Orban says Hungarian renewal provides model for Europe as country recaptures lost respect during EU presidency.
Hungary has provided practical examples for Europe by the renewal of the country, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told parliament on Monday.
Assessing the six-month Hungarian EU Presidency, Orban said Hungary had recaptured much of its lost respect over the past six months.
Opposition party spokesmen welcomed some of the presidency’s achievements but criticised the government for goals not met within the presidency’s timeframe.
Orban told lawmakers that EU heads of government had all qualified Hungary’s performance as outstanding at a session last week. He said Hungary had successfully delivered the message that “pessimism, despair, small-mindedness and defeatism must be countered”.
“We have understood that the problems facing our country and the EU are of a similar nature,” he said.
The Hungarian government has provided practical examples for Europe instead of theoretical formulas, Orban said, adding that two such examples of a common sense put forward by Hungary were: “daring to be ourselves and not letting others tell us who we are and what to do”.
While until very recently Hungary had been among those who added to the EU’s problems, by now it has worked down some of that debt and the Presidency has helped regain respect for Hungary, Orban said.
“Hungary over the past six months had stood by Europe, our joint values, achievements and Central Europe,” he said, adding that Central Europe would definitely once again have to be reckoned with.
“The region from the Baltic to the Adriatic Sea could become the strongest engine of post-crisis economic growth in Europe,” Orban said.
The Hungarian Presidency has focused on dealing with the impacts of the fiscal crisis on Europe and efforts to prevent crises from happening in future. Hungary has taken economic governance to the point of breakthrough and the European semester has become a strong tool introduced and first used to success under the Hungarian Presidency, he said.
Closing EU accession talks with Croatia by the end of June was on the priority agenda, and has become reality, he said, adding that this achievement was a great step towards bringing about stability in the Western Balkans. He added that Hungary vowed to continue this “mission” beyond its presidential stint. The fact that Romania and Bulgaria met the criteria for joining the visa-free Schengen zone is another great achievement of the presidency, he said.
On the subject of responses to the “Arab spring”, and the following wave of refugees, Orban said, he himself did not believe that Europe should stand helpless in the face of the flow of illegal immigration, but the solution is not necessarily the curtailment of free movement within borders, but the reinforcement of external borders.
Orban said it was right for Hungary to be able to close down its borders promptly in case of problems and enforce border control.
On the Roma strategy, shepherded by the Hungarian Presidency, Orban said Hungary’s government had made it very clear that Europe’s demographic and labour shortage problems cannot be solved by immigration. Instead, policies targeting families should be strengthened and untapped labour resources within the EU mobilised, he said.
Lajos Mile, green opposition LMP party spokesman, welcomed the advances on financial policies and the Roma strategy, but criticised that the economic governance six-pack had not been approved, that Romania and Bulgaria’s Schengen zone membership had not yet been finalised and that the Eastern Partnership summit had been moved to a later date.
Zoltan Balczo, of the radical nationalist Jobbik party, said the government had contributed to making the European Union “a strong super state controlled from Brussels” and he called the European semester a step towards “giving up self-governance”.
Attila Mesterhazy, leader of the Socialist party, said the presidency had not improved but worsened Hungary’s reputation abroad. He insisted that the government, taking advantage of its strong two-thirds support in parliament, had started work on programmes which should have waited until after the presidency, among them drafting Hungary’s new constitution. Mesterhazy praised the work of foreign minister Janos Martonyi and state secretary of foreign affairs Zsolt Nemeth, but said the prime minister had not done a good job.
In his response, Orban said, Hungary should be taking the opposite direction Greece is, where forced privatisation is currently taking place. As an example he mentioned the government’s recent repurchase of a 21.2 percent stake in Hungarian oil and gas company Mol from Russia, and said there were still assets which should be taken into state ownership in the interest of the population.
Orban added that the government had done its job by “helping Romania and Bulgaria to a better position” regarding Schengen, while other countries had put fresh obstacles to their membership.
“It is not Hungary’s task to convince these countries to change their minds,” he said.
Concerning the postponed Eastern Partnership summit, he said that there was no need for alibi meetings. “The first summit was not successful either, it was empty,” he said.
As regards the country’s sovereignty, Orban insisted that it is enshrined in the new constitution that EU-Hungary relations are based on national sovereignty.
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