Hungary resumes EU's term presidency

Europe's debt crisis, treaty change, the budget and the Roma migrant question are all expected to top the agenda in the coming months.

Hungary resumes EU's term presidency

Hungary took the helm of the European Union on Saturday even as a new law which sparked concern about media freedom in the country came into force in the teeth of fierce opposition.

Europe’s debt crisis, treaty change, the budget and the Roma migrant question are all expected to top the agenda in the coming months.

But moves by Budapest to tighten controls on the media and seize private pension assets have angered several EU partners.

The UK, Germany and Luxembourg have all issued unusual public rebukes, with Luxembourg’s foreign minister openly questioning whether Hungary was ‘‘worthy of leading the bloc.” They have called on it to review the new media law. For the moment, however, Hungary’s government remains defiant.

Among the challenges facing Hungary as EU president, the biggest will perhaps be the eurozone debt crisis.

Hungary narrowly escaped bankruptcy in late 2008 thanks to a 20-billion-euro bailout by the EU and the International Monetary Fund.

In return, Budapest pledged to bring down its deficit from more than 9.0 per cent of gross domestic product in 2006 to below 3.0 per cent in 2011.

Budapest will also oversee the launch of highly delicate talks about the EU budget for the period from 2014-2020, which looks set to pit rich countries such as Britain, France and Germany against the poorer eastern members.

Another potentially divisive issue will be the enlargement of Europe's so-called Schengen area, within which citizens can travel freely without border controls.

One of the big events of the presidency will be the second Eastern Partnership Summit in Budapest in May.

The goal of the partnership, launched by the EU in 2009, is to develop economic and political relations between the bloc and six former Soviet Republics of Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia.

Finally, the integration of Europe's impoverished Roma minority will also be one of Budapest's priorities.

The issue is very delicate, particularly in Paris, which has come under fire from Brussels over its forcible expulsion of Roma, as well in Budapest itself following a series of deadly attacks against Roma in recent years.



Agencies

Last Mod: 02 Ocak 2011, 17:57
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