Official: Hungary's presidency aims to restore the EU and get it “off the ground”

Balázs Orbán said Hungary’s EU presidency is an opportunity that must be seized to make Europe stronger and to represent the country’s national interest better at the EU level.

Balázs Orbán, the prime minister’s political director, said Hungary wants its presidency of the Council of the European Union to be a period that serves to restore the EU and gets it “off the ground”.

In an interview with public radio broadcast on Sunday, Orbán said Hungary’s EU presidency is an opportunity that must be seized to make Europe stronger and to represent the country’s national interest better at the EU level. He noted that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was consulting with the leaders of the most important EU member states ahead of the start of the presidency on July 1, paying visits to Rome, Paris and Berlin to inform the heads of state and government there about the programme of the presidency and to seek political support. Those visits show that many are counting on the Hungarian presidency to set a new direction for the EU, he added. He acknowledged differences with other European leaders on some issues but said Hungary had been given a “clear mandate” in the June 9 elections on the future they wanted for Europe.

The program of the Hungarian presidency has been prepared in a way that allows cooperation between all member states on the related issues, he added. “The priorities of the presidency all aim to strengthen Europe again, to make Europe great again, which is also the slogan of the presidency,” he said. He added that Hungary could count on high-profile politicians in Europe to support the Hungarian presidency because everybody was interested in the renewal of Europe. Hungary has gained a lot of experience in the past five years on what doesn’t work and why, he said. Hungary’s approaches are innovative and take into account divergent interests; it knows how to reach compromises on EU decision-making as it has suffered much because of the application of double standards, he added. The Hungarian presidency could play a constructive role in building relationships between European institutions and a potential new presidential administration in the United States if the Republicans return to power, he said.

Addressing ties with Germany, Orbán said Hungary and Germany saw the future of Europe in the shifting world order in “very similar” terms. “We want a Europe that is open and fosters more intense economic ties with the rest of the world,” he added. He pointed to the challenge of reversing the decline in competitiveness because of Brussels’ “failed policies” and said all sides could agree on making it easier for European companies to do business and on a financial system that supported, not held back, economic growth. He said that member states were impacted differently by illegal migration and said Hungary didn’t want the kinds of integration problems in some of its peers. He expressed hope that all EU member states would understand that more illegal migrants couldn’t be allowed into Europe and could reach a consensus on the related foreign policy, regulation and financing. He conceded that the bureaucracy in Brussels remained pro-migration and said Hungary would face that “headwind” with the cooperation of other member states that wanted to stop illegal migration. He warned that the politicians responsible for the past five years of failed EU policy now wanted to exclude right-wing forces from any cooperation. Hungary will work to advance cooperation with right-wing forces that made recent election gains, he said, adding that Italy and France would be of “key importance” in that respect.