Minister János Bóka: The Hungarian presidency will ensure EU functionality during vulnerable times

As Hungary prepares for its presidency of the Council of the European Union, Minister János Bóka emphasized the country's commitment to ensuring the EU's functionality and responsiveness amid significant political and security challenges.

Minister for European Union Affairs János Bóka highlighted the critical role Hungary will play during its presidency of the Council of the European Union in a press briefing held on Friday in Budapest. He pointed out that Hungary's presidency comes at a sensitive time for Europe, in terms of both politics and security.

"The coordination, representation, and communication tasks associated with the presidency will be carried out during a period that is unique in many ways," said Minister Bóka. He noted that the upcoming European Parliament elections mark a "new beginning" politically, with a complete institutional overhaul across Europe. Stability, he emphasized, will be maintained by the Council of the European Union and the rotating presidencies.

Minister Bóka also underscored that the Hungarian presidency anticipates significant security and political challenges, particularly with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the fragile situation in the Middle East, continuous conflicts in the Caucasus, and unpredictable events in the Far East.

He revealed that the priorities of the Hungarian presidency will be announced in mid-June, with three main objectives: ensuring a smooth institutional transition, being seen as a neutral and fair mediator loyal to other member states and institutions, and steering discussions on the next five-year EU policies in areas Hungary considers crucial. 

These areas include strengthening economic competitiveness, security, and defense policies, addressing common agricultural and demographic challenges, migration policy, and the future of cohesion policy.

"We are aware that expectations will be higher for the Hungarian presidency compared to other member states, but we will meet these higher expectations," asserted Minister Bóka.

He also mentioned that Hungary aims to make progress on EU enlargement during its presidency, advocating for an objective, merit-based enlargement policy.

In response to a question, the minister confirmed that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will participate in certain high-level protocol events during the presidency, including the informal European Council meeting and the European Political Community Summit. Plans also include organizing an EU-Western Balkans summit at a location outside Hungary. Additionally, the prime minister will play a crucial role in the protocol of the presidency handover and will host delegations from the European Commission and the European Parliament.

Zoltán Kovács, State Secretary for International Communication and government commissioner responsible for the operational tasks of Hungary's EU Council presidency in the second half of 2024, stated that the presidency will be managed with "a significantly higher level of preparedness and organizational capacity" compared to 2011.

"We do not see this as something new or celebratory," said Kovács, stressing that the presidency work is part of an ongoing cooperative system in which Hungary is already actively involved.

State Secretary Kovács highlighted that there are issues where Hungary's stance significantly differs from that of Western Europe, and this will not change simply because Hungary is holding the presidency. He also noted that during the presidency, there are 177 events planned, with a total of 210-220 events including related informal gatherings. The main venue for these events will be the Várkert Bazaar, with larger events to be held at the Bálna and Puskás Arena.

The state secretary also reported that the presidency's budget is set at HUF 37 billion. 

"Hungary has the experience and knowledge to organize world-class summits," he asserted, adding that law enforcement agencies are well-prepared for their tasks, ensuring personal protection and traffic security with utmost confidence and high-level expertise.

This is crucial in a city that has seen a significant rise in the number of tourists. State Secretary Kovács noted that they anticipate a record year for tourism, with an estimated 30,000 to 50,000 arrivals.