Post-Hague Programme) that have to be finalised or implemented under the Spanish-Belgian-Hungarian trio presidency period.
The achievements of the French Presidency actually had a generally positive echo in the media and in expert circles as well. At the same time the think tank of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs, has published a more critical evaluation of the French Presidency. The author of the online paper underlined that besides the undoubtedly successful achievements, President Sarkozy could not put the ’social VAT’ through (namely Germany opposed to cutting back VAT on restaurant services in the EU). Furthermore, no major progress was made regarding the revision of the Common Agricultural Policy, and no binding decision could be taken concerning the integrated management of migration.
 Based on information provided by high officials of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
 Türke Aandás István: A francia EU-elnökség mérlege és tapasztalatai, available at: http://www.kulugyiintezet.hu/MKI-tanulmanyok/T‑2009–04-Turke_Andras-Francia_EU_elnokseg.pdf (last access: 27 February 2009).