Justice Minister Judit Varga told parliament’s European affairs committee on Monday that preparations for Hungary’s presidency of the Council of the European Union in the second half of 2024 are on track.
Outlining the priorities of the presidency, Minister Varga mentioned the improvement of the EU’s competitiveness, the management of demographic challenges, progress in enlargement, the fight against illegal migration, boosting border protection policy at the EU level, cohesion policy and the bloc’s next seven-year budget. Boosting the competitiveness of the EU and its member states and incorporating it into policies is of strategic importance, the minister said. The EU’s demographic crisis has a serious effect on competitiveness, making it all the more important to support family policy at the EU level, respecting the competencies of member states, she added. As regards EU enlargement in the Western Balkans, Varga said Serbia’s accession to the bloc was crucial to speeding up the process. On the topic of illegal migration, she urged a review of links between the asylum and security aspects of migration. Varga also highlighted the importance of strengthening the industrial and technological base of the defence sector as well as the importance of EU cooperation in the procurement of defence equipment. Concerning cohesion policy, she said a midterm review of cohesion programmes would be needed during the Hungarian presidency. Directing the work of the European Council during preparations for talks on the EU’s next seven-year budget will also be one of Hungary’s main tasks, the minister said. Varga also noted that the current European Commission’s term is set to end in October 2024, followed by that of the European Council president in November. András Fekete-Győr of opposition Momentum asked the minister how the government intended to resolve the “crisis of confidence” between the EU and itself with a view to unlocking Hungary’s EU funds. Fidesz MEP Enikő Győri said the 2024 Hungarian EU presidency would be significantly different from the one in 2011, arguing that the European Parliament was a “loose cannon”, and the Hungarian opposition was doing everything in its power in the EP to make sure Hungary does not get the monies it is entitled to. “The opposition should decide if it even wants the Hungarian EU presidency to be successful,” Győri said. In her response, Varga said the opposition was undermining its own country in the EP when it should be working in its interest. She said some 800-900 professionals will be working to ensure that the presidency is a success. Justice Ministry state secretary János Bóka said the main reason for the crisis of confidence between the Hungarian government and EU institutions was that the government “says what it thinks while EU institutions are hypocritical”.