Opening ceremony marks start of Hungary's EU presidency

On July 1, 2024, Hungary officially took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union. The opening ceremony, held at the Bozar in Brussels, showcased Hungary's cultural heritage and its commitment to strengthening European unity and cooperation.

The event featured a full house reception, where Bálint Ódor, Permanent Representative of Hungary to the EU, welcomed the attendees. He emphasized the significance of Hungary assuming the presidency during such a politically and geopolitically challenging period. "We will be honored to chair the Council meetings," Ódor stated, highlighting Hungary's dedication to reinforcing the European Union.

Tamás Sulyok, President of Hungary, delivered a keynote speech stressing the importance of European unity. He likened European unity to the delicate handmade lace of Brussels, noting its fragility and the collective responsibility to maintain it. Sulyok stated, "If we handle it with force, sooner or later it will be torn. But, if one single thread is torn, it will be ruined making the whole piece useless. It is our joint responsibility to take care of it together."

In his speech, President Sulyok reiterated Hungary's commitment to Europe's defense and strengthening. He recalled Hungary's successful EU Presidency 13 years ago and expressed confidence in repeating that success, citing Hungary's experience and preparedness. Sulyok affirmed, "We have experience, the necessary knowledge, and are well prepared to lead a successful presidency again. More importantly, we are strongly committed to defending the interests of Europe, we have a clear vision of the future and the challenges we are facing today."

Sulyok also reflected on Europe's tumultuous 20th-century history, emphasizing the hard-earned understanding and mutual respect among European nations. He stressed the importance of preserving these achievements to ensure that the EU remains "Europe's hope and promise."

The evening's cultural highlight was a performance titled "Our European Heritage" by artists from the Müpa Budapest performing arts center. The production featured works by Johann Sebastian Bach and Béla Bartók, illustrating how these composers integrated the music and dance traditions of European peoples into their art. This performance underscored the cultural diversity and shared heritage that strengthen Europe.

The Hungarian presidency aims to address key issues such as strengthening European competitiveness, enhancing security and defense policies, and managing the migration crisis by reinforcing Europe's external borders and international partnerships. Sulyok noted the importance of dialogue and mutual respect in addressing these challenges, stating, "The differences in opinions and debates help us better understand each other and find the best solutions to common challenges."

With a packed schedule that includes 1,500 working group meetings, 230 presidency events, and 37 high-level consultations, Hungary is poised to lead the EU with a focus on collaboration and progress. The Hungarian Presidency's motto reflects its goals: defending European interests and working towards a prosperous and united future for all member states.

The opening ceremony set the stage for a proactive and engaged presidency, signaling Hungary's readiness to tackle the challenges ahead and contribute to the European Union's strength and unity.