Dynamic French Presidency – benchmark for the Czech Republic

Accord­ing to the opin­ion of the Hun­gar­i­an government[1] 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.[2]




[1] Based on infor­ma­tion pro­vid­ed by high offi­cials of the Hun­gar­i­an Min­istry of For­eign Affairs.
[2] 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).