The key to a successful Hungarian EU Presidency is a well-trained, professional staff committed to Hungarian national interests

The Presidency of the Council of the European Union is a recurring event every 13 and a half years, always a major responsibility and opportunity for the Member State concerned.

Our country took on this task for the last time - and for the first time in its history - in 2011. During the upcoming six months of the EU Presidency, Hungary will have a major role in the political governance of the European Union and its negotiations with international organizations and third countries, as well as in the running of the Council of the European Union and its representation towards other EU institutions.  It will have an impact on the Council's agenda and may therefore influence the issues that are put on the table.

We live in an era of crises, therefore, Hungary will hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in this unprecedented situation, surrounded by geopolitical uncertainties and during an institutional transition. János Bóka, the minister responsible for EU affairs, said earlier, "Not many people would exchange with us, but we would say that this is a worthy task for Hungary and the Hungarian government, and we would not settle for anything less."

The rotating presidency can also be seen as Hungary becoming the face and voice of the Union in the second half of 2024, which is a special responsibility for the country. It can be stated that a well-trained, committed, and motivated Presidency staff dedicated to representing Hungarian national interests is a necessary condition for the successful fulfillment of the Hungarian EU Presidency. Our presidency comes at a special time, immediately after the European Parliament elections. "The EU presidency comes at a time of change in the EU institutions, a recurring event every five years, when the EU institutions and the ranks of those leading them are in change. It is therefore essential that officials involved in the work of the Presidency receive practical training in EU institutions, decision-making, and European policy, including internal procedures." - explained Ministerial Commissioner Boglárka Bólya to our portal. The training for the EU Presidency is scheduled in several phases, to be implemented as of April 2023. The first round - training of staff to be seconded to Brussels - has already been completed, and the Ministry of European Union Affairs continued training those who would be working on the Presidency in Budapest. This latest phase of training ended on December 15, 2023. In 2023, the Ministry, in partnership with the National University of Public Service and Mathias Corvinus Collegium, provided training to nearly 450 people. Preparation is ongoing until the start of the presidency; training for presidency staff dealing with coordination and recruits starts in January. In May, training will be provided for the so-called liaison officers, as it is of the utmost importance that those accompanying foreign delegations and ministers, as "mini" ambassadors of the country, have the necessary skills in diplomacy and protocol.

Boglárka Bólya also mentioned that some training courses are standardized, while others are differentiated according to the level of knowledge and experience of the selected persons and the tasks they have to perform during the presidency. Attention is also given to ensuring that not only officials and diplomats dealing with EU affairs are trained in government, but that senior political leaders are also involved. The Presidency training program includes trainers who have already been involved as leaders in the work of the 2011 Hungarian EU Presidency and are currently in key positions in the preparation and implementation of the 2024 Presidency. They can provide the experience and insights that will be essential for the tasks ahead. To give just a few examples: Enikő Győri MEP, former State Secretary for European Union Affairs, Zoltán Kovács, Government Commissioner responsible for the preparation and implementation of the operational tasks of the Hungarian Presidency in 2024, Tibor Stelbaczky, former Permanent Representative, are also involved in the training of staff. In addition, to effectively represent the Hungarian position, it is essential that officials conducting negotiations have adequate negotiation skills and knowledge, therefore, specific competence and skill development and training were provided. Furthermore, training in the two most used foreign languages for the work of the presidency (English and French) was ensured as well.

One of the pillars of the training plan is to involve the General Secretariat of the Council of the EU in the training of the Presidency staff. The Council has a special institutionalized practice for this: specific training, seminars, and briefings are provided for those who carry out the tasks of the Presidency. The Ministry of European Union Affairs is in almost daily contact with the General Secretariat of the Council, and the training opportunities offered by the General Secretariat have been jointly developed, considering the specific institutional situations created by the Presidency's tasks and the institutional cycle change. The same can be said of the training provided by the European Parliament and the Commission: The Hungarian government takes advantage of all useful and practical training opportunities to help its diplomats be fully prepared.

In order to put the Hungarian EU Presidency in a broader political and institutional context, Presidency "Europe Clubs" are also organized together with the National University of Public Service with the participation of senior politicians and civil servants. The guests were Balázs Orbán, Political Director, Tamás Deutsch, Member of the European Parliament, Zsolt Németh, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Judit Varga, former Minister of Justice and Chair of the European Affairs Committee of the National Assembly. The 2023 Presidency Training Year was closed on December 15 in the company of Kinga Gál, MEP, and Pál Barna Zsigmond, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of European Union Affairs.

The Presidency training is both a long-term investment and an opportunity that can contribute to Hungary's EU staff policy goals. The government would like to see a wide range of professionals committed to Hungarian interests working in Brussels and the Hungarian administration, as this is the most effective way to represent the interests of the Hungarian people in the EU. In this way, it can also contribute to increasing the efficiency of the central administration by providing it with well-prepared and experienced employees.

In the run-up to the presidency, the Ministry of European Union Affairs will provide training for nearly 800 people.