Josef hírek

2011.01.09. 11:17

Hungary PM starts presidency on economic focus, vows to settle media controversy

<p>Budapest, January 7 (MTI) - Hungary s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and high-level European Commission guests welcomed the start of the country s six-month stint at the EU presidency in a ceremony in parliament on Friday.</p>

Orban pledged that Hungary would fulfil all tasks of the presidency and said economic issues and the euro will be top concerns. He reassured his colleagues that doubts over the controversial media law would be dispersed and said he would consider changing the law if the EU gave a reasonable legal verdict to that effect, but not yielding to "pressure". However, he said he was sure the EU would find the law conform to its principles.

    Orban said the key topics of the presidency will be improved fiscal rigour, enlargement in the EU, energy security and a Roma strategy.

    Hungary plans to show an example in financial stringency and keep its budget deficit below 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011 while reducing state debt, Orban added.

    Orban said the presidency will be successful if the amendment of the Lisbon Treaty is completed in the six months ahead and if six pieces of legislation aimed at crisis management are approved.

    He vowed to return "enlargement optimism" in connection with the integration of the Balkan countries and to support Croatia s EU membership and Romania and Bulgaria s bid to join the visa-free Schengen zone. He said Serbia would be given a clear perspective on its membership status, too.

    Hungary would like to see a Roma strategy approved by the European Council at the end of June, he added.

    Orban said there were no doubts cast on Hungary s commitment to democracy during talks with Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission s president, who discussed the law over concerns that it infringed on press freedom.

    Barroso said he had received assurances from the Hungarian prime minister that the law would be implemented with full respect for European values, principles and regulations. He stressed that the pluralism of the media is a basic principle in the EU.

    In the evening, Orban opened the House of the European Union where he and Barroso advocated a strong Europe to build on cooperation between members. Orban said the lessons of the economic crisis must still be drawn, people must understand that nothing can be the same as before the crisis and that their lives will see major transformations. He promised that Hungary would do everything to make the EU meet the new challenges.

    Barroso said that although important steps have been taken, the Hungarian presidency will have a lot on its plate, but that he expected the upcoming six months to be "good and fruitful".

    Stavros Lambrinidis, Vice-President of the European Parliament, welcomed unanimous support among Hungary s political parties for enlargement and called attention to solidarity among member states, as a way of solving problems.

    The main opposition Socialist party leader Attila Mesterhazy told a press conference that it was not only Hungary s new media law which violated the principles of the European Union. On top of the deeply criticised media law, the Socialists want to call to Barroso s attention Hungary s new draft constitution, the introduction of laws with retroactive effect, the curbing of employee rights, the transfer of private pension fund payments to the state pension system and repeated violations of the independence of Hungary s National Bank, as measures which go against EU principles. Mesterhazy called for a six-month suspension of drafting the constitution for consultations. He expressed hope that during the presidency, the government would refrain from getting widely-disputed new laws approved.

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